Member Blog: The Ever-Evolving Chief Human Capital/Human Resources Role
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Member Blog: The Ever-Evolving Chief Human Capital/Human Resources Role


by Bryan Passman, Co-Founder and CEO of Hunter + Esquire

More than any other role in an organization, the role of the Chief Human Capital/Human Resources (CHC/HR) Officer has changed. It continues to do so as organizations grow and shift. Nothing could be more accurate in this current pandemic environment. Understanding the critical need for this role and the types of capabilities you should be looking for in a candidate will help prepare you for your search and ensure that you’re evaluating potential candidates based on the real needs so that when we enter into our new normal, your organization is prepped and set up for success and not trying to play catch up based on some missteps. We’ve curated a list of the qualifications and criteria below that your top tier candidates should possess to fill this critical leadership position.

  1. Strategic mindset and business acumen: The CHC/HR Officer is expected to be discerning, future-orientated, open-minded, commercially astute, and able to make evidence-based decisions. They will develop robust people plans aligned to the business strategy. A people plan cannot merely serve internal HR functional requirements; it must demonstrate an impact on the business.

  2. Change and transformation management: Play a leading role in defining and adapting corporate strategies, structures, procedures, and technologies to handle changes in external conditions and the business environment. The people side of change management is often the most important element above the technical tasks necessary to enact change. When the people side of change is poorly managed, change often fails or doesn’t achieve desirable results. Driving change management and transformation requires an organization to embrace learning agility and innovation as a culture. The CHC/HR Officer is often expected to embody this agility and be the catalyst for change and transformation.

  3. Mastery of executive compensation: Issues of pay equality continue to gain prominence in the market, and this leader must play a key role in designing competitive, equitable compensation packages. This includes innovative and sometimes creative incentive structures to attract and retain key talent. The position is to continuously test internal pay structures against the market where potential gaps and risks are identified and develop risk mitigation plans.

  4. A clear understanding of board governance: Cannabis organizations are increasingly scrutinizing executive compensation, examining linkages of talent and performance, focusing on CEO succession, and the broad talent agenda. The Chief HC/HR role can add value to the board by bringing expertise in compensation, succession, talent, and the people-based implications of mergers and acquisitions.

  5. External focus: Today’s cannabis HC/HR Chief has to have a good sense of the external industry and the competitive landscape. She/he should keep abreast by playing an active role in relevant industry bodies. Talent is becoming increasingly mobile-savvy, which makes it all the more important for this leader to have a strategic mindset.

  6. Shape culture: The head of HR holds a key role in defining and co-creating the organizational culture with the executive leadership team. A company’s organizational culture can make or break the most insightful strategy. The executive leadership team and the HC/HR Chief have a shared responsibility in creating and driving a culture that is aligned with the business strategy.

  7. Committed to diversity and inclusion: For diversity and inclusion to be successful, it has to be a top-to-bottom business-critical mission that is embedded in all aspects of the organization. Diversity and inclusion practices should be led in close partnership with the CEO, with the HR Lead playing an important role in articulating the business case for diversity alongside the CEO.
  1. Leadership gravitas: The ideal candidate must possess significant confidence and power supported by competence and an undisputed delivery track record. This power is acquired through strong interpersonal relationship skills, the ability to influence others, and being respected and admired. This type of power is particularly important in this role since it is built on collaboration and influence rather than command and control. In addition, HR leaders must have the ability to assess risk, to demonstrate independent thinking and speak truth to power, having the courage to say “No,” when necessary.
  1. Balance agendas of high-level stakeholders: Your ideal candidate should have experience serving multiple high-level stakeholders such as the CEO, board, shareholders, and employees who often have competing demands. The capability to effortlessly navigate and balance the various needs through effective communication, seeking alignment, and managing expectations is a must.
  1. Visible, value-added partner: The head of HR is a critical stakeholder in the health of the organization. It’s important that your hire has an open door policy and is proactive about building teamwork and company culture. They should be seen everywhere within the organization. HR leaders must be on the pulse of the organization at all times to make unpleasant surprises less likely to happen. 

These ten key areas are all critical when hiring a CHC/HR leader for your organization. If you use this list as a checklist when you hire this critical role (or evaluating your current leadership) and find positive responses to all, you should have an excellent fit for your team! 


Bryan Passman is a father, a husband, a trailblazer, and Co-founder and CEO of Hunter + Esquire. My professional background before launching H+E was entirely in retained executive search for 18 years in MedTech/Pharma (15 yrs) and Food and Adult Beverage CPG (3 yrs). My deep knowledge of those highly regulated and nuanced industries has helped H+E significantly understand the needs and wants of our cannabis clients. My deep and genuine networks within those industries have helped us deliver that rare talent “unicorn” our clients desire to fit their particular needs. My client-first approach helps us provide a very customized, white-glove, headhunter treatment to client and candidate.

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