The CHRO Virtual Summit: Event Summary


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When it comes to the evolving role of HR professionals and the profession itself, few are in a better position to influence change for the better than CHROs and senior HR leaders. As a consequence of rapid technological and methodological advancements, organizational leaders are now constantly bombarded with an array of endlessly perplexing decisions and opportunities. HR leaders occupy a unique and powerful space in the current business world. They are the gatekeepers to success, the drivers of strategic change, HR transformation leaders, and talent management trendsetters. HR is now no longer simply a back-office support function, or a parallel stakeholder in the business – it is the business, and there are a number of reasons for this pivot.

The CHRO Virtual Summit, which took place on May 29th, set out to cover a range of key issues facing HR and business leaders. With twelve thought-leading speakers and the attendance of over 5000 international HR professionals, the Summit provided a succinct overview of how CHROs and HR leaders play a primary role in both HR transformation, and by proxy, business transformation. The Summit’s full speaker faculty included:

  • Siobhan McHale, Executive General Manager HR, Dulux Group
  • Varun Bhatia, Chief People & Culture Officer, AirAsia
  • Valerie Robert, CHRO, Nestle Skin Care
  • Steve Correa, CHRO, Diageo India
  • Romina Morandini, VP HR EMEA, Bunge
  • Marcello Ballario Yoshida, VP HR LATAM, Bayer Corp Sciences
  • Francesca Gino, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
  • Anna Tavis, Clinical Associate Professor of HCM, Academic Director of HCM Program, New York University
  • Richard Greene, CHRO, Heidrick & Struggles
  • George Kohlrieser, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour, IMD Business School
  • Dave Ulrich, Professor of Business, Ross School of Business
  • Liane Hornsey, SVP & CHRO, Uber

Without going into too much detail on individual sessions (which we’ll do shortly), here are some of the recurring key themes and a few ideas found throughout the sessions at the event. If you missed any of the sessions, would like to watch them again, or would like to register and watch them for free, simply visit the website and sign in! The content will be available to view until June 30th.

The CHRO and the Business

Perhaps the single foundation for the entire premise of CHRO as ambassador, is an in-depth and recognized knowledge of the business. Gone are the days CHROs can focus on their own operations, their own systems, and the policies that need to be rolled out to support those.

Richard Greene

In order to drive business success, the CHRO and senior HR leaders must position themselves as business experts with detailed knowledge of the operations of the business, the market, and the industry. As Dave Ulrich suggests, HR leaders must constantly ask and evaluate how they can add value to the business – whether in terms of digital transformation, or the regular operations of HR. As a facilitator of strategic change, the CHRO has the ability to guide the organization through the change process; taking responsibility for formulating initiatives, speaking with disparate areas of the organization, gaining a feel for change ‘on the ground’, and being an avid consumer of evidence-based approaches to organizational development. As organizations move towards typically flatter and more agile operational models, HR leaders must be aware of what these changes mean for the people in the organization, and to ensure that any structural changes made support overall business goals.

The CHRO and Leadership

Leaders must be empathetic to the pain people are going through in change processes… change comes easily when you feel safer, or you have trust in someone who guides you through that change.

George Kohlrieser

With the role of the CHRO within the business becoming more integrated, HR leaders must begin to take on the responsibility of leadership on a deeper level. Many leadership characteristics remain constant from previous generations, however leading in the context of the contemporary organization presents new variables. Varun Bhatia of AirAsia suggested that to create better leaders in the digital age, technology exists to improve existing leadership interactions, rather simply than to replace them with a technological equivalent. With a focus on the team, the CHRO’s leadership characteristics must therefore be rooted in emotional, psychological, and social stability. This appears paradoxical, as change in an era of agility and disruption requires leaders to be calm, thoughtful and existentially open to ‘high-touch’ interactions. It is this mixture of clear-sighted openness and emotional awareness that will really assist leaders in creating great places to work that are also, ultimately, successful. Many leadership paradigms that have been psychologically established for years still hold true; but it’s the emerging high-tech business environment that will give HR leaders the lens to make even more informed and balanced choices.

The CHRO and Culture

There are lots of things happening in organizations that are there from the past, that are there because ’this is the way we do things’, and very often we have really no idea what triggers the behaviours, the experiences, and the environment.

Valerie Robert

The idea of organizational culture has been explored and discussed at depth for as long as organizations have been around. But it’s not surprising to state that cultural practices have evolved and changed as much as organizations have themselves. The sheer enormity of approaching a cultural discussion means that it’s always going to be high on the agenda for business leaders. However of late, HR leaders have really begun to take an active role in establishing the practices, ideas and methods of cultural development in their organizations. Rapid technological advancements have given HR professionals a huge array of new tools to influence, measure, and monitor the people in their organizations – but they are just tools, and not fixes. HR leaders must be cognizant that cultural change happens in every interaction, every communication, and in every relationship within the organization. Having respect for the individual remains of utmost importance, while a culture based on reason, evidence-based decision making, experimentation, and the ability to make informed decisions is highly desirable. HR leaders have the ability to set the cultural agenda on the right path – and now, they have the tools, the transparency, and methods to do so.

It’s far easier to accept people for who they are, and work on re-framing the role to lead to the behaviour changes you are seeking for your organization.

Siobhan McHale

It’s clear HR leaders have a lot to manage. They are the figureheads for vast organizational, cultural, and workplace changes. They must be fluent in speaking the languages of the business, science, leadership, HR and the every-day. They’re the translators who are helping to turn HR into something more than just a bland managerial punch-line. What we’ve learned throughout the sessions on offer at The CHRO Virtual Summit, is that they have the influence to make significant changes to the lives of many individuals and the organization as a whole – now it’s time to realize that potential.

Thank you to everyone who registered and attended the Summit! We sincerely hope that you gained some poignant insights and meaningful discussion-starters to help you in your professional life, and of course, for your organization’s continued growth and success.


The 3rd HR Congress Brussels, November 27-28 will feature a selection of sessions that will explore this topic and much more! Make sure you follow The HR Congress Blog and #HRCongress18 to stay posted on all the latest news, updates and content from the world of work!

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