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Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Career Guide

What is a chief human resources officer?

A chief human resources officer is a top-level executive who oversees all strategic aspects of an organization’s human resources management. Their role is central to shaping a company’s culture, developing its talent strategy, and aligning HR policies with business objectives.

CHROs are integral to maximizing the potential of the organization’s most valuable resource, its people. They ensure the company attracts, develops, and retains talent while fostering a positive work environment. This expertise drives HR strategies that support organizational growth, adaptability, and competitiveness.

Duties and responsibilities

A CHRO develops and executes a comprehensive human resources strategy aligning with the organization’s mission and objectives. They guide all aspects of HR operations, including talent acquisition, learning and development, compensation and benefits, employee engagement, and diversity and inclusion.

These executives are also responsible for organizational design and workforce planning. They monitor and analyze trends in talent management and adapt human resources policies and practices accordingly, ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations.

Collaboration with other executives and business leaders for people-related issues ensures that HR practices and principles are incorporated into business strategies.

Work environment

The work environment for CHROs is typically their employer’s headquarters. Their highly collaborative role requires frequent interaction with other executives, managers, and HR staff. It also involves participation in high-level strategic planning and board meetings.

Given the global nature of many businesses and the shift toward remote work, they may also navigate and address human resources challenges in multiple locations or a virtual environment.

Typical work hours

The typical work hours for a CHRO usually exceed the standard 40-hour work week. Outside regular business hours, their availability may be required to handle critical issues or participate in executive-level meetings and decisions.

The role can also involve travel, especially in organizations with multiple locations or international operations. These professionals are deeply committed to their position, dedicating the time necessary to effectively lead the human resources function in alignment with organizational goals.

How to become a chief human resources officer

Becoming a CHRO involves a combination of formal education, substantial human resources experience, and strategic management and leadership skills. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to follow:

Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree

The first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Typical fields of study include human resources, business administration, or a related discipline. This foundation provides a solid understanding of business principles and HR practices.

Step 2: Gain professional experience in human resources

After obtaining a degree, gain practical human resources experience. Starting positions include roles such as HR assistant or HR specialist. This experience provides an understanding of HR functions and practices, including recruitment, training, benefits administration, and compliance with labor laws. Online courses can also contribute to advancing knowledge and skills.  

Here are some of the options we recommend:

Step 3: Earn a master’s degree (recommended)

Many professionals enhance their credentials with a master’s degree in business administration (MBA), human resources, or labor relations. These advanced degrees typically cover strategic management, organizational behavior, and leadership development.

Step 4: Advance to managerial roles

With several years of professional HR experience, advancing to managerial positions like HR manager or director is possible. These roles provide leadership experience and the opportunity to develop strategic planning skills.

Step 5: Obtain HR certification

Though only sometimes required, many executives obtain certifications, such as the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) offered by the HR Certification Institute. These certifications can enhance professional credibility and demonstrate commitment to the field.

Step 6: Gain executive-level experience

Before becoming a CHRO, experience in a senior-level role, such as vice president of HR, is needed. In this capacity, knowledge is gained with executive responsibilities such as shaping strategies, making critical decisions, and collaborating with other executive team members.

Step 7: Apply for CHRO positions

With substantial senior leadership experience and a track record of strategic decision-making, it is time to apply for jobs. Highlight your experience leading HR initiatives, understanding business strategy, and influencing decisions within a complex organization.

How much do chief human resources officers make?

Several key factors can significantly influence the salary of a CHRO. One of the most significant factors is an organization’s size, as large companies with more employees generally offer a higher wage than smaller companies.

The industry can also impact pay. For instance, those in technology or finance may earn more due to HR’s complexity and critical importance.

Experience and education also play vital roles in determining compensation. Executives with extensive leadership experience and advanced degrees in human resources management, business administration, or industrial-organizational psychology often command higher salaries.

Highest paying industries

  • Finance: $220,000
  • Computer Systems Design: $214,070
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises: $213,250
  • Software Publishers: $211,650
  • Pharmaceutical: $209,400

Highest paying states

  • New York: $225,000
  • California: $221,080
  • Massachusetts: $215,300
  • New Jersey: $212,420
  • Illinois: $209,910

Browse CHRO salary data by market

Types of chief human resources officers

Responsibilities for this senior-level position can vary depending on the industry and company’s specific needs. In this career guide section, we will explore various types of CHROs, shedding light on their unique responsibilities and areas of focus. 

