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Thought Leadership

Superhuman resources: How HR leaders have redefined their C-suite role

October 28, 2020

The trials of 2020 have thrust human resources into the spotlight. The HR leaders who have shined know how to help their companies thrive.

For all the ambiguity caused by the historic events of 2020, one thing is certain: The center of gravity in leadership teams has swung toward the human resources function. Yes, other members of the C-suite, such as finance, marketing, and legal, also have important functional responsibilities that keep the company in full stride. But there’s one person who is being put on the spot to answer the many unexpected questions that companies are facing this year.

These questions are fundamental to the business. Some may be existential. How do companies keep everyone safe as they shift to remote working overnight? How do leaders provide medical, emotional, and mental health support at a distance? How do they gauge performance and develop talent so that people can thrive in this era of uncertainty? What is the company’s stance on social movements such as Black Lives Matter? How is it delivering real change when it comes to inclusion?

All eyes in the room (or on video calls) have turned to the chief human resources officer (CHRO) for the answers. “The financial crisis of 2008 relied on CFOs to help their companies,” said Tanuj Kapilashrami, group head of HR at Standard Chartered bank. “But the companies that will come out stronger from [2020] will be those that have a strong HR function.”

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The ExCo Group’s Adam Bryant wrote this article for his column in Strategy + Business. It was originally published here.