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

03/07/18 Martin Crapper Managing Director

In a highly competitive recruiting environment, faced with shortages of skilled professionals there are a growing number of companies adding a chief talent officer to serve as a strategic partner to senior leadership teams.

With low unemployment rates in large sectors of the technology market and demand for highly-skilled employees increasing, this has led to ‘people strategy’ talent acquisition and employee retention being critical to a company’s long-term success. It is no surprise, then, that human resource professionals occupy C and D levels executive roles.

In such as skills-scarce jobs market, the Chief Talent Officer is laser-focused on acquiring and managing the human resources required for long-term sustainable success. In addition to traditional recruiting and retention strategies, the Chief Talent Officer executive job role also encompasses executive coaching, leadership development 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 benefits of workforce spending by 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

Changing talent landscapes, migration to working remotely and emerging technology are dismantling the traditional approaches to managing talent and workforces. A new phenomenon of talent stagnation is blocking emerging leaders from ascending the career ladder and, as a result, these professionals are not able to learn the leadership skills needed 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 diversity and inclusion policy (D&I).

We spoke with Martin Crapper, Redline Executive Managing Partner 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 Martin. “The tight labour market has prompted many companies to expand their recruiting and retention programs. Some organisations are partnering with high 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.

Role sand 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 gimmicky rebrand of a traditional Chief Human Resources Officer. However, many companies with a Chief People Officer will argue that the role is more strategic,” says Martin. “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

Organisations 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 leaders are attracted to companies that align with their own personal values. These rising leaders approach diversity and inclusion as a social responsibility and are expecting companies 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.

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 provide thorough insight and support to your strategic recruitment planning. To have a confidential discussion, please call Martin Crapper, Managing Partner on +44 (0)203 131 0019 or email MCrapper@RedlineExecutive.com.