What is a Chief People Officer (CPO)?
A Chief People Officer (CPO), also known as Chief Human Resources Officer, is a high-ranking executive who oversees all human resource management within an organisation. Usually, the CPO directly reports to the CEO of any organisation and is a major stakeholder in significant business decisions.
Among all key duties of a CPO, the foremost objective is to cultivate an inclusive and encouraging work culture. They design and execute people-centric strategies that are in sync with the company's mission, vision, and business goals.
In the rapidly evolving business landscape of today, the role of the CPO is shifting towards a more strategic focus. They need to possess a profound understanding of the business, industry trends, and the external talent market to guide their strategic plans and decisions.
What does a CPO do?
Four of the primary functions of a CPO are mentioned below -
A CPO is responsible for developing, implementing, and overseeing the human resources processes within an organisation. This includes everything from talent acquisition and onboarding to performance management and employee exit procedures. They ensure these processes are efficient, effective, and aligned with the company's strategic objectives. The CPO also uses data-driven insights to continuously improve HR processes and maximise organisational performance.
Hiring today is mainly focused on resumes, CVs and prior experience. But here at Advanced, we go above and beyond to tap into the true potential of an individual. When we focus on the person first, we can give opportunities to those who would otherwise be discouraged from entering this sector.
The CPO plays a key role in formulating HR policies that comply with legal requirements and reflect the company's mission and values. These policies cover a wide range of areas such as employee conduct, diversity and inclusion, workplace safety, and benefits. The CPO ensures these policies are clearly communicated and consistently enforced across the organisation. They also stay abreast of changes in labour laws and regulations to ensure the company's HR policies remain compliant.
One of the most important responsibilities of a CPO is shaping the company's culture. They work to create an environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, and mutual respect. The CPO leads initiatives that promote employee engagement, wellbeing, and job satisfaction. They also make crucial efforts to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued and can achieve their maximum potential.
Encouraging and inculcating a space where every employee learns, grows and ultimately contributes towards the success of the organisation is a crucial aspect of the duties of a CPO. They are instrumental in leadership development, pinpointing employees with high potential and grooming them for prospective leadership positions.
What’s the difference between a CPO and a CHRO?
For an organisation, the Chief People Officer (CPO) and a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) conduct similar roles in people management, but they can be differentiated when it comes to responsibilities.
Traditionally over the years, a CHRO oversees the complete human resource vertical within an organisation. Some of the key duties include succession planning, talent management, change management, and organisational performance.
On the contrary, the role of CPO has been gaining significant traction recently. The duties and responsibilities of the CPO are much more streamlined. The CPO is not only responsible for the human resource department but is also a major stakeholder in ensuring that the people management strategy is in line with the business’s objectives.
While companies may use the titles CHRO and CPO interchangeably, the shift from CHRO to CPO often signifies a change in the organisation's approach to its people strategy. As a CPO, the emphasis is more on people and culture, moving beyond traditional HR tasks to also include aspects like employee engagement, company culture, and creating a positive work environment.
However, it's important to note that the specific responsibilities can vary widely depending on the organisation. In some cases, the change from CHRO to CPO may be in name alone, without significant changes in the role's responsibilities or focus.
The evolution from CHRO to CPO
The evolution from the CHRO to the CPO reflects a broader shift in how organisations view and manage their human capital. Various key trends are driving this change from CHRO to CPO.
Firstly, organisations across the world are slowly but surely realising that people are much more than employees, they are the backbone of the organisation. Organisations are readily investing in creating a positive work environment, promoting employee wellbeing, and fostering a culture of inclusion and engagement. CPOs play a leading role in achieving these objectives.
Secondly, the unprecedented advancement of technology in the field of people management has transformed HR functions. CPOs of today need to be able to derive insights into employee behaviour, predict future trends and make evidence-based decisions using different technologies available to them.
Thirdly, the business environment is becoming more complex and dynamic. Companies need to be agile and adaptable to survive and thrive in this new reality. This has implications for talent management. Organisations need to attract, develop, and retain people who can navigate uncertainty, learn quickly, and drive change. On this, Alex Arundale, our CPO says,
What determines the best talent for an organisation goes far beyond just skill sets and businesses will need to ensure that the people they are bringing on board will fit seamlessly into the existing culture of their workplace.
