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With HR in the spotlight, it’s time for an evolution

Here’s how CHROs can win business support for transformation

Imagine it’s 2025, and HR is at the center of culture, learning and communication at your organization. Your HR team is now a strategic partner to the business, working alongside other leaders to drive your company’s success. The right data is instantly available when you—or your team members—need it to inform strategic modeling and dynamic planning.

Many HR leaders would love to turn that scenario into reality. But at most companies, evolving the HR function requires investments in technology, building new capabilities and changes in processes that demand buy-in from other business leaders—and getting that can be a challenge. So how do you get their support?

CHROs are expecting challenges across the workforce

Upskilling/retraining employees to help drive revenue
Maintaining employee productivity
Supporting remote work
Addressing workplace morale
Addressing mental health issues of employees
Achieving diversity and inclusion goals
Retaining high-performing employees
Having access to the right data to make good workforce decisions
Providing flexible work arrangements where appropriate

Q: Which of the following will be the biggest workforce-related challenges for your company over the next 12 months?
(Select up to three.)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey
November 13, 2020: CHRO base of 108

Now may be the right time to ask

When CHROs propose building new capabilities, changing processes and priorities or making investments in new HR technology, they’re often met with reluctance due to the cost involved—or skepticism that investments will pay off. This is especially true at a time when many business leaders are looking to cut costs and scale back resources.

But now might be precisely the right time to pitch leaders on transformation. During the pandemic, CHROs have led their organizations through some of the most challenging issues facing companies right now, including employee safety, remote working, upskilling, and mental health and social justice issues. HR has proved its value in helping to solve business problems.

What’s more, businesses are facing new and complex workforce challenges. Hybrid working, accelerated automation, the evolution of rewards and benefits and other initiatives are fundamentally changing how businesses operate—and how and where people work. That means most areas of the business will continue to need HR guidance to navigate these and other workforce issues. Now that HR’s role has been elevated, it may be an ideal time to make a business case for transformation.

Actions to help win buy-in

Whether your goal is a moderate tech upgrade or a complete transformation, you should focus on six areas that can help build a solid business case for HR evolution.

Own your past

Evaluate HR’s role at your company. Has your team been focused primarily on functional or transactional processes? What must change in order to evolve? What are your successes? Your failures? If you want to persuade other business leaders to buy into your vision, take ownership of the team’s contributions (and shortcomings) to date.

Nail the foundations

Core functions like payroll, benefits management, risk and compliance and onboarding need to be locked down, and investments in data strategies and a robust job architecture should not be left to chance. If your company’s business leaders see your team struggling with a basic function—like gathering and analyzing employee data, for example—they’ll be less likely to trust your advice and insight, and may not support a transformation.

Go all-in on tech

Many organizations have invested in new technology systems but haven’t fully adopted them or taken advantage of all their capabilities. Take cloud technology, for instance. Despite investments, many companies that moved to the cloud are using only a fraction of its capabilities. Make sure you’re getting the value you can out of your technology investments, and use metrics to show how those technology-driven improvements benefit the bottom line.


Not all HR transformations need to be an end-to-end undertaking. Decide what to focus on first and then create a roadmap for the rest of the transformation effort. Determine what will have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time. Building momentum through successes can galvanize your team and show the business that investments are paying off—with tangible impacts and investment measurements.

Get in sync with business priorities

If HR’s agenda is headed in one direction and organizational leaders are focusing elsewhere, you’re less likely to win support from the business. Instead, get in lockstep with the business so your team’s priorities clearly support those larger strategic initiatives. Demonstrate how any of HR’s proposed changes and tech investments will support the business strategy — and show how you plan to measure that support. Set goals and then produce hard metrics so other business leaders can see how you’re adding value.

Measure productivity like a CFO

Employee productivity is always critical, but it’s especially important at a time when many businesses are trying to accomplish more work with fewer resources. Increasingly, business leaders are looking to HR to show how they’re enabling employee productivity. Get tactical about identifying productivity measurements, defining business outcomes for HR and creating metrics for success.

Contact us

Dave Eberhardt

Dave Eberhardt

Principal, Transformation, PwC US

Carrie  Duarte

Carrie Duarte

Partner, Transformation, PwC US

Alex Spira-Gutner

Alex Spira-Gutner

Director, Transformation, PwC US

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