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The Chief People Officer Vs Chief Talent Officer – What is the difference?

26/02/21 Andy Raymond Director, Redline Executive

In a highly competitive recruiting environment, faced with a diminishing pool of talented professionals, there is an increasing number of companies adding a Chief Talent Officer to serve as a strategic delivery partner to leadership teams.

Many sectors of the technology market enjoy low levels of unemployment whilst simultaneously requiring highly-skilled employees in increasing numbers. As a result, a well-planned 'people strategy', acquisition, and retention plan is essential to ensure the long-term success of the business, especially as during the last two years, the number of employees hired by the digital technology industry has increased by 40%. Solving this tight talent pool in the technology market is critical to a company’s long-term success. It is no surprise, then, that human resource professionals increasingly occupy C and D levels executive roles.

With the scarcity of skills being a perennial issue in the high-tech jobs market, the Chief Talent Officer is hyper-focused on acquiring and orchestrating the human resources required for long-term sustainable delivery to the business' objectives and subsequent success. In addition to traditional recruitment, engagement and retention strategies, such as the interview process and onboarding, the Chief Talent Officer executive job role also encompasses leadership development, exec coaching, and succession planning.

The responsibilities of a Chief People Officer and also largely of a Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Talent Officer often include the following:

  • Educating the CEO on the benefits of workforce spending by the impact on ROI
  • Analysing human capital data and industry trends to guide recommendations on company policy
  • Building culture to improve employee retention, as well as aid in talent acquisition
  • Facilitating and building relationships to mine new talent pools
  • Leading change management efforts as they relate to human capital

A changing workforce

The constant morphing of the talent landscape, and COVID-19 which has accelerated migration to working remotely and subsequent emergent technologies are dismantling the traditional approaches to managing talent and workforces. A new phenomenon of 'talent stagnation' is preventing emerging leaders from ascending the career ladder and, as a consequence, these professionals are not able to attain the leadership skills required to succeed in more senior roles. Chief Talent Officers need to implement initiatives catering for the development of future generations of leadership through transparency and communication, a powerful employee value proposition (EVP), and a diversity and inclusion policy (D&I).

Tech Talent Charter’s Diversity in Tech 2020 report found that just 25% of technical roles were held by women in Q4 2020. On a more promising note, the analysis found there to be a higher proportion of people from an ethnic minority working in the technology industry than the wider UK workforce.

We spoke with Andy Raymond, Redline Executive Director on why this relatively new role has not been widely adopted and how the Chief Talent Officer role varies in comparison to traditional Human Resources executive roles. “Most organisations have a senior human resources executive in charge of talent-related challenges”, says Andy. “The tight labour market has persuaded many companies to expand their recruiting and retention programs. Some organisations are partnering with senior schools, colleges and universities to build early career relationships. Others are encouraging managers to have ‘stay conversations’ with exiting employees to change their decisions—a slightly different approach from the traditional ‘exit interview’.”

While a Chief Talent Officer’s responsibilities vary widely from company to company, the most-mentioned include talent management, recruiting and talent acquisition, learning and development, succession planning and organisational development. Regardless, it is clear that the Chief Talent Officer is an executive-level role with strategic importance to the organisation.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Chief Talent Officer

  • Oversees the health of our culture, protecting the positive contributions and identifying issues that hold the company back
  • Work directly with the CEO and conducts observations and provides constructive feedback as an internal consultant role. The goal is to develop key executive talent to ensure the highest level of performance possible in-role and a bench of ready successors
  • Have global responsibility for all employees focusing primarily on top/high-potential talent, executive talent management, and talent acquisition
  • Responsibility for talent acceleration from talent management, talent engagement (which encompasses talent development, performance management, and culture), and talent operations

Is There a Difference Between Chief People Officer, Chief Human Resource Officer, and Chief Talent Officer?

“Some see the title of Chief People Officer as a novel rebrand of a traditional Chief Human Resources Officer or Human Resources Director. However, many companies with a Chief People Officer will argue that the role is more strategic,” says Andy. “Chief Human Resource Officers will often focus on policy and process, whereas a Chief People Officer is more about people, culture and workplace strategies. Chief Talent Officers are sometimes a catch-all for the other two, and other times have very defined roles around finding the right talent to fill needed positions."  

Talent-related challenges

Tech businesses of all sizes, with or without a Chief Talent Officer are facing the challenge of attracting and retaining skilled and unskilled workers. Here are the top five talent-related challenges:

  • Insufficient skilled professional supply
  • Ineffective recruiting efforts
  • Competitive employee market
  • Lack of industry-specific experience
  • Compensation pressures

Today's emerging tech leaders are attracted to companies that align with their principles and values. These rising leaders approach diversity and inclusion as a social responsibility and are expecting their employer to share this view. A diverse and inclusive workplace speaks to the employment brand and employee experience, and therefore the employee value proposition. To build a sustainable talent management strategy for the future, chief talent officers will need to challenge human resources obstacles from the past.

Key internal barriers for Chief Talent Officers are likely to be political. Many companies suffer from "silo-ism" and myopic departmental hiring practices. Companies will need to facilitate communication, partnership and agreement among senior leadership teams and the Chief Talent Officer. Collaboration unlocks the true value of this role and enables the Chief Talent Officer to grow and nurture a company’s most valuable asset: its human capital.

Are you looking for your next executive role?

Redline Group has 35 years of experience in executive search. We provide a modern and refined solution by delivering pioneering methodologies that enable clients to attain superior returns reflecting the requirements of businesses hiring in today’s market.

For more information on Executive Human Resources roles including Chief Human Resources Officer or Chief People Officer, Redline Executive offer an extensive portfolio of executive search services and provides thorough insight and support to your strategic recruitment planning. To have a confidential discussion, please call

Andy Raymond, Director on +44 (0)1582 450054 or email ARaymond@RedlineExecutive.com.