Finally, there's a growing expectation that HR should contribute to the company's strategic objectives, not just handle administrative tasks. HR leaders are expected to be strategic partners who understand the business, the industry, and the wider market context. They need to align people strategies with business strategies and demonstrate the impact of their initiatives on business outcomes.
In response to these trends, organisations are redefining the role of the HR leader and adopting the title of CPO. It is seen as a more strategic and holistic role, encompassing not only traditional HR tasks but also areas such as culture, engagement, diversity, and inclusion, learning and development, and organisational effectiveness. The aim is to create a workplace where everyone feels valued, engaged, and empowered to perform at their best.
What the ideal CPO looks like
What skills does a successful CPO need?
A successful CPO needs a well-rounded set of skills that spans multiple disciplines. Key among these are excellent communication skills, as they must articulate and promote the company's vision and values to all employees. Leadership skills are also crucial, as the CPO often leads large teams and must inspire and guide them towards achieving their objectives.
In today's data-driven world, a CPO should also possess strong analytical skills along with an acute business understanding. They need to understand and interpret data to make informed decisions about talent acquisition, performance management, and employee engagement strategies.
Moreover, the ability to persuade and influence others is a valuable skill for a CPO. They often need to build consensus among different stakeholders, including senior executives, managers, and employees.
What kind of person is ideal for the CPO role?
The role of CPO is a little different to other roles in the corporate structure, it requires the person to be more focused on the wellbeing and success of the employees in the organisation. Empathy, sensitivity and a deep understanding of people and the issues they might face while working at any level in the organisation are key factors that make a CPO successful.
The CPOs of today have transcended their regular duties, they are increasingly adapting to the newer demands being put on them. Having a strategic mind that can develop and implement strategies that are in accordance with the business objectives is a key part of a CPO’s duties. A CPO should have a deep understanding of the business, industry trends, and the external talent market.
In addition, an ideal CPO should be capable enough to deal with complicated situations tactfully while minimising risk. Becoming a successful CPO takes a lot of experience and the person should be able to learn and inculcate cross-domain skills that helps them to fulfil their duties efficiently.
What professional experience is useful for a CPO?
A background in human resources is typically essential for a CPO role. This gives individuals an understanding of HR processes, policies, and best practices. The role of a CPO is constantly evolving and becoming more and more strategic, some of the key areas of focus are – talent acquisition, performance management, and learning and development.
Such experience can provide a broader perspective on the business and enhance the CPO's ability to contribute to strategic decision-making.
What the path to becoming a CPO may look like
To become a successful CPO, one requires extensive knowledge and experience in the world of human resources along with a sharp acumen for business operations and strategy. Let us have a look at a ‘standard’ career progression for a CPO -
Many aspiring CPOs start by earning a bachelor’s degree in human resources, Business Administration, Psychology, or a related field. This foundational education provides the basic knowledge needed to understand business operations and human behaviour.
Early career experience:
After graduating, individuals often begin their careers in entry-level HR roles such as HR Assistant or HR Coordinator. These roles provide hands-on experience with HR processes and tasks.
As they gain experience, these professionals may progress to roles such as HR Specialist, HR Manager, or HR Business Partner. In these roles, they develop expertise in specific areas of HR and start to take on more strategic responsibilities.
Degrees and certifications:
Some professionals choose to further their education by earning a master’s degree in human resources or an MBA. They may also obtain certifications from organisations like the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). These credentials can enhance their knowledge and credibility.
Senior HR leadership roles:
Before becoming a CPO, individuals typically serve in senior HR leadership roles such as Director of HR or Vice President of HR. These roles involve overseeing the entire HR function and aligning it with business strategies.
Finally, with sufficient experience and proven results, they may be promoted to the CPO role. As a CPO, they are responsible for all people-related matters in the organisation, from talent management to culture building.
What tools does a CPO need to succeed
To succeed in their role, a CPO needs a mix of technology tools, access to accurate people data, and strong support from the rest of the team.
In today's digital age, CPOs need a suite of technology tools that can streamline HR processes, enhance employee engagement, and provide actionable insights.
Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) platforms can automate administrative tasks such as payroll benefits management, and compliance reporting. This frees up time for the CPO to focus on strategic initiatives.
