Leadership Matters

Perspectives on the key issues impacting senior leaders and their organizations
December 2, 2022

When is it right to hire a CHRO to work remotely? It depends on 5 considerations.

Survey after survey — including recent ones posed by Spencer Stuart on LinkedIn — indicates that today’s workers value flexibility more than ever before. Yes, they want to see their colleagues in person, yet the vast majority also want to define on their own what days they come in and how often.

So when it comes to hiring CHROs and other executives, is it a good idea for CEOs to allow them to be remote? Tracking our CHRO placement data for the past two years, the majority of placements in this position are being asked to be in person. Of CHRO hires made over the past two years, 51% were required to relocate to headquarters; 31% were remote or allowed to “commute” occasionally from another location; 17% had less defined boundaries (e.g., they commute for the time being with plans to relocate later). The data varied by industry sector, with more traditional industrial and consumer businesses being less flexible, while others, like technology, were more flexible. Larger companies tended to be more flexible as well.

All in all, the CHRO role is a highly visible role, and the decision you make on geographical flexibility for this position could prove precedent-setting in your organization. So when thinking through this remote-vs.-in-person question for hiring a CHRO, we offer five considerations: context, consistency, co-location, competitiveness and comfort.


What is the state of the business? What is your organizational strategy? What kind of experience does the individual bring to the job? Leaders who have done the role successfully before may have less of a learning curve. On the other hand, in hyper-growth companies or at businesses in crisis, daily on-site leadership may be critical.


How have you treated other key C-suite executives? A consistent approach is often key for people to feel that they are being treated fairly — particularly in a position like CHRO. Whether flexible or not on relocation, a consistent approach will make things much easier over the long run.


Where are you located? How often and where does the leadership team come together? Where is the CHRO’s leadership team located? Many companies now run multiple hubs versus having a pure headquarters, which makes the answers to these questions more complex.


Flexibility can often significantly increase your ability to attract top talent that doesn’t necessarily live near your headquarters. This may matter less to some organizations where attracting top talent isn’t an issue. But our experience has found that location flexibility can as much as double the pool of viable candidates.


The CEO-CHRO relationship is unique. It requires the ultimate trust, frequent communication, and very strong and healthy interpersonal relations. Your leadership style is key in determining how much flexibility you are comfortable with. Many CEOs who were comfortable with flexible arrangements early in the COVID-19 pandemic have become less so recently. On the other hand, many leaders learned through COVID that despite their desire to have everyone physically together, they were able to function very effectively together while at a distance most of the time.


As you seek your next leader, these five considerations can be helpful in thinking through what works best for both your company and your candidates. In the end, by appropriately considering the factors above, you can find the right answer for your company and your leadership team.