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CHRO’s Role with the Board: 3 Strategies to Build Boardroom Impact and Influence

Communicating, Relationship-Building, & Becoming a Better Board Partner

As organizations continue to wrestle with complex talent management issues amidst market volatility, people leaders are becoming a more important and influential voice in the boardroom. According to a survey of people leaders in The Circle, 43% reported an increase in their interactions with the board in the last 12 months. 

While boardroom interactions may be  new or nerve-wracking experiences for some CHROs, they can also be an opportunity to build credibility by highlighting and leading conversations about people issues across the organization.

A recent gathering of The Circle with VIP guests George Anderson (Partner and Leader of Board Effectiveness at Spencer Stuart) and Christy Lake (Chief People Officer of Twilio) revealed three strategies to help CHROs increase their level of boardroom influence and impact. 

#1 – Support Board Member Recruiting & Onboarding

One way CHROs can proactively demonstrate value outside of the normal channels of board communication is by participating in the board member recruitment and onboarding processes. As boards add or replace seats, particularly in the lead-up to going public, CHROs can help bring efficiency to the process, from crafting the job description to hiring the recruitment firm and optimizing the new member’s onboarding experience.

“CHROs are some of the best people to advise the board on processes for identifying, recruiting, and onboarding new members. Getting involved in that process builds strong relationships with new and existing board members and helps the board do its job better.”-George Anderson, Partner and Leader of Board Effectiveness at Spencer Stuart

#2 – Have a Point of View

Board members often look to their CHROs to expose any people-related business issues or risks to shareholder value. For Christy, some of the critical metrics that she highlights with the board when speaking about the health of the organization include:  

  • Attrition
  • Employee engagement
  • Talent pipeline
  • Diversity and representation 
  • Workforce layers, bands, and geo-locations

Beyond reporting the hard metrics, though, CHROs also have an opportunity to position themselves as thought leaders and valuable business partners during board conversations. 

“How you show up in the board meetings lends credibility to your perspective. CHROs can elevate their influence by having a strong point of view on the temperature across the organization and an engaged perspective on other functional areas of the business.”  -Christy Lake, Chief People Officer at Twilio 

To keep a pulse on the organization and avoid challenging board conversations, CHROs should stay armed with fresh data from employee pulse surveys and feedback from their people managers. Christy conducts a weekly “vibe check” with VPs in her organization to stay informed on employee sentiment and any brewing managerial issues.

The tricky part is often deciding what information to share with the board outside of anything that is either privileged or too high-level, says Christy, and this is where having strong board member relationships is critical.

#3Invest In Relationships With Individual Members

Attendance at board meetings  may be required, but building relationships with individual board members away from the boardroom table is beneficial for increasing influence and impact. CHROs can use those relationships to gain insight into the issues board members care about and establish themselves as a valuable business partner. As George pointed out, a quarter of new board appointees are referred by an existing board member; therefore, getting to know board members may benefit CHROs who are considering board service in the future.

Building board relationships takes time, but the earlier you start, the better. Don’t be afraid to reach out and introduce yourself to board members or invite them to chat or grab a coffee. CHROs are typically more involved with the Compensation Committee and can use prep and debrief calls to build personal relationships with Committee members. In this effort, it’s critical to stay in lock-step with your CEO, as CFO|Circle peers have pointed out in past conversations about board relationships

The Takeaway:

CHROs may continue to see their engagement and influence with the board of directors increase as people issues come under the microscope. Supporting board recruitment and onboarding, maintaining a cross-functional perspective, and investing in board relationships are critical to capitalizing on those interactions.



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