The making of the public sector chief human resources officer

By The Mandarin

September 8, 2016

Today’s HR practitioner is required to do more than ever.

Customers expect more innovative and integrated product and service delivery. Individuals seek greater flexibility and autonomy in what they do and how they work. Advancing digital technologies continue to alter the requirement for the purely transactional and often segregated HR function in the modern workplace. The HR professional must plan for, shape and support the evolution of workplace culture, and contribute to core business and strategic objectives.

The public sector HR practitioner is not immune from these realities. Added to the mix are increasing community expectations, ongoing budgetary and fiscal constraints and a changing public sector workforce profile. Our public sectors require human resource functions with the ability to anticipate future workforce needs and prepare for them accordingly.

The Australian and New Zealand public service commissioners are committed to strengthening human capital and increasing the professionalism of the HR function as a valuable source of expertise and strategic guidance to the public sector.

John Lloyd, Australian public service commissioner, commented “All commissioners have agreed that they will work to help agency heads lift the HR profile as a driver to realise business outcomes. We will both advocate and take initiatives to achieve a more strategic contribution by HR professionals in our jurisdictions.”

In support of this commitment, the commissioners agreed to develop “A joint success profile for Chief Human Resources Officers, outlining the expectations, accountabilities and suggested experiences deemed necessary for an effective and successful chief human resource officer (CHRO), or its equivalent, within public sector agencies.

Click to open “A joint success profile for chief human resource officers”

Six expectations of a CHRO

  • Understand the organisation’s business and its role in public value creation
  • Act as a steward of organisational culture and capability
  • Enable leaders to engage and manage the workforce as a key driver to achieve business outcomes
  • Empower the organisation to make workforce decisions based on evidence and insights
  • Partner with leaders to develop key workforce interventions to meet changing demands and rising customer expectations
  • Build functional excellence within the HR area to improve credibility and promote customer focus.

The accountabilities include:

  • Build relationships of trust and credibility, particularly with the agency’s senior leaders and key stakeholders
  • Provide outstanding leadership through significant times of change
  • Empower leaders to gain the utmost business value from the agency’s workforce
  • Design and implement innovative people solutions
  • Inspire change and new ways of thinking
  • Develop coherent talent, culture and leadership strategies.

According to Bronwen Overton-Clarke, ACT public service commissioner and project sponsor, “Good practice CHROs are those who know and understand the business. They need to be bold, less conservative in their approach and have a range of varied experiences.”

Further to the CHRO profile, an accompanying “Guidelines for measuring a joint success profile for Chief Human Resource Officersprovides agencies with advice on how they can measure the success of the CHRO role through its overall impact on the HR process and agency business outcomes.

Overton-Clarke reiterated the need to leverage the expertise, knowledge and good practice already occurring within the HR profession – “HR needs to be positioned as a key enabler of business outcomes and be in partnership with the strategic and operational areas of the business. It shouldn’t be considered a ‘separate’ unit in the business, but an integral and core component of the whole business function.”

The commissioners are clear that the CHRO success profile and accompanying measurement guidelines are not mandatory, but are to be used as a tool for agencies to apply at their own discretion and assist in establishing a common language across the jurisdictions regarding HR capability.  Ultimately it is hoped these resources will play a role in elevating the profile of the HR profession by articulating the role and securing a seat for the CHRO at the executive table, not as a figurehead but as a key influencer and decision-maker.


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