Bob Violino
Contributing writer

8 ways CIOs and CHROs can collaborate for business impact

Aug 24, 202211 mins
Business IT AlignmentDigital TransformationEmployee Experience

With technology, talent, and workplace culture key ingredients for business success, a strong partnership between IT and HR leaders may be the most critical in today’s C-suite.

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CIOs have a lot to gain by working with their C-suite colleagues, if for no other reason than to gain a better perspective on different areas of the business. One of the most important relationships a technology leader can forge is with the chief human resources officer (CHRO).

From employee engagement to training, HR executives are involved in a lot of initiatives that have a direct impact on IT. In addition, in a tight talent market, IT must rely heavily on HR to gain an edge in recruiting and retaining valuable IT talent. HR, in turn, depends on a range of technologies, processes, and services that IT plays a key role in implementing, automating, and enhancing.

“Now more than ever, having a strong partnership between HR and the CIO is critical, because the demand for talented employees is so high,” says Kathy Kay, CIO at global financial investment management and insurance company Principal Financial Group.

“The pandemic and the great reshuffling caused us all to focus more strategically on our recruitment and retention efforts,” Kay says. “The CIO plays a pivotal role in understanding the digital demands of HR to attract a global workforce, and the need to provide tech solutions [to meet] the needs of remote and hybrid team members.”

It’s crucial for CIOs and CHROs to have a close working relationship, “because there is an inherent link between leadership, culture, skills, and behaviors in achieving digital transformation outcomes,” says Chris Nardecchia, senior vice president and chief information and digital officer at Rockwell Automation, a provider of industrial automation products.

“A close partnership between the CIO and CHRO that aligns technology, data, and business process design and workflows can help redefine desired work behaviors, which in turn reshapes the culture,” Nardecchia says. “Elevating the employee experience is key to removing friction, improving the customer experience, and attracting and retaining talent.”

Here are some important ways a strong CIO-CHRO relationship can give organizations an edge by impacting key business objectives.

Honing strategic hiring priorities

HR and technology executives are in unique positions to help their organizations meet their overall goals, including setting priorities such as which technology positions need to be filled quickly.

Kathy Kay, senior vice president and CIO, Principal Financial Group

Kathy Kay, senior vice president and CIO, Principal Financial Group

Principal Financial Group

“Our HR partners work closely with us to understand our company’s technology strategy, which helps determine which roles are most critical to the success of the organization,” Kay says. “The HR team forges new relationships with recruiters and staffing companies to uncover untapped talent pools and pipelines.”

This has included promoting job openings to college students in new ways, offering apprenticeships to high school students, and partnering with community colleges, Kay says. “We also partner with various community organizations to get connected to more students from underrepresented populations,” she says.

HR professionals help identify skillsets that are unique to the needs of the organization, and know what the market is dictating when it comes to work arrangements, compensation, and benefits, Kay says. “This keeps us competitive,” she says. “It’s through ongoing discussions with HR where we learn insights on hiring and retention within our own organization. Using real-time data helps us react more quickly when we notice trends.”

Informed by HR insights, Principal Financial now post 95% of its technology positions with remote options, to open a larger talent pool, Kay says. 

Bolstering training programs

Given the ongoing IT talent shortage and the difficulties in recruiting professionals who have specific skills, offering internal training programs has become essential for most enterprises. If companies can train existing employees in areas such as cloud computing and cybersecurity, they can meet their needs in these areas and offer career opportunities for their workforces.

“We’ve [made] our culture one of continuous learning, with an ambitious employee upskilling program, including our Cloud Accelerate program, access to LinkedIn Learning, an annual employee technology conference, hackathons, and more,” Kay says.

With HR’s help, the IT department got almost 1,700 employees trained through the Amazon Web Services (AWS) program in just eight months, with a 377% increase in AWS certifications achieved compared with the previous year, Kay says. “HR is a necessary partner as we continue to ramp up our training opportunities,” she says.

Improving the employee experience

Many organizations are looking for ways to attract and retain workers by enhancing the employee experience, another area where strong collaboration between IT and HR can provide big benefits.

Chris Nardecchia, senior vice president and chief digital and information officer, Rockwell Automati

Chris Nardecchia, senior vice president and chief digital and information officer, Rockwell Automation

Rockwell Automation

“Our Workday implementation is an initiative where the CHRO and I partnered closely to deliver a new human capital management and payroll platform, to improve productivity, provide insights into company and employee data, and create greater employee engagement,” Rockwell Automation’s Nardecchia says.

Some of the ways Nardecchia and the CHRO have worked together include building employee engagement surveys, conducting employee journey mapping, redesigning workspaces and remote options for the future of work, and using data from employee profiles and career planning for talent management and development.

“From these activities, we were able to benefit from increased workforce planning; consistent payroll and benefits administration; managing, tracking and improved visibility into employee skills; talent management; recruiting; and alignment of individual performance to strategic goals,” Nardecchia says.

