Resources: CHRO Peer Forums: Raising the Bar in Leadership
C-Suite leaders know that "it's lonely at the top". CEO's and other senior executives have one person in the organization who they can talk to when they are facing tough challenges, or even failures - the CHRO, of course! But who does the CHRO talk to when he or she needs help or advice?
Confidentiality and professionalism prevent the CHRO from confiding in colleagues, even with the CEO, at times. Being the top Human Resources executive is arguably the loneliest job of all.
- Where to turn for help? SCNetwork's Peer Forums
- Who is in the CHRO Peers Forums?
- What is the format?
- How much does participation in the Forum cost?
- What happens if my employment status changes?
- What is the connection of the Peer forums to SCNetwork?
- Are you interested in joining one of our Forums?
What’s keeping you awake at night about your organization is likely something that another CHRO has experienced. Imagine being able to discuss a challenge and have a group of peers who might have some experience to bring to solve it. That's the concept behind SCNetwork's CHRO Peer Forums.
SCNetwork's CHRO Peer Forums are groups of 20-25 top-level HR executives/People officers from wide cross-section of industries, who meet regularly to discuss matters they are facing in their organizations, and in their lives. Since life and work intersect regularly, the Forum is a place for confidential sharing and learning in both areas. Each Forum is led by a qualified Facilitator. Members of the Forums vet potential new members for fit, and to ensure there is no conflict with another member from a competing business. Not all members have the CHRO/CPO title, but they share a similar mandate and report to the CEO or head of a business unit. The key attributes of a member are that they have the top HR job and are willing to contribute their experience to help others.
The Forums have a balance of standardization across all, with room for customization by the members themselves. Standard is a minimum of two mandatory meetings per year – one mid-year and one towards the end of year. These two meetings are typically all day with a social dinner event to follow, and one or both could be overnight, depending upon member preference. Forum members determine the frequency and timing of other meetings throughout the year and attendance at these is more flexible but strongly encouraged. Most often, members rotate hosting at their own business offices. 2-3 members volunteer to organize each meeting, set the content and agenda, and may invite a guest speaker or simply tap into the braintrust within the room.
$1500 annually, of which $225 covers the CHRO’s individual SCNetwork membership fee, and the remaining amount gets allocated to the Forum’s account. These funds go to pay for lunches, dinners, materials, and overnight stays (if applicable). Forums with unused money at end of year usually arrange a special dinner, and some have even partnered with a charity for a special event. Any funds remaining at year end will be transferred to the following year’s Forum account.
Members who leave their executive role and don’t step immediately into another comparable role (otherwise known as members “in transition” to either a new role or retirement) may remain a member for the current year as well as one additional year, if annual fees are fully paid. If they do not secure a senior HR executive role by the end of this period, they must step down from the Forum. The rationale is that those in the Forums must have relevant and recent experience to share, which requires active involvement in a role.
SCNetwork’s purpose is to provide thought leadership and community for members. For most members, these two objectives are experienced at our monthly breakfast events and periodic social events. In addition to meeting the minimum attendance requirements at Forum meetings, CHRO Forum members are expected to:
- Attend SCNetwork events occasionally, and encourage their HR staff to do the same
- Volunteer from time to time on SCNetwork events, committees or its Board of Directors
- Offer topic ideas and speaker suggestions for our monthly events, and even volunteer to present on a topic
- Be willing to be interviewed on matters for inclusion in SCNetwork’s newsletters and blogs, and
- Offer up ideas you may have to enhance our member value proposition or build SCNetwork’s brand, presence and impact.
We have three Forums running currently and are planning to open additional Forums to meet the level of interest of our members. If you’d like to participate in an existing Forum or be on a waiting list, contact:
Suanne Nielsen, President, SCNetwork at firstname.lastname@example.org, or
Angela Balan, CHRO Peer Forums Chair at email@example.com for more information.
Or, read a few of our CHRO Peer Forum members tell their stories about how participating in the Forums have impacted their careers …
Mary Lou Hukezalie, SVP Human Resources
I joined SCNetwork’s CHRO Peer Forum in 2010 when I became head of HR here at TMX. I had been invited to do a presentation on work that we had done at my former company. That’s when I met the members of the CHRO Peer Forums and learned about them. I was then invited to join the group. When I was in banking, I was part of several peer networks that were invaluable in building best practice expertise. In joining a smaller company like TMX, I knew that I would need to find a peer group similar to the one I had left in banking.
