Episode 276: The Role of the CHRO and DEI With Michele Lanza

Today’s podcast is part of a series on the Workology Podcast focused on the role and responsibilities of the Chief Human Resources Officer, or CHRO. The CHRO (sometimes called SVP of HR or Chief People Officer) is an executive-level role that deals with managing human resources, as well as with organizational development and implementing policies of change to improve the overall efficiency of the company. I want aspiring CHRO’s to know what type of skills and experiences they need to grow into a future CHRO role along with hearing from senior HR leadership how they are partnering and collaborating with their executive peers. 

Episode 276: The Role of the CHRO and DEI With Michele Lanza (@MichelleLanza)

I spoke to Michele Lanza, SVP/Partner, Global Talent Attraction & Retention Strategies with Ketchum and founder of Work Wider, an inclusively diverse professional community, convening the workforce needed by the workplaces of today.

Michele has worked in HR at the management level for nearly 20 years. She said that over time, the role of HR has changed, and “the role of a senior HR person has really evolved as a strategic business partner that focuses on talent. You need talent engaged and delivering to realize your business promise. The role of HR has been elevated to have a seat at the table in a much larger way.”

“At Ketchum, our product is our people, so the talent function couldn’t be more critical to our organization.” - Michele Lanza #WorkologyPodcast #Ketchum Click To Tweet

I asked Michele about what HR professionals should be thinking about if they aspire to be in HR at the executive level. “We used to hear people say that they want to get into HR because they’re a people person, but the reality is that talent programs are based on data. At the heart of each program, you need to understand how it impacts the business. HR is so much more than people…HR is business leaders looking at data on the business side of what we are doing.”

Removing Bias From the Hiring Process

LaunchPad, Ketchum’s blind selection process for entry-level talent, was featured in Fast Company. “It’s one of the most impactful programs I’ve worked on in my career. Ketchum had a really successful internship program, but the reality is we were hiring people that had previous internships. What LaunchPad did was even the playing field so that everyone had the opportunity to get an internship whether they had experience or not. It is a game in which candidates come in and respond to a fictitious client challenge and votes move them up or down on the leaderboard. What is great about it is that it educates people who play about what it’s like to be a communications professional, so it’s a learning experience in itself whether they got the internship or not.”

Outside of her SVP role at Ketchum, Michele also founded Work Wider in 2020. “I didn’t know I had a startup in me, what I realized was there is a huge gap in the market for companies really being able to effectively hire people from underrepresented communities. It was my initial concept, but so many people have helped to make it happen. We have a really diverse group of people that created a career platform for underrepresented talent. People are ready to show up as their full selves at work and be transparent about it and companies get to understand where and how to hire diverse talent and create cultures of belonging.”

I asked Michele how remote work can create opportunities for underrepresented communities. “As far as what the new normal will look like, I think we should take what was working and bring it forward, but bring in tools and strategies that help make work better for everyone. For people with disabilities, the shift to remote work has been a game-changer and for companies, it opens up a huge pool of talent they haven’t had access to so directly before.”

With regards to D&I, Michele said that she has “worked in EDI (equality, diversity, and inclusion) for a long time and for the first time I feel optimistic that companies are truly committed to making meaningful changes, in part because I think white people woke up to the fact that systemic racism is real. Creating cultures that are inclusive means that everyone involved must understand the concepts of EDI and look realistically at the changes they have made to build inclusive cultures.” 

“No company should keep their culture exactly where it is. Companies must continuously evolve and add different perspectives to their organization.” - Michele Lanza #WorkWider #WorkologyPodcast Click To Tweet

It’s interesting to delve into how a role like CHRO whose experience more closely connects them to the strategy and operations of the overall business works with the rest of a company leadership team, especially around innovation, diversity and inclusion, and business partnerships. The CHRO doesn’t just lead HR within a company, the role is also key to structuring the leadership for a company’s executive team. I appreciate Michele taking the time to share her knowledge with us.

Listen to the full podcast for more, including how Michele and her team at Ketchum shifted to remote work and focused on wellness during the pandemic, the company’s “work where you work best” policy, and what changes she has led to build a forward-thinking culture of inclusion.

Connect with Michelle Lanza.



– Michele Lanza on LinkedIn

Work Wider

CHRO Job Description

COVID Leads To A Pink Collar Recession

Episode 273: The Role of the CHRO and Organizational Development

Episode 270: The Role of the CHRO Leading a Remote Workforce

Ep 250: Exploring the ROI of Diversity and Equity

Episode Transcript


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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.


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