Creating a culture of diversity

IT and HR leaders can collaborate on efforts to increase diversity not only in technology departments but throughout the organization.

At Principal Financial Group, the HR team — and the Diversity & Inclusion team within it — help “tell the story of our diverse and inclusive company culture, and all the ways we support our global employees throughout their careers,” Kay says. “We’re intentional about nurturing an inclusive culture and diverse workforce.”

HR has helped the IT department develop strategies to successfully recruit and retain diverse IT employees and leaders, Kay says. The firm has made its culture of continuous learning a recruitment differentiator, with an ambitious employee upskilling program, she says.

“The HR team coordinates our employee resource groups — 3,700 employees participate — which includes one specific to supporting women in technology,” Kay says. “Our tech community now has 38% female representation, and half of our CIO working group leadership team are women or people of color.”

Facilitating digital transformation

Digital transformation is not just about acquiring new technology tools and services. It requires news skills and a change in mindset.

At Rockwell Automation, Nardecchia is partnering closely with the CHRO as part of the company’s efforts to align talent, skills, behaviors, and change management in support of a shift to digital technologies and services.

“We launched this internal enterprise transformation in 2020 with the goal of building a data-driven operating model that accelerates our move toward a customer-centric, data-driven, agile organization,” Nardecchia says. “For our transformation to be truly successful, Rockwell Automation believes that it must change from within.”

This requires engagement and the willingness to change among leadership through all functions in the organization, Nardecchia says. “No one group, or individual, can deliver on a transformation agenda,” he says. “It requires the entire executive leadership team and their organizations.”

To help with the attraction and retention of talent for the transformation effort, Nardecchia partnered with the CHRO to provide employees with new learning and development approaches and collaboration tools, streamline workflows to improve engagement, and leverage technology and data to help staff learn new skills.

The company credits the transformation effort for business process improvements that resulted in a 75% reduction in total order cycle time for e-commerce orders; and 85% of transactions being processed in a touchless manner.

Automating HR processes

IT and HR leaders can also work together to automate processes that enhance the organization’s ability to provide better services to workers and attract new talent.

Bill Balint, CIO, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Bill Balint, CIO, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

“Many higher education human resources organizations are being charged with addressing a broadening employee support landscape, at a time when attracting, retaining, and replacing staff is a growing challenge,” says Bill Balint, CIO at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “Automating certain activities can help maximize precious time HR staff can then use to perform tasks truly requiring their expertise.”

A recent example Balint cites is Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s shift to an industry-standard electronic signature and workflow system to process employee performance reviews during the pandemic. “The risk was low using a proven system, and the benefit was high as it allowed a critical business need to proceed without in-person interaction,” he says.

IT projects at the university are prioritized at its executive level, and the university’s chief HR executive consults with IT leadership to advocate for efforts that will address real needs, Balint says.

Enhancing employee onboarding

Bringing new hires into an organization can be a challenging task, especially at a time when many people are working remotely.

Suzie Smibert, CIO and EVP, OvareGroup

Suzie Smibert, CIO and EVP, OvareGroup


At OvareGroup, a provider of advertising, branding, and other services, the IT department worked closely with HR and marketing to revamp the entire onboarding process, says Suzie Smibert, executive vice president and CIO.

“New employees can choose whether they prefer to work on a Mac or a PC and the device is configured and delivered — to either their home or office — so they can hit the ground running,” Smibert says. “On their first day of work, one of the first people they will meet, remote or in person, will be one of our technical analysts to complete technology onboarding.”

With the new onboarding initiative, “we have also focused on communicating and managing expectations with the business and new hires, so everyone is clear on accountabilities and what to expect,” Smibert says. The IT department provides support and training on the Office 365 productivity suite, and helps new employees learn how to access applications and get up to speed on cybersecurity awareness programs.

“We are continually working to improve the experience through regular engagement and feedback,” Smibert says. “Our goal was to decrease the number of support tickets from new hires, and since implementing this new process we’ve seen roughly 25% fewer tickets.”

Supercharging HR

The modern HR department relies heavily on technology tools, and environments in which CIOs and CHROs collaborate easily can help foster successful deployments of these solutions.

Sujan Turlapaty, CIO, Optiv

Sujan Turlapaty, CIO, Optiv


“Today’s CHROs navigate complex and changing human capital management landscapes, while IT analyzes constant advancements within technology that support them,” says Sujan Turlapaty, CIO at cybersecurity provider Optiv.

The underlying technologies that support key HR functions such as recruiting, applicant tracking, onboarding, offboarding, and learning and development through complex human resources information systems (HRIS), supported by IT, help today’s CHROs achieve maximum human capital management efficiency, Turlapaty says.

On the other hand, HR delivers the expert talent needed to operate and maintain the technology. This brings the HR-IT partnership full circle, Turlapaty says. Technology and processes need people, “and CHROs and CIOs bring these three pieces of the puzzle together to fulfill their missions,” he says. “A shared empathy between CHROs and CIOs helps bring compassionate and collaborative perspectives that produce greater results.”