There’s a reason why the job outlook for C-suite jobs is expected to increase by 8% over the next decade. These individuals provide vital strategies and procedures that lead a business to success or failure.

However, when most people think of a C-suite job their minds immediately go toward CEOs or CFOs. But, the reality is that there are a variety of important C-suite positions out there, including the chief people officer.

But, exactly what is a Chief People Officer or CPO? And how do you become one? You’re at the right place to learn everything you need to know.

What is a Chief People Officer?

For many businesses, the HR department is strictly for performance management, hiring, compensation, and benefits.

While it’s true that most HR departments handle these functions, there’s been a push in recent years to expand the role of its involvement.

Specifically, we’re increasingly seeing HR departments deal with things corporate culture, diversity inclusion, employee well-being, and growth in general.

In this type of multifaceted HR department, a leader is required to create a strategy that can be translated into action. That’s where a chief people officer comes into play.

These are individuals that answer to the CEO who specialize in crafting corporate culture initiatives that lead to long-term success for the company. Let’s take a closer look at what a chief people officer’s duties entail.

CPO Duties and Responsibilities

As we mentioned, there are certain standard HR duties that a CPO and their team must attend to. Some of these include:

  • Managing the payroll
  • Managing employee benefits
  • Investigating disputes between supervisors and employees
  • Completing employee evaluations
    Monitoring things like employee morale and employee turnover

However, what sets apart a CPO from a typical HR department head is their high-level leadership skills. They use these leadership skills to create and implement strategies that can have a more positive effect on the company as a whole.

For example, the CPO might recommend implementing analytic software to more efficiently manage people. They might train certain employees by conducting leadership training or executive coaching.

In recent years there’s been a much greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

So, if the corporate culture has a diversity problem, a CPO will create equity initiative programs to create a more transparent hiring practice. The specific role of the CPO will depend on what company they work at.

Some companies might require a massive overhaul of their corporate culture from a CPO. Others might simply require minor ticks and adjustments to improve efficiency.

CPO Requirements

Let’s start with education. At the very least a chief people officer will typically have a bachelor’s degree that’s related to their role.

However, it’s not uncommon for them to have a master’s degree (or MBA) with a focus on human retarget management. A good way to stand out from other candidates is to have certain certifications as well.

Some examples include the SHRM Senior Certified Professional (or SHRM-SCP) and the SHRM Certified Professional (or SHRM-CP). Both of these options require a certain amount of experience or education.

So, it immediately indicates to employers that you’re both qualified and knowledgeable. The last thing that potential CPOs need is experience. It’s highly unlikely to become a CPO right out of school.

Instead, you should get some HR jobs under your belt first. What’s more, you should be able to show that you were able to develop successful initiatives at each job position before moving on.

Chief People Officer Pros

There are a lot of benefits that come with becoming a CPO. For one thing, like most other C-suite jobs, it pays well. Depending on where you work there will likely also be great health benefits to take advantage of.

CPO jobs also have a great representation of women. The vast majority of CPOs are women. And in an industry where it’s hard for women to break ground in the leadership department, this is a big deal.

Finally, a chief people officer has a direct influence on changing company culture. That means it’s possible to not only make a positive difference in the success of the company but also in people’s lives.

For example, maybe a diversity initiative allowed an individual to apply for a job that might not have otherwise heard about it.

You just made a small change that changed an individual’s life. Many CPOs report high levels of job satisfaction because of this influence.

Chief People Officer Cons

Sadly, the chief people officer position isn’t perfect. For one thing, there’s competition between other C-suite positions. Many CPOs say that they don’t like they’re treated as equals next to other popular positions like the CFOs and CTOs.

So, if you value respect it might be hard to earn it depending on where you work. There’s also a good deal of competitiveness in the field. Few HR professionals can make it to this type of leadership position.

So, you will need to go up against incredibly qualified individuals to land the job. Finally, there can be some confusion over the acronym. CPO can also refer to chief product officers and chief procurement officers.

So, if you get hung up on titles for executive jobs, it might not be the role for you.


Enjoy Learning About CPOs? Keep Reading

We hope this article helped you learn how to become a chief people officer. As you can see, the CPO plays a valuable role in shaping corporate culture. That being said, it isn’t a position that comes easily.

If you’re serious about it, then it will take years of studying and planning. But, with a little hard work, luck, and advice from this article, it can all be possible.

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