Chief People Officer: a well established path?

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Annual CPO Pathways Report 2023 Edition

Following the success of our analysis of the most common pathway to a Chief People Officer released last year, Eton Bridge Partners is delighted to share the findings of research into over 2,500 Chief People Officer appointments in the UK and across Europe.

The last three years have seen questions posed of the People function like never before: dramatic health, economic and political shifts globally have sent shockwaves through organisations big and small, public, and private, and the role of the Chief People Officer has expanded to consider the human resources implications in their broadest sense.

In 2020, many HR practitioners found themselves working in new ways to answer new questions amid the complexities presented by both Covid-19 and Brexit. And while neither issue could be said to be fully resolved, since then, more recent events continue to present HR with new challenges on what feels like a daily basis. The meaty problems the function is tackling now in many cases simply didn’t exist two or three years ago, or in the case of the UK industrial relations landscape, were seen to be a ‘thing of the past.’ At the same time, investors’ scrutiny of organisations’ ESG agendas increases with each reporting cycle, and the Chief People Officer role is viewed as becoming more critical to delivery in these areas.

Against this backdrop, the focus on the role of the Chief People Officer has intensified, with a heavy responsibility to lead the organisation’s approach to people risk, reputation, and future planning in a highly competitive global talent market.  Given the heightened attention on the Chief People Officer role, and further to the success of our analysis of the most common pathway to Chief People Officer published last year, it is our pleasure to have expanded our analysis to look at appointments across Europe as well as the UK in this year’s edition.

In our latest report we look to answer the following questions:

  1. Where do CPOs come from, and how should you navigate the often complex route to become a CPO?
  2. Does sector experience really matter?
  3. Should I hire a CPO from the external market, or appoint from within?
  4. Does gender and/or age play a part?
  5. How do I get into Private Equity as a CPO?

Many of the findings might, at first glance, be unsurprising: for example, more women than men are appointed to the top HR role, but delve more deeply and our report tells a more troubling story of significant variations between the UK and Europe, and of the impact of age on perceived potential and opportunity.

I am looking forward to monitoring this data over time and understanding how trends continue and evolve over the next few years. We are privileged to help individuals and businesses of all sizes in the UK and internationally, navigate the evolving world of the People Function, sourcing the best talent, with the most relevant experience, to drive organisations forward.

To read the full report, follow this link.

**For the purposes of this report, the term ‘Chief People Officer’ or ‘CPO’ includes any and all variations of that job title, including but not limited to, Chief Human Resources Officer, Group HR Director, HR Director, People Director, and is intended to cover all executive leadership positions within the People Function.**

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We are actively looking at ESG as part of our investment strategy, and interestingly [we see that] the role of the Chief People Officer is becoming ever more externally facing as a result.

Chief People Officer Investment business
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Reward leadership roles set me up really well for a transition to Chief People Officer roles. In particular: the great grasp of people data analytics that reward roles provide is so essential to modern Chief People Officer roles; the experience, exposure, and confidence in dealing with Boards, investors, and corporate governance, the essential metrics, performance indicators, and financials.

Chief People Officer Brambles
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Had I known earlier how much my experiences would cause me to be pigeonholed when exploring future opportunities, I would have definitely made different career choices.

Chief People Officer Technology business