Employee engagement platforms and performance management systems can help CPOs measure and improve employee satisfaction, morale, and productivity. These platforms may include features such as pulse surveys, recognition tools, and social networking capabilities.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) can facilitate training and development programs, helping employees acquire new skills and knowledge.
Lastly, advanced analytics tools can help CPOs extract meaningful insights from people data and make evidence-based decisions.
Access to accurate, timely, and relevant people data is critical for a CPO. This encompasses information on hiring, employee retention, performance metrics, engagement levels, diversity statistics, and more. Through the analysis of this data, Chief People Officers (CPOs) can discern patterns, detect problems, and devise strategies to mitigate them. For instance, they can leverage attrition data to pinpoint departments or positions experiencing high turnover and implement measures to enhance retention.
Support from the team:
Having buy-in from the rest of the team is essential for a CPO to succeed. This includes support from senior leadership, managers, and employees. The CPO needs to work closely with these stakeholders to develop and implement people strategies that align with the company's vision and goals. They also need their support to drive cultural change and promote employee engagement.
Who works closely with the CPO?
The CPO collaborates closely with several key stakeholders within an organisation. Here are some of the key individuals or groups that a CPO interacts with:
- CEO: Strategising business objectives and aligning them with the people initiatives forms one of the core duties of any CPO. To achieve this, they work extensively with the CEO.
- Senior leadership team: The CPO along with CFO, CMO, CTO and other executives form the leadership team of an organisation, these executives work in close quarters to ensure seamless operations among all verticals.
- HR team: The human resources department is led by the CPO, they have to oversee all the core HR functionalities of the organisation.
- Line managers: The CPO collaborates with line managers to implement HR policies and procedures, manage performance, and address employee issues. They also help managers develop their leadership skills and capabilities.
- Employees: The relationship that a CPO shares with the employees of an organisation is crucial and requires constant communication across multiple channels.
- Board of directors: Across the several corporations, the CPO works intimately with a board of directors providing them with deep insights into the HR metrics, policies and initiatives.
- External partners: The CPO may also interact with external partners such as recruitment agencies, training providers, labour unions, and legal advisors.
How does a CPO benefit a business?
A CPO brings numerous benefits to a business. Here are some of the ways in which a CPO can positively impact an organisation:
- Strategic alignment: Ensures that the company's people strategy aligns with its overall business objectives.
- Talent management: Oversees the recruitment, development, and retention of top talent.
- Culture solidification: Shapes the culture of the company through communication and collaboration with different departments.
- Employee engagement: Boosts employee engagement, and in turn improves productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability.
- Diversity and inclusion: Creates a diverse and inclusive workplace that promotes fairness and improves organisational reputation.
- Change management: Manages the people aspects of change to minimise disruption and ensure a smooth transition during any organisational restructuring falls under the duties of a CPO.
- Data-Driven insights: Provides data-driven insights that inform decision-making across the organisation. For example, they might analyse turnover data to develop strategies for improving retention or use engagement data to enhance the employee experience.
How Advanced HR helps CPOs everywhere
Advanced HR plays a pivotal role in empowering CPOs by offering access to critical people data. Alex further adds,
For businesses across all sectors, the effectiveness of any long-term planning will be dictated by the information available. The data and metrics that HR teams are able to draw upon will go a long way towards determining how successful an organisation’s business strategy might be. This data-driven approach enables CPOs to develop transformative initiatives, promote strategic decision-making, and ultimately drive business success.
People data encompasses a wide range of information, including
- Employee demographics
- Performance metrics
- Engagement scores
- Turnover rates
With Advanced HR, this data is stored, analysed, and visualised in real-time, providing valuable insights into the workforce.
For instance, by analysing performance data, a CPO can identify top performers and develop strategies to retain them. They can also spot underperforming teams or individuals and intervene to provide necessary support or training.
Engagement data can reveal how connected employees feel to their work and the organisation. If engagement levels are low, the CPO can implement initiatives to boost morale and motivation, such as recognition programs, wellness activities, or career development opportunities.
Turnover data can help the CPO understand why employees are leaving the company and take steps to improve retention. This might involve addressing issues like workload, work-life balance, or career progression.
Without these data-driven insights, a CPO would essentially be operating blind. They would have to rely on intuition or anecdotal evidence, which can be inaccurate or biased. With Advanced HR, they can make decisions based on hard evidence, increasing the chances of successful outcomes. Learn more about our people management solutions today.