We Just Hired a Chief People Officer (Why You Should, Too)

Last week, my company hit a great milestone on the talent front: we hired our first Chief People Officer.

Granted, it’s a title with the potential of sounding a little precious, like the “Vice President of Happiness,” “Brand Evangelist,” “Digital Overlord” or other Silicon Valley labels that dress up what are really garden-variety gigs.

But the Chief People Officer position isn’t a rote, phone-it-in role – nor is it a cutesy name for the traditional human resources function. It’s a strategic shift in how we think about people, culture and enterprise value over the long term at a company. It’s about redefining culture so it’s not jellybeans, Nerf guns and free lunch. At Reputation.Com, we certainly like those things but candy and eats alone don’t drive enterprise value. In my mind, culture is actually about the three or four aspects that are unique to your company that can be leveraged into business success.

Here are some of the other reasons we’re convinced we need a Chief People Officer (and why you do too):

You need more than traditional HR, which centers on people, process and policies. These are important aspects and they need to get done. But a CPO’s focus should be on building culture – facilitating an environment that enables the best possible way of working. And while Human Resources falls under the Chief People Officer, calling the CPO an HR person is like thinking of your Chief Financial Officer as an accountant. They play in the same space but the strategic focus is completely different.

A CPO will reset the definition of culture with you. Chief People Officers understand that culture doesn’t equal happiness. (Note: happiness can certainly be the byproduct of a great culture). But too often, we equate culture with lifestyle and perks, the ephemeral fun stuff that makes up the bulk of articles on companies with the “greatest cultures.” In reality, perks are the nice-to-haves. There’s nothing wrong with them but the foundation of a culture rests on business goals, not masseuses and organic meals made to order. It’s asking, what can we do to identify, attract and retain the talent we need to drive enterprise value?

Chief People Officers focus on the culture trifecta: people, value and capacity. They know it’s about who is working for you, the value they generate for the business, and what’s needed to turn that value up to its full capacity. Is it revamping the recruiting process so you hire people who feel a strong affinity for your mission? Is it coaching managers on how to inspire and reward employees? Is it exiting leaders who leach toxicity into your workplace? What changes, large and small, can you make to get to that capacity?

What are some of the most effective culture-building steps you’ve personally seen?

Michael Fertik | linkedin.Com/today/post/article/20140113152732-11281694-we-just-hired-a-chief-people-officer-why-you-should-too?trk=mp-details-rc

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