The Chief People Officer (CPO) may be a lesser-known C-suite position in many companies. Nevertheless, that does not diminish the importance of the role.
When most people measure the success of a startup company, they look at the result-centered data—such as sales, clients, views, etc. Indeed, these numbers are certainly essential to the success and growth of a business. However, this data is unachievable without a manager of the inside operations—that is focused on the people working to compile this data.
Interestingly, a recent study conducted by Dr. Lauren Howe regarding the changing landscape of a CPO found that 86.9 percent of the current CPOs surveyed believe that they wear the hat of a data scientist who manages the people, training, and corporate planning of the inside operations. This data is collected and used to determine the emotional well-being, productivity, and performance of employees. Likewise, 90 percent of all respondents feel that the ability to read and understand people analytics is crucial to the role of a CPO.
The daily responsibilities of a CPO are no small feat. This person is essentially the highest position within the human resources department. They must connect the work an employee does with the corporate mission and vision of the business, or else they risk leading a team of complacent and apathetic employees who feel no strong incentive to respond to market changes and source company growth. This is done by overseeing all of the inside operations team below them, ensuring deadlines are met and work is up to company standard, and they must recognize deficiencies among the team and address them. Additionally, a CPO must also reward successes and achievements through compensation or promotional benefits. This will foster a positive employee culture and help to maintain a high employee retention rate.
At its core, the role of a CPO is both strategic and future-focused. Hiring for this position is not easy. A common mistake made by businesses is hiring someone who is solely result-focused in their methods. It is important that this individual is able to observe the business and its methods of achievement and make appropriate changes within the already established strategy.
With this in mind, there are five qualities that companies should seek out in candidates for the CPO position:
- A strong company understanding – It is important that a CPO truly comprehends the mission, vision, and goals of a business. A CPO cannot make decisions with other C-suite leaders if they do not understand the basics of operations that they will be deciding on. Often, these candidates obtain this understanding because they have already been employed by the company for a few years. In this case, it is often beneficial to look in-house when hiring for this position.
- Leadership experience – A CPO essentially doubles as a manager of company culture. First, they must be employee-focused, as a large part of this role is to develop the next generation of leaders from within the company. Secondly, when a CPO makes decisions that impact the company initiatives, these decisions also directly impact the employees of the company, as these are the people who will be implementing the initiatives. Having the soft skills to communicate their vision, be trusted by colleagues, and facilitate a coercive company culture is a large part of successfully fulfilling this role. As Shayne Payne, CPO at Finder, a financial services startup, puts it, “a CPO is a business leader with a people lens.”
- Strategic-minded – A CPO is responsible for optimizing “people” centered roles within a company—such as hiring, training, employee development, and employee performance management—to make sure that these positions support the company’s bottom line externally. This involves developing a plan and initiatives for long-term overall growth, identifying issues within the organization, and quickly finding solutions to those issues.
- Emotional intelligence – A CPO must be able to adjust for the benefit of the company.
A CPO must be compassionate, self-aware, and able to manage their emotions.
They must motivate and provide support where needed to push the company forward.
- Talent-minded – If your CPO has done his or her job properly, the company will have no problem retaining talent. However, it is important in today’s Great Resignation era, that a CPO is always looking to capitalize on people who will bring value to your company and complement the workplace culture.
To put it simply, investing in a CPO for your organization is an investment in your business’s future. People power organizations. Startup growth and financial success cannot be achieved without strong team members who are all equally as invested in its success as its leaders.
Related: 6 Ways to Attract and Hire Best-Fit Startup Talent
Related: Building a Leadership Team for Startup Success
This blog was written by Viaduct Senior Account Executive Roger Naglewski.