chief of staff vs HR director

Chief of Staff vs HR Director: How are they Different?

Chief of Staff vs HR Director

Chief of staff is often misunderstood as the head of the HR department because of the word ‘Staff’ used in the designation. But the two are very different in terms of the roles they play in the organization.

The Chief of staff and the HR Director stand at different levels of the organizational layers, but their roles overlap on several aspects.

Let’s find out the similarities, differences, and roles of the Chief of staff and the HR Director.

Chief of staff Vs HR Director: Get to Know Them

Chief of staff vs HR Director: What they mean to the organization

Chief of staff

COS is the right-hand person for the CEO of an organization. They work as the relationship builder for the CEO by acting as a buffer between the CEO and other executive leaders. 

With the increasing complexities of running a business, the role of COS is becoming more and more popular in the corporate world. 

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HR director

An HR Director is a senior-level executive responsible for leading the human resources department of an organization. They oversee strategic HR planning, talent acquisition, employee relations, performance management, compensation, and compliance. They ensure that the organization’s HR practices align with its goals and foster a positive and productive work environment.

Chief of staff vs HR Director: The job description

HR Director vs Chief of Staff

Job description of Chief of Staff

The Chief of Staff of an organization wears multiple hats and changes roles according to the needs of the organization. Some common responsibilities that every COS would do are like-

  • They help in the planning of strategies for the organization.
  • Leads and manages large-scale projects. 
  • Maintains cross-departmental coordination.
  • Helps the CEO in retaining the right culture.
  • Advises CEO in major decisions with his insights and bird’s view outlook.
  • COS oversees metrics, researches, and analyzes data.
  • He manages and synchronizes meetings and events for the CEO.
  • He acts as a proxy in meetings on behalf of the CEO.
  • He/She helps the CEO prioritize and manage their time to become the best possible leader for the organization.  
  • They identify and solve conflicts across all departments of the organization. 

“I think the most important task of a CoS is predicting the next thing that’s going to happen,”–Caroline Pugh, chief of staff a Washington based healthcare data analytics fir- CareJourney 

Click here to read in detail about the chief of staff job description

Job desrciption of HR Director

Unlike HR managers, the Director of HR looks at the bigger picture.  He makes sure that the organization is meeting its goals and standards. The major responsibilities of an HR Director include-

  • HR Director creates and aligns human resources objectives with organizational goals and requirements.
  • The HR Director creates accountabilities among HR teams for smooth operation.
  • He/She collects data on the organization’s policies and guidelines and makes changes wherever needed.
  • HR Director aligns employee needs with the organization’s requirements.
  • They facilitate performance management.
  • They maintain impartiality in employment practices and at the same time make sure employees adhere to company policies. He acts as an adviser to managers on employee policies.
  • They contribute insights and recommendations in the strategies decisions of the organization.
  • HR Director oversees all HR operations. He/she supervises the employees and assists in strategic staffing plans management.
  • They attract and develop the top talents of the organization to drive a higher level of engagement in the company. 
  • He/she is in control of Employee compensation, reward and benefits, employee training and development, budget, and labor relations across all the departments of the organization. 

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Chief of staff vs HR director: Where is the difference?

While the COS position is taking off recently in the corporate world, the role of HR director has been there for decades. Here are some points where the role of Chief of staff varies from that of an HR Director-

  • If we look at the organizational layers, the chief of staff definitely stands above the HR Director. The HR Director reports the progress of the HR department and other HR-related issues to C-suite executives, typically the Chief of staff.
  • HR Director handles development plans for employees and evaluates Human resource-related strategies. While COS keeps eye on every sphere of the organization from recruitment to strategic alignment
  • The Chief of Staff fills the gap between the HR Director and the CEO.

Chief of staff vs HR director: where do the roles intersect?

chief of staff vs HR director

Well, it’s clear that both the roles are different in many ways. But the roles of the HR manager and the COS intersect at more than one point. They are-

  • HR Director and Chief of staff work in collaboration to develop an ideal culture based on company objectives. They develop and cultivate a culture that fits the organization’s needs They both work towards fostering a positive and productive workplace environment in the organization.
  • HR Director and Chief of staff both works as hiring support
  • Both the posts require strong decision-making and problem-solving abilities.
  • Both positions typically require at least a bachelor’s degree and several years of work experience. 
  • Both the roles are meant to work for the “staff”. While the HR Director is more concerned with employees’ needs, COS makes sure their needs get the CEO’s attention. 

“You can focus on the ‘Chief’, or you can focus on the ‘of Staff’. Those who have focused on the ‘of Staff’ have done pretty well.”James A. Baker III


If you imagine your organization as a complex puzzle, where different positions serve as different parts of the same puzzle. Your COS and the HR Director, in that case, can be considered as two of the most important parts of that puzzle.

 If these roles are placed the right way, solving the puzzle becomes as easy as pie.

Their function, responsibilities, and authority may vary. But if you as an organization want to keep leveling up and beat your competitors in the race, you need both of them to give their best performance.

Click here to read about why it is important to have a chief of staff for CEO

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