Fractional Chief People Officer or Secret Superpower?

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.”
— Angela Ahrendts (Senior Vice President, Apple)

When scaling your business, who is the first person of contact when you need an experienced executive but can’t afford one full-time? You may look for a Fractional Chief Operating Officer or a Chief Marketing Officer. But while you think of whose help you need, there is one person you probably didn’t think of — a Fractional Chief People Officer (FCPO).

FCPO Kaleem Clarkson from Blend Me Inc. told me that he’s currently working with a manufacturing client who wasn’t big enough to justify hiring a full-time CPO. They are in the middle of transitioning to a hybrid-remote work model. Kaleem first performed a workplace flexibility diagnosis. He discovered during the process that their newly hired employees found it far more difficult to learn their job while not physically in the office.

Historically, new employees learned their role on the job by sitting next to a colleague and learning from observation and trial and error. Under the new hybrid-remote work environment, new team members were floundering and unhappy. It would not take long before they began leaving. Among other recommendations, Kaleem walked them through documenting their standard operating procedures making them available digitally so employees can access them no matter their location. Kaleem’s firm is now helping them migrate those new processes into an intranet they keep up to date in real time.

The owner of that business is not alone in struggling with employee dissatisfaction because they are too busy to fully take care of their people. A Gartner survey found that only 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their experience. Engagement and satisfaction are lacking. That is why business owners recognize that they have lost their connection to their most important asset — their team.

As you can see, CFOs and COOs are important, but so is an FCPO.

What the Heck is a Chief People Officer?

But first, what does a Chief People Officer do? A CPO, or head of people’s operations, is essential for guiding your crew and being the glue that holds your team together. They have the skills needed to motivate your employees. Their main focus is improving how your people feel about work, a seemingly nebulous concept, but attributable to tangible increases in both productivity and performance according to almost 70% of CPOs, according to a newly released Adecco Group survey.

Chief People Officers essentially work to hire, train, and manage people-centered activities and staff. They specialize in professional development and performance management. They differ from the HR generalists (whether full-time or fractional), who focus on more administrative and compliance tasks. FCPOs, like full-time CPOs, usually supervise your HR generalist, whether full-time or fractional.

A CPO will also work to communicate the companies’ goals and values and keep everyone connected to them. A good CPO will serve as an advocate for the company to attract and keep the best talent.

Motivation Is Essential

You may think, “If they are doing the work, who cares if they’re unmotivated? We all see results.” False. People who are underpaid or feel unmotivated or unappreciated are more likely to stay with you and not call in sick. That is even more true now during the “great resignation.”

How can a CPO help with motivation? Good question. To understand the answer, it’s important to understand that you’re a majority (about 83%) of people spend up to a third of the workweek in meetings. People are so busy they barely have time to get work done or even breathe!

Now imagine someone helping you clearly communicate your core values and giving people direction.

How would a CPO help your business?

Kaleem Clarkson explains, “It’s critical for leadership and management to be intentional about creating these opportunities to build and maintain both social and professional connections.”

If visionaries and the people who carry out the magic have the same intent, human and financial resources can go hand in hand.

Qualities of a CPO

A CPO’s role will vary based on the company’s needs and requirements because every organization is different. They must be flexible and expert in change management.

What qualities make a CPO successful? They must be organized, and lead through their skills as an organizational leader. Other qualities include being a talent architect, data/technology advisor, culture influencer, they must have emotional intelligence, and lastly, be authentic.

How do these qualities fit together? They must be open with employees and relate to and support them. They should be able to influence and communicate shared values with clients and employees.

If you’re struggling with your team’s performance, happiness, morale, alignment, or motivation, consider meeting some fractional Chief People Officers and see what solutions they offer. You might be surprised.

About the Author

Esther Wolf is a writer in Long Island, New York. You can contact Esther here.