Employees are an essential asset of any company. They build a product from the ground up, nurture, and propel the organization forward. They connect with the customers and make sure the product becomes number one on the market. Employees grow each day, and the company grows with them.
So, when it comes to employees, treat them as precious and rare houseplants. Create the perfect conditions for them to grow and blossom. To help you with that, you can involve a Chief People Officer (CPO) — they have just the right set of skills.
What is a Chief People Officer?
A Chief People Officer plays a pivotal role within an organization, spearheading the strategic management of the company’s teams. They are responsible for overseeing all aspects of HR, talent acquisition, employee engagement, and development initiatives.
By implementing a people-centric approach, a CPO ensures that the workforce is nurtured and empowered, fostering a positive work culture and high employee morale.
Here is a list of just a few reasons why the role of a Chief People Officer is crucial to any organization’s success:
- A CPO attracts and retains top talent. They design and execute recruitment strategies that align with the organization’s goals, ensuring the right people are in the right positions.
- With a strong focus on employee development and training, a Chief People Officer enhances the skillset and capabilities of the people. Therefore, they contribute to improved productivity and performance across the organization.
- A CPO advocates for employee well-being, promotes work-life balance, and implements initiatives prioritizing mental and physical health. This results in a more engaged and satisfied team.
So, what does a Chief People Officer do exactly? Let’s figure it out!
Key Responsibilities of a Chief People Officer
A CPO typically wears many hats. However, mainly, they are responsible for creating and implementing a successful people strategy and ensuring it contributes to achieving the company’s business goals.
Apart from the people strategy, the most common Chief People Officer job description includes developing and implementing strategies within the following areas:
- Talent acquisition and retention
- Learning and development
- Compensation and benefits
- Employee well-being
- Employer brand
- Company culture
This list might seem like a lot. But because every company is different, items can be added or removed depending on each organization’s unique needs and business goals.
As a result, the CPO’s daily tasks will vary depending on what the management considers most important for the company’s success. Plus, they won’t go at it alone. Talent Acquisition, HR, Employer Brand, and other teams will help the CPO implement their plans.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the above areas of responsibility:
To build and implement a successful people strategy, a Chief People Officer should align it with the company’s mission, vision, and values. A CPO should work closely with other executives and department heads to understand business needs and identify talent gaps.
As part of working on the people strategy, they should also collaborate with the HR team. Together, they design recruitment and retention programs, implement employee training initiatives, and establish performance evaluation processes.
Regularly measuring and analyzing the strategy’s effectiveness through key performance indicators (KPIs) and employee feedback is essential to fine-tune the people strategy over time.
Talent Acquisition and Retention
As a strategic leader, a Chief People Officer is critical in aligning talent acquisition and retention with the company’s long-term goals. They collaborate with the executive team to understand the organization’s future workforce needs and skill gaps. They guide recruitment efforts to source and attract candidates with the right expertise and cultural fit.
A CPO should implement data-driven strategies, leveraging people analytics to identify trends, predict talent requirements, and optimize recruitment efforts.
By nurturing a positive work environment and heeding the employee voice, a CPO can enhance employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. This way, they can contribute to the company’s long-term success.
Learning and Development
CPOs are responsible for driving a culture of continuous learning and implementing targeted development programs. Together with the HR team, they also look for innovative learning technologies employees can leverage to grow.
A CPO ensures that all or a certain group of employees develop the skills necessary to achieve business goals. For that purpose, they determine a direction for learning. And HR or a Learning and Development department create programs to follow that direction.
Compensation and Benefits
CPOs are crucial in crafting competitive and fair employee compensation packages based on market research and internal equity analysis. They design comprehensive benefit programs that cater to the specific needs of their employees.
Chief People Officers regularly assess and adjust compensation and benefits strategies. Their main goal is to ensure employee satisfaction and maintain the organization’s competitiveness in the job market.
This year’s research by Indeed and Forrester shows that 57% of employees believe their employer to be responsible for their happiness and well-being at work. And as it happens, Chief People Officers are usually in charge of maintaining that!
To not miss the point in time when your employees have started dreading work, feeling detached from the team, or not seeing the meaning in what they do, CPOs measure employee sentiment regularly. One-on-one meetings, pulse surveys, or Feedback Fridays — they pick the most suitable for your team or leverage them all.
In a nutshell, an employer brand represents how the company is viewed by its current and potential employees in terms of its work culture, values, employee experiences, and overall attractiveness as a place to work.
A solid employer brand tends to reduce employee turnover by 28%. So, it’s crucial to develop and maintain it. That’s also the job of a Chief People Officer, who generally develops an employee value proposition.
A CPO works closely with the executive team and HR to identify the unique benefits of working for the organization, which set it apart from competitors — the Employer Value Proposition (EVP).
The Chief People Officer then ensures that all HR initiatives, internal and external communication are aligned with the EVP.
Some organizations deem creating a company culture one of the most vital responsibilities of a CPO, since 46% of job seekers say culture is crucial to them.
In such a case, a Chief People Officer, together with the other executives and the whole team, will develop values and standards that all coworkers will align their behavior with. Culture is the work environment, attitudes, and daily experiences that employees have in this organization.
So, the CPO will create a strategy to ensure the team has the most comfortable and nurturing experience. Usually, the company’s HR will help implement that strategy. The CPO will also come up with ideas on how to measure culture and assess it regularly.
Qualifications and Skills of a Chief People Officer
A CPO is a top-level executive responsible for managing an organization’s human resources and talent strategies. So, having decided to hire one, you should consider looking for the following background:
- Education: a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources, Business Administration, Organizational Development, or a related field is often a minimum requirement. Many CPOs hold advanced degrees such as an MBA or Master’s in HR.