Corporate CHRO

Corporate CHROs focus on corporations’ strategic human resource needs, which may include multinational and Fortune 500 companies. They are often responsible for managing a large HR team and overseeing global strategies, employee engagement, leadership development, and labor relations.

Nonprofit CHRO

Nonprofit organizations include charities, foundations, and educational institutions. These CHROs focus on volunteer management, workforce planning, and building a culture that aligns with the organization’s mission and values.

Healthcare CHRO

CHROs specializing in HR operations within healthcare organizations work for hospitals, clinics, or healthcare networks. They may deal with specific challenges such as clinician recruitment and retention, employee wellness, and compliance with healthcare regulations.

Public sector CHRO

Work in this sector includes ensuring that HR strategies support an organization’s public service mission. CHROs in government agencies or organizations deal with broad employment regulations and labor relations.

Tech industry CHRO

Tech industry CHROs focus on more unique HR strategies, including managing remote teams, fostering an innovative culture, handling talent acquisition in a competitive market, and navigating rapid growth or change.

Top skills for chief human resources officers

This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a CHRO. The following descriptions provide insights into the abilities anyone aspiring to this role should focus on developing.

These executives are heavily involved in aligning HR strategies with policies and developing programs to attract and retain top talent. A strategic mindset contributes to success by ensuring that its most important asset, the people, is effectively managed and utilized.

As the head of the HR department, they need to be a strong leader that guides the HR team, makes policy decisions, and sets the tone of employee management. Leadership abilities can influence departmental effectiveness, employee satisfaction, and workplace culture.

Professionals in this role must communicate effectively with stakeholders, including top executives, managers, and employees. Whether explaining HR policies, negotiating with union representatives, or discussing strategic plans with the CEO, the ability to convey information clearly and persuasively is crucial. Good listening skills also help to understand employees’ needs and concerns, promoting a more inclusive and harmonious workplace.

A deep understanding of HR practices such as recruitment, compensation, training, and development is needed. Additionally, they must be aware of laws and regulations relating to employment, such as anti-discrimination laws and labor standards. This expertise ensures that the organization’s HR practices are effective, fair, and compliant with legal requirements.

Chief human resources officer career path

The career path starts with an entry-level role in human resources, such as an HR assistant or coordinator. This foundational experience is vital for understanding HR operations, including recruiting, onboarding, benefits administration, and employee relations.

After gaining experience and demonstrating competency, it is possible to progress to an HR generalist or specialist role. These positions involve handling various HR tasks or specializing in a particular area, such as compensation and benefits or training and development.

Advancing to a manager role may occur with experience and a strong understanding of HR strategies. This first leadership position involves overseeing HR operations within a department or an entire company, depending on size.

With some experience, it is possible to become an HR director, where tasks include managing larger teams and having a more strategic role in shaping an organization’s policies and initiatives.

Eventually, with extensive leadership experience, strategic expertise, and a track record of aligning HR initiatives with business goals, promotion may occur to a CHRO role. This top-level executive oversees all aspects of HR strategy, including workforce planning, talent management, and organizational development.

One significant trend is the increasing importance of technology in HR functions. CHROs need to lead the adoption of technologies that facilitate talent acquisition, employee engagement, performance management, and data analytics. This includes overseeing the implementation of digital tools and platforms that enhance the employee experience and improve HR efficiency.

Another major trend is the emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Integration of these principles ensures an inclusive culture, diverse teams, and fairness in all HR practices.

Finally, remote or hybrid work has become more popular, so responsibilities may include redesigning policies, fostering remote collaboration, and ensuring the well-being of employees in a remote environment.

Employment projections for CHROs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes CHROs in the broader category of “Top Executives.” This group is projected to see a 6% growth in employment through 2031. Given the increasingly strategic role of HR in organizations and the rising importance of people-centric approaches to leadership, it’s reasonable to anticipate that the demand for experienced, forward-thinking executives will continue to be robust. Those with a strong track record in strategic HR management and a deep understanding of contemporary technology, DEI practices, and remote workforce management will likely have the best opportunities.

Chief human resources officer career tips

Cultivate a strategic mindset

CHROs align HR strategies to the overall organizational objectives. Cultivating a strategic mindset will leverage these HR practices to support growth and success.

Understand business operations

A deep understanding of business operations, industry, and competitive landscape can help to make informed decisions and ensure HR strategies support business goals.

Enhance leadership skills

As the top HR executive, leadership skills are paramount. Desired skills include leading and inspiring teams, fostering a positive work culture, and championing initiatives that support employee growth and well-being.

