A tech company’s new Most Valuable Position

There’s no denying 2020 brought an onslaught of business challenges. Among the eye-popping statistics is the International Labour Organization’s study showing 114 million jobs were lost worldwide in 2020Yet despite those numbers, the enterprise software landscape has never been stronger. When COVID took hold, companies who’d yet to embrace the cloud sank, while online companies discovered a competitive advantage. The world realized the need for the kind of flexible, work-from-anywhere infrastructure technology affords, which led to a jump in software for collaboration, automation, customer relationship management, and more. 

Now that economies are reopening, businesses won’t return to their pre-pandemic ways. Instead they’ll continue to rely on and invest in the technology platforms that ensure continuity. The software industry, much of which saw a boom during the pandemic, will likely continue to reap the benefits. People leaders, overwhelmed on so many fronts right now, have seen this coming for a while.

Technology is on the rise, but we’re still powered by people 

There’s been speculation over the years that the increased adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will shrink the role of humans — but we’ve yet to see this theory pan out. Instead, we’ve seen the rise of more companies created to innovate on this trend. So while technology like AI has certainly eliminated some jobs, it’s also responsible for creating many others. 

At Operator Collective we’ve seen this growth firsthand. Our portfolio companies are all actively looking for both operators and individual contributors. We’ve heard from recruiters who were on the verge of closing a candidate, but lost out when another company swooped in with an outrageous offer at the 11th hour. And it feels like LinkedIn profile visits have tripled.

This huge demand underscores the need for one placement in particular: the Chief People Officer, or CPO. 

So how do you hire a Chief People Officer?

Tech companies are desperate to hire a CPO to help place qualified contributors, but people leaders are in such high demand that companies everywhere are struggling to find solid candidates. In something akin to a snowball effect, that one deficit leaves companies backed up in hiring across the board. We’re finally seeing earlier and larger investments in the People function, but even recruiting agencies are challenged to find experienced leaders. 

This is a shared and growing challenge — and while there’s not a simple or short-term solution, here are a few steps companies can take when kicking off a search.

Steps to help you find the right Chief People Officer or HR leader

  1. Evaluate your initial talent attraction strategy. What employer value prop or other company differentiators can you market to appeal to a CPO? Apply the same practices you would for a customer acquisition strategy. Going beyond writing a regular job description will help you stand out.
  2. Be prepared to demonstrate how you “walk the talk.” One of the ways HR leaders evaluate job opportunities is by pressure testing your commitment to things like company culture, values, and other declared people priorities. Include examples of how you operationalize and resource these areas.
  3. Build trust and credibility in your candidate experience. I often hear HR leaders losing interest in a job opportunity based on a poorly organized interview process or a CEO who doesn’t communicate with them thoughtfully. Spend time mapping this out and communicating it to candidates along the way.
  4. Get creative in your candidate profiling. With a shortage in senior talent, ask yourself if there is an opportunity for an emerging CPO to be successful in this role. If so, seek out communities like Redefining HR and the People Leader Accelerator.
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