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The CHRO's Role in CEO Succession


The departure of a CEO and the process of determining a successor is one of the most high stakes transitions any organization will face. The board of directors must identify what a future leader looks like; the sitting CEO must wrestle with the change in role and loss of control; and the prospective successors must undergo an evaluation process that at best is difficult, and at worst may feel opaque or inconsistent.

The CHRO plays an essential role in CEO succession, but there is a growing understanding in the CHRO community that this role is not always clear: CHROs can benefit from more exploration of strategies and best practices to help facilitate effective succession.

“Boards are under pressure to ensure they make good decisions in CEO succession… They look to the CHRO [Chief Human Resources Officer] to head the process, but most CHROs have never been through it.” – Professor Patrick Wright of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina

Managing an effective succession process to the best long-term result for the company requires planning, flexibility, consistent communication, and the ability to balance the perspectives and emotions of the sitting CEO, the board of directors, and the candidates. The CHRO, with his or her big picture view, understanding of the players, and strategic skillset, is uniquely positioned to lead from the center.

“The start of a successful onboarding process for the new CEO is making sure the sitting CEO has a good transition out,” says Kurt Fischer, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Learn from four distinguished HR executives with recent experience in CEO transition, joined by Professor Wright and the CHO Group members, for a conversation about CEO succession. What factors contribute to an “average, good, or great” outcome when it comes to CEO succession? How does one engage multiple stakeholders in the executive search and career transition process? 


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