“HR leaders haven’t had our voices heard – this has to change”

Welcome to the Lattice CPO Council: a newly-established collective of HR innovators aiming to demonstrate what next-generation people strategy can achieve:

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Oct 16, 2023

Have you ever noticed how it’s big consultancies or academics/universities that tend to be telling those who work in HR what the so-called ‘big trends’ are?

Doesn’t this sound a little patronizing?

In the same way bosses can learn more about what’s actually going on in their organizations by talking to staff, perhaps the best people to determine what HR’s big challenges are, are… well HR people themselves.

But beyond a small smattering of professional membership associations, like The Society for Human Resource Management or the likes and the Association for Talent Development and Human Capital Institute, there is (surprisingly perhaps), precious few organized outlets where HR professionals can get together regularly and discuss and theorize.

It often feels like opportunities for HR professionals to meet and share best practice tend only to be catered for by organisers of conferences/exhibitions – leaving HR folk bereft of real insider insight for most of the year.

This was a situation Cara Brennan Allamano, chief people officer at performance management platform, Lattice, was determined not to let carry on for much longer.

After joining Lattice last year, the ex-SVP of people at both Udemy and Planet Labs, and former HR leader at the likes of Pinterest and Young & Rubicam (now part of WPP), had a vision to – as she puts – “have our voices heard.”

A year later, and this vision has been achieved, with the recent launch of the Lattice CPO Council.

According to the grand announcement, the council comprises “a collective of visionary people leaders who are redefining excellence in HR,” and it “aims to foster opportunities for HR leaders to hone their craft and grow strategically in their function by elevating ideas and perspectives from council experts.”

There are nine founder members , and they include the likes of Alan Cairns, CPO at GoCardless; Melanie Naranjo, VP of people at training company, Ethena, and Valentina Gissin, chief people officer at Garner Health.

But what is the Lattice Council really all about, and what does it specifically aim to do?

 TLNT exclusively interviewed Cara to find out:

Q: The Lattice CPO Council is now live – but what was the reason behind it, and what exactly do you want it to do?

A: “I think we – as people leaders – haven’t traditionally had our voices heard. We’ve relied on academics to tap us on the shoulder, and ask our opinion on things, but I don’t really think this approach has worked for our discipline. What I’ve long-felt we need to do is seek out voices from within HR itself. We need to elevate the voices of actual HR leaders themselves. We are the most important executives in our organizations at the moment, and we believe we need to get this message out. The people in our profession all have lots of important, and differing opinions, and I felt it was time we had these conversations heard on a proper platform. We want to build a strong voice, and an effective voice, and have influence in our profession.”

Q: How did you go about getting the line-up of people that you have?

A: “We’ve been very intentional about getting as broad a perspective as possible, and from across as many disciplines as possible. We have people with considerable years of experience behind them, while on the other end of the spectrum, we have Melanie Naranjo, for whom her current job is her first HR leadership role.”

Q: What exactly will you be doing?

A: “The aim is to pull together insightful information, commission research, write whitepapers, blogs and create other resources that will feed into the HR space. Initially we’ll be sharing finding and observations to members of our Resources for Humans – Lattice’s existing Slack community for people ops professionals – but the aim is then to share insights much wider, beyond that, to journals, newspapers etc.

Q: Is it a PR thing, or something much bigger?

A: “It’s not a marketing exercise, but about getting insightful information about HR to HR people and to the rest of the world. I think it’s good to be talking about issues from the perspectives of HR leaders themselves, rather than have consultancies telling us what ‘we should be doing.’ It’ll be virtual-first, to enable members to have ongoing conversations about an issue, and then we’ll be finding ways of sharing these insights. We’ll be developing ways we can create relationships with academics, but rather than being bystanders, it’ll be us that wants to take the lead here. The idea is to take a topic that is top of mind, and then members will each spend time thinking about and sharing their thoughts or experiences.”

Q: What sorts of issues will you be taking a look at?

A: “It’s almost a case of where do we start, but already we’re thinking quite top-level, around things like the role of the CPO; CPO and CEO relationships; why the CPO needs to work with people like the chief revenue officer, and how. We also want to talk beyond these initial questions, to ask what ‘good’ looks like. Other areas we plan to look into are AI, navigating economic uncertainty in the next planning cycle, how to bring in the best talent – really hard-edged stuff like that.

Q: What would you say to someone who thinks this might merely be an HR ‘talking shop’ – a small bunch of people discussing issues amongst themselves?

A: “Oh, we’re definitely not just a talking shop! Part of bringing the people we have in, is that they already have experience having public conversations about HR. The aim is to have business conversations, not just HR ones. The people on the council have already had success translating talking points for a broader audience. It was important to us when setting up the council, that we populated it with such people – those who can reach outside audiences. We are all in unison around our vision to reach more HR professionals. Even the size of the council was intentional too – making sure we have enough people to have a diversity of viewpoints, but not too many that things risk becoming unmanageable. The members we have are all fired up and ready to go. We’ve already talked about rotating membership, with new faces arriving in to replace other ones, and we’re definitely not wanting for topics to talk about. There’s a lot of energy in the group.”

Q: What’s the longer term aim?

A: “We definitely want to have a proper, and well-defined ‘perspective’ on things. We don’t want others to speak on HR’s behalf – because that doesn’t help our profession. The people side of the business is ‘the’ lever at the moment. What’s being asked of the HR profession has accelerated in recent years, so we want to be there, in support of our fellow HR professionals. I want HR to get out of its comfort zone, and have agency around how they define the future of the profession. We feel very strongly that we should be in the spotlight more, and shine a light on what we do.”

Q: When can we expect the first fruits of the council?

A: “Hopefully very soon, so watch this space! HR has been too internally focused, so I hope that what we deliver will enable HR to have more of a voice. We’ll learn how we can do this, over the course of the council meetings. Insights will happen, and we will continue to drive thought leadership. My goal is actionable insights, not just talk. I want us to be the place known for tactical insights, that HR folks can take back into their businesses.”

Council members – the full list:

  • Alan Cairns, chief people officer, GoCardless
  • Courtney Cherry Ellis, SVP, people, AuditBoard
  • Donald Knight, chief people officer, Greenhouse
  • Gianna Driver, chief human resources officer, Exabeam
  • Melanie Naranjo, vice president, people, Ethena
  • Natalie Breece, chief people & diversity officer, thredUP
  • Q Hamirani, chief people officer, Paper
  • Regina Ross, chief people officer, Khan Academy
  • Valentina Gissin, chief people officer, Garner Health
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