In SCNetwork’s CHRO Peer Forum, my peers, whether they are in the shoe business or in the pharmaceutical business or the mining business, understand that talent is mobile and HR issues are pretty consistent across all of our organizations. Because of SCN 's focus on serving the HR needs of smaller organizations where there aren't armies of HR professionals, I get great value learning about how to scale solutions that fit my company's needs.
A great example of the value of the network came in 2014 when we were setting out to do a search for a new CEO at TMX. We had interviewed a number of search firms who had pitched us. When he saw the price for a search like this, our board chair had a bit of sticker shock so he asked me to canvass any peers who might have done a CEO search to see if what we were seeing was in line with market. So, at 8:00 am that morning, I sent out a note to my CHRO Peer Forum group for intel and within an hour, I had enough feedback to respond to my Chair.
I would highly recommend the CHRO Peer Forum because it enables the sharing of timely, relevant information and best practices. It is a very effective and efficient way of understanding emerging trends in HR. Without this forum, it would take much longer to research issues and get a test of what others are experiencing.
The peer forum group that I belong to is a very seasoned group of HR professionals who bring a wealth of experience to the table. Their credibility is very high. We also do retreats which are very helpful to have deeper conversations about the unique challenges, heads of HR face in organizations. In addition, we've been able to bring in external experts which has allowed us all to do a little bit of a professional reset.
From the SCNetwork CHRO Peer Forum you get hands-on, practical guidance about things that work.
Kelly Davis, Chief People Officer
Sunwing Travel Group
I was referred to join SCNetwork’s CHRO Peer Forum in 2012, when I was starting as VP of People Development at Cara Operations. After Cara, I joined Town Shoes as VP of HR and then moved on to the SVP of HR, Customer Service & Loss Prevention position there. Last summer, after 5 and a half years there, the company was going through a merger and acquisition, and there were a few opportunities for me to transition to. So, I reached out to my CHRO Peer Forum group quite a bit during that time because a lot of them had gone through mergers and acquisitions. I was feeling stuck as I wanted to be there for my people through the end of the M&A, but I also didn't want to ignore a really good opportunity. The feedback I got was very helpful for me to remain in the company through the M&A. Because of that valuable advice, I left Town Shoes after their M&A, which was the perfect time for me to move on.
After leaving Town Shoes, I had made a personal commitment to take six months off because as a working mom of two, I wanted to spend time with my family. However, last fall there were a number of great opportunities in the market, so I felt torn as I didn’t want to pass up something great. Once more, I reached out to my CHRO Peer Forum group saying, “what do you think I should do? I’m feeling some mom guilt, but I also don’t want to pass on these opportunities.”
They were so helpful to me. A lot of them said, “you know, Kelly, we've been in that position, as well. If it's an okay job, don't push yourself, you should take the time with your family. However, if it's an amazing job, you don't want to let it go.”
The job I'm in now, I would describe it as an amazing job and I'm so glad that my peer group helped me through that time because if I had not taken it, I think I would be kicking myself now. Being able to get that mentorship and guidance from the peer network was so valuable to me and helped me land in which I would have to say is my favorite job so far in my career. I'm so appreciative to the group for that.
I am part of several other networking groups but with SCNetwork’s CHRO Peer Forum group, there’s that absolute trust factor. I would share anything with them because the members are committed to the understanding that in being part of the group there’s a call to silence and nobody would break that trust. So, I feel I can speak very freely about my work, but also about my personal life. Having peers being honest and saying, “hey, I’ve been there and here’s some guidance,” means so much to me.
With trust comes really good conversations. I’m very busy and have very limited time but I absolutely love to spend time with my group members. We’re all in HR but we’re all so different as well. Our group does a retreat and that is my favourite time with my group. Even my husband, who works in a very different environment than HR, accompanies me to the retreats. We have a great time, but we also learn so much. While our retreats are half work and half social, it doesn’t feel like a work thing to me.
For me, the top reasons to join SCNetwork’s CHRO Peer Forum are the sharing of information and pushing yourself. Our meetings are not like conferences where you attend and just mainly sit and listen without sharing and participating. If you’re looking for help and support from the group, you have to be willing to give it back. If you want to learn and grow, and you're also willing to and share I think, it's an amazing environment. All executives are busy but when you do actually take the time and put a CHRO Peer Forum meeting in your calendar, you are committing to leadership development and growth for yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise get.