06 Sep 2023

Chief People Officer (CPO) vs Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

Puzzle of 3 pieces with one being detached

As people-centric roles boldly carve their space in the C-suite, the spotlight often shifts between the Chief People Officer (CPO) and the Chief HR Officer (CHRO). At first glance, their titles might seem almost interchangeable. However, dig a little deeper, and the differences begin to surface. In particular, the CPO role is rising as the beacon for modern, vibrant workplaces that truly value their human assets. Curious about the nuances that set them apart?

What is a Chief People Officer?

The CPO is a relatively newer role that places people at its core.

What are the responsibilities of a Chief People Officer?

  • Talent development strategy. Prioritising continuous learning, ensuring employees evolve with industry demands.
  • Employee experience. Creating a positive work environment, focusing on well-being, engagement, and professional growth.
  • Culture. Shaping a culture that encourages innovation, inclusivity, and adaptability.

In today’s context, the CPO role has gained prominence. In the age of remote work, gig economies, and a heightened focus on work-life harmony, the emphasis has shifted from traditional HR tasks to crafting meaningful employee experiences. CPOs are steering this change, ensuring organisations remain attractive to top talent and are equipped to face future challenges.

What is a Chief HR Officer (CHRO)?

The CHRO is a classic role that has long stood as the backbone of HR functions.

What are the responsibilities of a Chief People Officer?

  • Employee relations. Handling grievances, ensuring smooth employee-manager relations.
  • Compliance. Staying updated with labor laws, ensuring the company adheres to them.
  • Benefits and compensation. Overseeing pay scales, bonuses, and other employee benefits.

Though the CHRO role remains indispensable for ensuring organisational smoothness and legal adherence, it’s primarily reactive. It focuses on addressing issues as they arise, while the CPO role is more proactive, aiming to enhance the overall employee experience.

What is the difference between a CPO and a CHRO?

While both roles are pivotal, they differ in scope, function, and alignment with modern business needs.

Scope and function

The CHRO typically takes an operational view, handling day-to-day HR tasks and ensuring compliance. In contrast, the CPO looks at the broader picture, focusing on holistic employee well-being, fostering a vibrant organisational culture, and ensuring talent readiness for future challenges.

Alignment with modern needs

As organisations recognise that their success hinges on their people, the CPO’s strategic role, which prioritises talent development and employee experience, aligns more closely with contemporary needs. The CHRO’s traditional approach, while essential, may not be as adaptive to the modern workforce’s dynamic requirements.

To illustrate with a hypothetical example: Consider a tech startup embracing remote work. While the CHRO will ensure contracts are sound and everyone gets paid correctly, the CPO will strategise on fostering team cohesion, ensuring mental well-being in remote settings, and creating avenues for continuous remote learning.

Which Role for the Modern World?

The rise of the CPO emphasises the shift in organisational paradigms. Today, companies are not just looking to fill seats; they’re aiming to create environments where innovation thrives, and employees feel valued and motivated.

This isn’t to say that the CHRO’s role is becoming obsolete. On the contrary, it remains crucial. However, as the world of HR tech advances, with software like Zelt, HR professionals can increasingly automate admin, and as a result the CHRO role may be able to be split between more junior employees, or absorbed by the CPO.

The CPO’s proactive approach to shaping organisational culture, focusing on employee growth and well-being, seems more attuned to the modern world’s demands.

For companies, especially those in fast-paced industries or startups, leaning towards a Chief People Officer might be more beneficial. Such organisations need agility, a continuous learning environment, and a culture that resonates with younger, dynamic talent pools that prioritise meaningful work and flexibility over mere job stability.

In Conclusion

When evaluating these two roles together, employers must think about which role aligns better with their organisational goals in the current landscape. As the modern workforce evolves, the emphasis on holistic employee experiences, continuous learning, and a robust organisational culture becomes paramount.

While the CHRO ensures your organisation remains operationally sound, the CPO ensures it remains relevant, attractive, and prepared for the future.

The verdict? For the modern world, with its dynamic challenges and evolving workforce demands, the Chief People Officer role emerges as a frontrunner, poised to guide organisations into a future where people truly are the greatest assets.