Chief human resource officers are coming to their roles with increasingly diverse backgrounds.

Aon Hewitt’s recent Learning to Fly study gathered data from 45 CHROs around the globe on their journey to the top HR job and what can be expected of future industry leaders.

“Those well-equipped to achieve the greatest success will have diverse skill sets, be adaptable and agile, and gain hands-on learning from working through real-life situations and acquiring knowledge across disciplines and industries,” says Neil Shastri, Aon Hewitt’s leader, global insights & innovation.

Also see: Successful benefits communication built on understanding workplace culture, climate

Close to three quarters of CHROs noted having made at least one industry career change, according to Aon’s study, and a change in industry leads to an increase in the speed at which someone who aspires to be a CHRO progresses toward that goal. For example:

  • Those who have never changed their industry had an average work experience of 27.5 years, and an average tenure of just four years as CHRO.
  • Those who have changed their industry more than three times had the highest average tenure as a CHRO, with seven years, and the lowest average work experience (23.3 years).

In addition to having a larger perspective across industries, another key component of HR leaders is board and C-suite level experiences. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents to Aon’s survey had prior board exposure.
Also see: Managing, recruiting multigenerational workforce requires change

Dovetailing with Aon’s findings, similar data from a larger study by the Society for Human Resource Management noted 70% of senior HR professionals hold a spot on the board of directors – compared to 63% in 2009 and 41% in 2004.

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