The Case for a Chief People Officer

Over the past few years, human resource departments have had a renaissance. They’ve evolved from an administrative team into a skilled unit that builds and manages a company’s most important asset – its people. This next-generation HR department needs to fall under the leadership of a chief people officer who is fluent across multiple disciplines. They’re policy designers, strategists, information scientists, and team builders. It’s time for HR to join the C-suite.

In the last 18 months, Viacom, Lyft and Tesla all named their first chief people officers. Whether it’s a title change for your HR director or a new position altogether, more companies are making chief people officers a part of their core leadership. here are five essential responsibilities of a chief people officer, and why you need one now.

1. Team builder

Building a company’s team is much more than choosing the best candidate from a stack of resumes. A chief people officer will implement recruiting strategies to find the right person for each role in the organization, keeping diversity and inclusion as core values. “Talent is the most important part of building a company right now.” Jeanmarie Boben is an executive recruiter and the founder of the Spring Search Group, a firm providing recruiting options for the San Francisco Bay Area startup scene. “Stop treating HR as an afterthought and think of them as a strategic partner in building a company.”

2. Strategist

A chief people officer is a creative strategist who can survey the corporate landscape and recruit a team that’s going to outperform the competition. They’re forward thinkers and analysts who can benefit the bottom line. To be effective, the chief people officer needs to be a part of the overall strategy at the starting line. According to 2012 an Oracle/Taleo survey, “80% of CEOs and CFOs want the head of HR to be key in their company’s strategic planning.”

Cara Brennan Allamano is the SVP of HR at Udemy. and the co-founder of PeopleTech Partners, an advisory and investment group for HR technology. When it comes to building a winning team she knows it has to come from the top. ‘’It takes a strong leadership group to build a high performing company. I’ve found that success depends on thinking beyond executing on the HR front — leaders must bring new ideas to the table and the right tools to help the company scale and execute effectively.”

3. Culture creator

 Corporate culture sets the tone for your team. It’s a set of values that supports your people as they support the corporate mission. The chief people officer has the ability to help define and guide that company culture through the implementation of policies and programs that help sustain and shape the culture while mapping back to the corporate mission. CPOs also have the ability to set the tone for senior management so that HR can operationalize the same core values.

A solid culture elevates employee engagement, resulting in higher employee loyalty and retention. Netflix’s employee culture is based on trust and freedom. (Like the company’s infamous unlimited vacation day policy.) This culture of trust has led to a loyal, high-performing staff.

Cara Brennan Allamano knows the importance of corporate culture and the instrumental role HR plays. “Culture within an organization includes the behaviors of all team members, from executive management to front line employees, that align the vision of the company with the execution and efforts of the team. The CEO and senior leaders set the vision and HR operationalizes it, thus amplifying the company message through the employee experience.”

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4. Number cruncher 

In recruiting and retaining top talent, the chief people officer will make data-driven decisions to structure, restructure, and grow a company. People analytics will allow the CPO to find the right fit for every position and track performance and predict success – valuable information to optimize workforce management. This numbers-driven method allows the CPO and their team to see what’s working – and what’s not – enabling HR to make improvements to overall business performance. A Deloitte study said, “It will become impossible to make any HR decisions without analytics.”

5. Employee experience

“How do we make our employees love their jobs? How do I retain these people? What do I need to do to make them happy?” These are questions a CPO is always asking, according to Jeanmarie Boben. Employee happiness is usually not about money. Most often, retention is through the employee experience.

Your CPO has another instrumental role when it comes to employee experience. There is a seismic shift going on in the world, and the in workplace. People are speaking out more about harassment, tolerance, and abuses of power. The chief people officer will be proactive in making sure you’ve got a safe, supportive environment for employees. They’ll put procedures in place that will ensure your company is ahead of the curve, with a zero-tolerance policy. The CPO will be an advocate for the employee and the company.

Build your C-suite by bringing HR into the boardroom. Your chief people officer is a trusted confidant and partner. And they’ll prove to be one of your best executive bets.

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