Build a professional network

Building a network of other HR professionals can provide opportunities for collaboration, learning, and career advancement. Consider joining professional organizations related to HR, such as:

  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • National Human Resources Association (NHRA)
  • International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM)

Commit to continuous learning

The field of human resources is constantly evolving. Continuous learning is crucial to stay updated with changes in labor laws, best practices, and emerging trends in talent management. Here are some ways to engage in continuous learning:

  • Attend HR conferences and seminars
  • Pursue additional certifications or degrees related to human resources, such as a Senior Certified Professional (SCP) certification from SHRM
  • Stay informed about the latest research and developments through industry publications

Improve conflict resolution skills

Inevitably, CHROs encounter conflicts within their organizations. Strengthening conflict resolution skills can help manage these situations effectively, fostering harmony and ensuring fair outcomes.

Develop strong communication 

Excellent communication skills ensure transparent and effective dialogue with employees, other executives, and external stakeholders. Be an active listener and convey complex HR policies and concepts clearly and efficiently.

Focus on diversity and inclusion

In today’s multicultural and inclusive work environment, these executives must focus on DEI. Creating and implementing these policies helps to increase creativity, improve performance, and attract top talent.

Understand and comply with employment laws

These professionals must ensure that the organization’s HR practices comply with all relevant employment laws. Applicable state or federal laws may be related to employment discrimination, workplace safety, and labor relations.

Prioritize employee engagement and well-being

Employee engagement and well-being significantly impact productivity and employee retention. Prioritizing these areas can help foster a positive work environment where employees feel valued, satisfied, and motivated to do their best.

Where the CHRO jobs are

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts

Top industries

  • Technology
  • Financial Services
  • Healthcare
  • Retail
  • Consulting

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • LinkedIn
  • ExecuNet


What qualifications are typically required for a CHRO role?

The role requires a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, or a related field. However, many organizations prefer candidates with a master’s degree, particularly in human resources or business administration. Extensive experience in human resources, with a progression of leadership roles, is typically necessary. Professional certifications such as SPHR or SHRM-SCP may also be preferred.

What skills are important for a CHRO?

Essential skills include leadership, strategic planning, communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. A deep understanding of HR principles and practices, including talent management, compensation and benefits, labor law, and organizational development, is also crucial. Understanding and aligning strategies with business objectives is fundamental, as is a solid ethical compass and a knowledge of DEI best practices.

What are the typical duties of a CHRO?

A CHRO oversees human resource management and strategy, including talent acquisition and management, compensation and benefits, diversity and inclusion, employee relations, HR compliance, and organizational development. Collaboration with other executives aligns HR policies with business objectives and values. The role sometimes includes managing the HR budget and leading HR-related projects.

What is the role of a CHRO in talent management?

In talent management, a CHRO ensures that the organization attracts, retains, and develops the staff it needs to achieve its strategic objectives. They oversee recruitment, onboarding, performance management, succession planning, and employee development. Other initiatives include creating and implementing talent management strategies to support the organization’s goals and culture.

How does a CHRO contribute to organizational culture?

CHROs develop and implement HR policies and practices that reflect and reinforce the organization’s values and mission, such as fostering a positive work environment, promoting diversity and inclusion, and encouraging open communication. In addition, they often lead initiatives to enhance employee engagement, motivation, and satisfaction.

What’s the difference between a CHRO and an HR manager?

While both roles involve managing HR functions, a CHRO is responsible for setting overall HR strategy across business goals, often at a broad level. An HR manager typically oversees day-to-day operations and implements procedures developed by the CHRO. 

What challenges might a CHRO face?

Challenges may include managing change, dealing with workforce issues like retention and engagement, ensuring compliance with complex labor laws and regulations, addressing diversity and inclusion, and aligning HR strategy with business objectives. Other challenges may include managing technology, measuring the impact of initiatives, and demonstrating the value of HR to other business leaders.

How does a CHRO collaborate with other executives?

CHROs work closely with organizational leaders to understand talent needs, help manage teams effectively, and address workforce issues. Some may partner with executives on organizational development, change management, and succession planning initiatives.

What role does a CHRO play in change management?

The role often leads to organizational change, such as restructuring, mergers, acquisitions, or significant shifts in strategy. Planning for change, communicating with employees, and mitigating resistance ensures successful implementation and sustained transitions.

What opportunities for advancement are there for a CHRO?

The position is a top executive, so opportunities for vertical advancement may be limited. However, moving to other C-level positions, such as CEO or COO, is possible with a broad business background and extensive HR expertise. Additionally, some may choose to serve on corporate boards or in consulting roles, leveraging their knowledge to advise other organizations.