The Role of Chief People Officers (CPOs)
In essence, CPOs are responsible for attracting, developing, engaging, and retaining the top talent required for the business to meet its strategic objectives in a way that makes sense for the people AND the business. Not an easy task in the best of times. To succeed, CPOs must be strategists, influencers, team builders, and culture creators who put people first while getting business results. They need to be able to follow the steps to organize talent as a CPO.
If this sounds challenging, just imagine trying to win the war for talent in today’s ever-changing and disruptive environment. To succeed, we believe that CPOs must help their organizations adapt to a more flexible work model.
Organizing for the New Work Model
Though it may have been necessary during COVID, working entirely remotely is not a satisfactory solution for all of today’s workers. Scientists need labs, teams need face time, and retailers need to be in their stores. Here are four field-tested steps to organize talent as a CPO in a way that serves both employee and business needs:
- Align on Desired Business Outcomes
For any talent management strategy to be effective, it must be ruthlessly tethered to the company’s overall business strategy. Before CPOs create a plan to attract, develop, engage, and retain top talent, they must ensure that the overall business strategy is clear enough, believable enough, and implementable enough in the eyes of all key stakeholders.
While it may be tempting to skip this step so as not to overstep your bounds or impede your immediate people needs, our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performance. Without strategic clarity, your influence and impact as a CPO is greatly diminished.
- Create a Healthy, High Performing, and Aligned Workplace Culture
Once the business strategy is clear enough, your next step as a CPO is to ensure that your culture is helping and not hindering your strategy.
Our organizational alignment research found that culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performance. This makes sense because your strategy must go through your culture to be successfully executed.
— Assess your current culture to know where you stand
— Ensure that you have enough organizational health to attract, develop, engage, and retain top talent
—Build a high performance culture to enable people to perform at their peak
— Align the way work gets done across ten research-backed dimensions with your strategic objectives
Again, it may be tempting to skip this step because it can feel overwhelming to make cultural change, but your ability as a CPO to attract, develop, engage, and retain top talent is directly correlated to what it is truly like to work at your company.
- Define The Overall Talent Boundaries
Once your strategy and culture are clear and aligned, you and the Executive Team need to be clear about the talent problem you are trying to solve and the benefit of solving that problem compared to other priorities. For example, are you trying to:
— hire better talent faster to meet growth targets?
— improve leadership skills to execute key strategic imperatives?
— improve employee engagement to boost performance?
— decrease attrition of top talent and strategic roles?
Once you know what matters most, you can define the associated talent guidelines (e.g., autonomy, flexibility, work-life balance, inclusion, safety, career development opportunities, learning development investments, etc.) required to meet your objectives.
- Enable Leaders and Teams to Set Appropriate Norms
Once the overall talent parameters are agreed upon, your next step is to enable your leaders and managers to treat different roles and situations differently to best meet their unique objectives without going against overall company or team norms.
To support teams, provide the skills, knowledge, and tools to discuss and design what works best for them. Ideally, leaders should help to create team charters with a clear line of sight for people to contribute to what matters most within agreed upon expectations regarding how they will communicate, make decisions, and handle conflict.
The Bottom Line
CPOs are responsible for creating the conditions required for people to perform at their peak. To succeed, they must align the strategic and cultural context as much as possible in order not to dilute talent investments. Are you ready to make the most of your talent?
To learn how to avoid the top talent traps facing CPOs today, download Exposing 3 Big Corporate Culture Myths about Talent