- Experience: extensive experience in human resources, talent management, and leadership roles is crucial. CPOs usually have 10+ years of progressive experience in HR and related fields.
And here is a typical list of skills and qualifications that a Chief People Officer should possess to successfully oversee the most crucial asset of your company — your people.
- Strategic thinking: CPOs must demonstrate the ability to think strategically and align HR initiatives with the overall business goals and objectives of the organization.
- Leadership: strong leadership and management skills are essential for effectively overseeing HR teams and driving HR strategies throughout the organization.
- Change management: the capacity to lead and manage organizational change, especially in times of growth or restructuring, is valuable.
- Employee relations: expertise in handling employee relations, including conflict resolution and creating a positive work environment, is vital for maintaining a healthy organizational culture.
- Talent acquisition and retention: a successful CPO should have a track record of implementing effective talent acquisition and retention strategies to attract and keep top talent.
- Learning and development: experience in developing and executing comprehensive learning and development programs to enhance employee skills and performance is advantageous.
- Legal compliance: a strong grasp of employment laws and regulations to ensure the organization’s HR practices are compliant with relevant laws and guidelines.
- Communication: excellent communication and interpersonal skills to collaborate effectively with employees, executives, and external stakeholders.
- Business acumen: a deep understanding of the industry, market trends, and the organization’s specific challenges and opportunities is valuable for aligning HR strategies with business needs.
- Innovativeness: being open to new ideas, trends, and technological advancements in the HR field and exploring innovative solutions to HR challenges.
A CPO with the skills listed above will be able to create a dynamic and inclusive work environment aligned with your organization’s goals.
Key Performance Indicators for Chief People Officers
The Key Performance Indicators for CPOs may vary depending on your company’s specific goals and priorities. However, some common KPIs that CPOs may be evaluated on include:
- Employee engagement: measuring the level of employee engagement to ensure a positive work environment and high employee morale. The metrics could include the Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), which measures the likelihood of employees recommending the company.
It could also be an Employee Satisfaction Index that combines various factors like job satisfaction, work-life balance, career growth, workplace culture, and turnover and absenteeism rates.
- Talent acquisition metrics: evaluating the effectiveness of talent acquisition processes, including time-to-fill, cost per hire, and quality of candidates recruited.
- Learning and development effectiveness: assessing the impact of training programs on employee skill development and performance improvement. These could be the Training Completion Rate and the Training Evaluation Score — feedback collected from participants through post-training surveys or evaluations. It can also be Time-to-Competency — the duration it takes for employees to achieve the desired level of competency after receiving training.
- HR operational efficiency: monitoring HR department efficiency and effectiveness in managing HR processes and services.
The KPI here could be the Turnaround Time for HR Inquiries — the average time taken by the HR department to respond to employee requests for support, and Employee Data Accuracy — the accuracy of employee data within the HR database or system.
- Employee productivity: tracking employee productivity and output to assess the overall effectiveness of HR initiatives on workforce performance.
It’s essential for CPOs to collaborate with executive teams to establish KPIs that align with the organization’s strategic goals and reflect HR’s contribution to the overall success of the company.
These KPIs serve as benchmarks to measure the CPOs performance in effectively managing and developing your workforce.
Challenges and Opportunities for a Chief People Officer
As CPOs take on crucial roles in organizations, they encounter various challenges and opportunities that shape their approach to managing human resources.
One of the significant challenges faced by CPOs is managing cultural change within the organization.
Transforming a company’s culture requires strategic planning, effective communication, and a keen understanding of the workforce’s needs and aspirations.
Aligning HR strategies with overarching business goals is another challenge CPOs encounter. Balancing short-term objectives with long-term HR initiatives while supporting the organization’s growth demands strategic acumen and collaboration with other C-suite executives.
Furthermore, driving employee engagement is a constant pursuit for CPOs. Engaged employees are more committed, productive, and satisfied with their work, contributing positively to the company’s overall success.
CPOs need to devise creative approaches to keep the workforce motivated and foster a positive work environment.
“I think we’re just at the beginning of an incredibly exciting time for HR leaders who increasingly have more of a strategic role and are able to use more empirical data to inform decisions around performance, talent management, agility, employee experience, and productivity.”
Kathleen Hogan, CPO at Microsoft, the quote’s been taken from Linkedin.
Leveraging data and technology has become an absolute must for CPOs to enhance their decision-making processes and create a more data-driven HR function.
By using HR analytics, CPOs can gain valuable insights into employee performance, satisfaction, and retention trends. Data-driven HR can inform targeted strategies for talent acquisition, learning, development, and employee recognition.
Typical Career Path of a Chief People Officer
Chief people officers’ jobs are full of challenges. And, because employee sentiment and requests change constantly and rapidly, the job never gets boring. Besides, the Chief People Officer’s salary can be substantial.
The average CPO salary in the United States is $335,700 as of June 2023, but the number can fall between $288,900 and $392,400. So, this position does sound attractive to many.
Aspiring Chief People Officers typically begin their careers in human resources (HR) or related fields. They gain experience in talent acquisition, employee relations, compensation, benefits, and organizational development. They may start as HR specialists or managers and gradually advance to higher-level HR leadership positions.
Many CPOs hold advanced degrees, such as an MBA or a Master’s in Human Resources Management. Certifications such as the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) or Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) can look good on a Chief People Officer resume demonstrating expertise and commitment to the field.
As CPOs progress in their careers, they may take on roles like HR Director, Vice President of HR, or Chief Human Resources Officer.
If you seek to optimize your workforce and create a positive work culture, involving a Chief People Officer can be highly beneficial. CPOs play a pivotal role in strategic HR management, overseeing talent acquisition, employee engagement, and development initiatives.
By aligning HR strategies with business goals, leveraging data and technology, and using HR analytics, CPOs can drive organizational success and create a dynamic and inclusive work environment.