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CHROs, CIOs or CEOs: Who commands the mission of EX in a company?

Shivangi Gautam

Last Updated: 3 February 2023

In this article:

With the advent of COVID-19, came the evolution of employee experience; and with it new forms of discussions over who really is responsible for people at work. Is it traditionally the CHROs? Have CIOs stepped in to play a bigger role? Or do CEOs have a greater task at hand to sustain business as well as design successful EX? Is it more pertinent than before for leaders to collaborate and optimize employee experience?

We overheard many sides of this debate from an elaborate panel discussion at People Matters EX Virtual Conference 2021 - APAC. Safe to say, both panelists and attendees walked out learning something new from this concluding session, and we can’t wait to share the tidbits. Read on for more!

inFeedo CEO, Tanmaya Jain opened the floor for discussion with Byron Fernandez, CIO at TDCX; Carlos Aboitiz, Chief Corporate Services Officer at Aboitiz Power; May Sunega

Head of HR and Communications at Sun Life Asia Service Centre-Philippines; and Olivia Chua, CHRO at Jebsen & Jessen Group. Only a minute into the discussion we learn that 3 out of 4 organizations being represented here use Amber for managing their employees’ well-being, and all 4 organizations have an employee base of more than three thousand. 

The inevitable CIO-CHRO collaboration

Tanmaya was quick to address the elephant in the room when he quite directly asked Byron this: “Do CIOs prevent new tech products from being introduced in the company?” To nobody’s surprise, Byron agreed with the claim and went on to explain his and every other CIO’s apprehension on getting a new tech product. “We care about the security of our people and are always taking steps to avoid employee data breaches”. 

While earlier HR and IT have worked in silos, the past few years have seen more alignment of the two functions. Processes like HRM tools, payrolls, IT policies, security protocols have become a converging ground for both functions. However, new tech in an organization simply means gathering sensitive employee information and practically handing it over to a third party that may or not use it unjustly. Byron maintained that a smooth company culture must only be brought in with a solid collaboration between the IT and HR functions. In a post-pandemic world, one function simply can not work without the other. 

As a matter of fact, in 2019, Gartner predicted that by 2021, CIOs will be as responsible for culture change as chief HR Officers. Thanks to COVID and accelerating digital transformation, this collaboration is shaping up faster than ever!

CHROs no longer own EX alone

As the conversation continued, attendees made sure to quiz our panelists on some of the most heated questions doing the rounds. 

“Why do CHROs always have to be the people responsible for EX. Why is it not a common agenda?”

As has been observed in the past, CEOs have been distanced from their human resources and employees in general. Read this report by the Conference Board that ranks human capital as a top challenge for CEOs worldwide. However, the shift in the dynamics is already underway. “Our chairman at Jebsen & Jessen Group writes a weekly blog where he casually discusses his learnings and feelings. In an effort to make every employee feel like they’re a part of a family, he talks to them too,” says Olivia. Back home, Tanmaya practices an open door policy at inFeedo where any employee is free to approach him should they feel any discomfort at work.

The paradox is that while it was easier to get in touch with people in a pre-pandemic area, the need to do so is, in fact, gigantic right now. Olivia believes that taking care of your tribe is definitely not an HR agenda alone. That being said, HR can rightfully assume the role of a bridge between the CEO and his people, provided the CEO elevates the role of an HR. The simplest math in this equation is that if HR wins, people win, and when people win, businesses succeed. 

Enter: A sophisticated people-oriented tech

An organization's goal is more than just performance numbers. Tanmaya reminded us that when companies hold town-hall meetings, the agenda remains to recognize operational growth and applauding successes. “If organizational culture is as important as we now discuss, why then do we not recognize engaged teams, happy employees, and other culture drivers in our townhalls?” After all, a winning corporate culture definitely indicates improved performance and productivity, especially in a hybrid work environment

“We need to learn to trust other indicators of business success”, says Carlos. An Amber power-user, Carlos maintains that having a smart employee engagement tool at Aboitiz has definitely helped the organization identify other drivers of success. Amber regularly chats with employees to find out if they’re disengaged with the help of measurable metrics like Mood Score, Response Rate and even Trust among team members. Isn’t that simply beautiful?

In the last couple of years, May points out that at Sun Life Asia, the most complex challenges for HR were helping people deal with their family, deal with health concerns and just being an overall counsellor. It’s with Amber that these issues not only surfaced but were also promptly dealt with. 

“I was amazed that a superior chatbot tech - that was only common to sectors like banking and finance - is finally being used for a greater good of helping people struggling at work”, says Carlos. 

Meeting tech halfway

In the golden age for employee surveys, an important question to raise right now is Are employee surveys causing fatigue? Tanmaya points out that it might actually be a lack of post-feedback action that is being misread as feedback fatigue. Your HR surveys are going unanswered not because your employees are hesitant to answer them, but rather because the leadership is not taking enough steps to deploy their feedback.

In the midst of it all, one may wonder if employee listening tools are helpful at all. “To expect that tech will work for you magically without any intervention from you is an archaic thought”, quips May. HR managers need to stop chasing people to give feedback and instead work on the feedback they have already received. There are enough tools and integrations to help understand employee feedback but if leadership shies away from implementing learnings, they might not be as effective.

Olivia stresses the importance of human touch by saying that “Bots are here to support HROs, but as people, we need the right words and communication style to talk to our people.”

Circling back on the importance of sound technical tools for the HR community, Tanmaya concludes the session with this gem that basically makes a lot of sense to us:

“While every function has had their fair share of tools, I guess it’s time to expect better and more integrated tech tools for HR”. Rightly said, there TJ!

If you're a CXO looking to attract and retain top talent and build a high performance team, give Amber a try. 

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