As a result of the pandemic, the Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) role has grown exponentially in visibility and impact. The days of just overseeing compensation, benefits, and payroll processes are long gone. CHROs often report directly to the CEO and act as their trusted counsel. Their unique understanding of talent, culture, unions, negotiation, and organizational dynamics—combined with their ability to drive business strategy and outcomes—places them in the spotlight and lets them shine to lead their organizations in challenging times. Their strategic contributions have resulted in numerous transitioning to CEO and COO positions, bringing a people-centric approach to the role and a deep understanding of the employee experience.
Members of the Broadleaf leadership team attended the National HR in Hospitality Conference this summer in Phoenix. In this blog, Broadleaf’s Executive Vice President, Jason Krumwiede, summarizes his key conference takeaways and reflections around the CHRO role.
Related: The Hospitality Industry in 2023
Talent shortages: Organizations recognize the strategic significance of human capital and HR’s role in driving growth. The primary focus of a CHRO in the hospitality industry is to ensure that a company has a skilled and motivated workforce to deliver exceptional guest experiences. Therefore, recruiting is front and center. CHROs are responsible for attracting, selecting, and retaining diverse talent across various roles, from frontline staff to managerial positions. To overcome talent shortages, CHROs have focused on developing strategies to attract younger workers and invest in high schoolers to draw attention to the industry and educate them about a potential career that doesn’t require a college degree while offering opportunities to advance into management and leadership and thrive.
The hospitality industry attracts a dynamic and flexible workforce consisting of:
- Young employees—including students, graduates, and individuals seeking entry-level positions—often use hospitality jobs as a starting point for their careers or part-time employment. Older workers are also attracted to the industry for its flexible hours, social interaction, or as a second career.
- A diverse range of people from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds—often with limited formal education and professional experience—living barely above the poverty threshold. These people seek cultural experiences, language skills, and expanded career opportunities.
- Temporary and seasonal workers—especially during peak tourism seasons or for specific events. These workers may be locals seeking part-time or seasonal employment, international workers on temporary work visas, or students looking for summer jobs.
Employee engagement and retention: In hospitality, delivering an exceptional customer experience is the goal of every employee, and organizations succeed or fail based on how they deliver. In this labor-intensive industry, CHROs strive to foster a positive work culture, improve employee engagement, and reduce turnover. They accomplish this by creating inclusive policies and practices, nurturing a culture of respect and equal opportunity for all employees, developing initiatives to recognize and reward employees, promoting work-life balance, enhancing overall job satisfaction, and implementing programs to address employee burnout, stress, and mental health concerns as these issues are prevalent in the industry, especially with employees retained during the pandemic. Additionally, CHROs are responsible for connecting people with purposeful long-term development and investing in learning and training to give workers the tools to navigate issues and respectfully serve their customers. One commonly used platform is the Beekeeper application that optimizes and improves the employee experience by allowing frontline workers to communicate on their mobile devices in real-time, onboard, manage shifts, train, and streamline problem-solving.
Employee relations and social governance: The workforce—especially younger workers—are hesitant to trust long-established institutions such as religion, government, unions, political groups, and law enforcement and are looking for their company to help define their values. In fact, 68 percent of Gen Z workers want their employers to be more committed to social issues. In response, CHROs are stepping in as our country’s moral compass and addressing global issues—such as politics, race, human trafficking, and reproductive rights—because it’s the right thing to do to fill the void, and it’s good for business and society. What I find intriguing—especially in the hospitality sector—is that human resources has clamored for a seat at the executive table. Now that they have a seat and voice in the boardroom—leaning in with respect and civility—everyone at the table looks straight at them to determine how their organization should react. CHROs are unapologetically and empathetically wading into unchartered territory—without established policies and procedures—knowing they can’t please the entire workforce and accepting that there will be noise and possible repercussions.
Related blog from Aleron Group partner TalentRise: 5 Interview Questions to Ask a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Candidates
The CHRO in hospitality is ultimately responsible for creating a positive work environment that enables employees to thrive and deliver exceptional guest experiences. Offering CHROs a seat and voice in the boardroom reinforces the importance of aligning HR initiatives with the overall business strategy, resulting in a more holistic approach to talent management, employee engagement, and organizational culture. All this combines to improve guest experiences and overall organizational performance.