More than Half of Leading CHROs Are Not Career HR Professionals

New Aon Research Reveals Evolving Role of HR, and Emerging Skills Needed to Lead HR 2020

HONG KONG, CHINA – With five generations all in one workplace, the workforce of the future will look much different than it does today. As these changes occur, new research from Aon Hewitt, the global talent, retirement and health solutions business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), shows that HR leaders are preparing in diverse ways to assume this challenging role. More than half of participating CHROs revealed they are not career HR professionals. Of these, approximately one third had no background in HR prior to assuming their current CHRO position.

Aon Hewitt’s study captured insights from 45 CHROs at leading global organisations. According to the study, the evolving needs of the business, the volatile economic environment, and the changing face of talent are shaping the selection of CHROs, with diversity in experience a key factor.

  • 73 percent of the study participants have changed their industry at least once in their career. According to Aon, a change in industry leads to an increase in the velocity with which a CHRO aspirant progresses in their career. For example:
    • Those who have never changed their industry had an average work experience of 27.5 years, and an average tenure of just four years as CHRO
    • Those who have changed their industry more than three times had the highest average tenure as a CHRO, with seven years, and the lowest average work experience (23.3 years)
  • 66 percent of study participants indicated they had prior Board exposure
  • 84 percent highlighted executive compensation experience as a key requirement
  • 24 percent took a rotation or assignment in a line role (outside of HR) to build their business and commercial acumen
  • 67 percent have worked and lived abroad, and/or led global teams and initiatives
  • 65 percent indicated “business knowledge” as a key competency they required, but it was also among the competencies for which they felt least prepared

“CHROs have become critical stakeholders in defining the strategy of a firm, and they are expected to tackle the HR challenges and evolving expectations of a dynamic workplace environment that will consist of calculated risk taking and evolving expectations from top stakeholders,” said Neil Shastri, leader, Global Insights & Innovation, Aon Hewitt. “Those well-equipped to achieve the greatest success will have diverse skill sets, be adaptable and agile, and gain hands-on learning from working through real life situations and acquiring knowledge across disciplines and industries.”

Must Have Skills for CHROs


When participants were asked about some of the emerging capabilities that future CHROs will need to be successful, six key themes emerged:

  • Data- and analytics-based decision making. Don’t focus on giving the right answers, but on asking the right questions.
  • Being the architect and assessor of shifts in organisational culture. Make sure a company’s culture is moving in the right direction by ensuring leaders’ styles align with the cultural goals.
  • Proactively mapping organisation capability needs to the future strategy of the firm. Examine the gap between existing capabilities and the ones needed in the future.
  • Playing the role of an internal and external talent scout. Build the critical ability of spotting pools of talent, using a mix of intuition and data and assessment backed insight.
  • Understanding the Impact of technology. Be cognizant of the rapid progress in HR technology, particularly SaaS solutions, to improve HR processes and analytic capabilities.
  • Asking organisation-specific questions rather than following the herd. Realize how different practices can be best applied to their own organisational contexts.

“HR is used to helping other parts of the organisation with succession planning and leadership development, but could improve in the area of developing its own leaders,” said Anand Shankar, Partner and Head of Performance, Reward & Talent for Aon Hewitt in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, “To build a strong bench for the future, HR must work on creating an environment conductive to the growth of future CHROs from both within and outside the function. It must also look for ways to help CHROs of the future pick up critical experiences that matter in the CHRO position.”

Read Aon Hewitt’s the Developing the Next Generation of CHROs: The “Learning to Fly” Study Highlights Report here, or download the Full Report here.

About the Study

Aon’s inaugural Learning to Fly study was based on insights gathered from personal interviews with 45 CHROs around the globe about their journey into the CHRO position. The participants currently lead the HR function of organisations headquartered in the U.S., Europe, and Asia-Pacific, with a median work experience of 26 years. One-third of the companies represented in the report are listed on the Global Fortune 500. Collectively, these organisations represent USD 1.25 trillion in annual revenue, with 3.35 million full time employees.

Visit www.aon.com/NextGenCHRO for a full copy of Aon’s study results.

About Aon

Aon plc (NYSE:AON) is a leading global provider of risk management, insurance brokerage and reinsurance brokerage, and human resources solutions and outsourcing services. Through its more than 69,000 colleagues worldwide, Aon unites to empower results for clients in over 120 countries via innovative risk and people solutions. For further information on our capabilities and to learn how we empower results for clients, please visit: http://aon.mediaroom.com.

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