A Chief People Officer's Guide to Influencing the C-Suite

April 8, 2024

In the dynamic landscape of today's world of work, the role of the Chief People Officer (CPO) has evolved beyond traditional HR functions. Now, more than ever, CPOs are tasked with navigating the delicate balance between financial imperatives and human-centric values, all while influencing the C-Suite and other organizational leaders to create a more resilient and adaptable organizational culture. We sat down with Tony Jamous, the Co-founder & CEO of Oyster, to gain insights into what Chief People Officers, especially in a remote setting, need to focus on to help organizations adapt, move towards more human-centric structures all while driving business results and maintaining financial viability. Here are our 5 key takeaways:

1. Aligning Financial Realities with Human-Centric Values

Tony recognizes the challenge and criticality of operating within stringent financial frameworks while remaining true to their organization's mission of being human-centric. To him, it's about striking a balance between achieving financial goals and fostering a culture that prioritizes the well-being of employees which is ultimately a win-win. The CPO's role here is to ensure that strategies, such as re-orgs for business efficiency, are executed thoughtfully, with compassion and clear communication, thus demonstrating that being human-centric doesn't necessarily incur extra costs and in fact is more financially prudent in the long term.

2. Building Resilience through Trust and Communication

Resilience within an organization doesn't happen overnight; it's a muscle that requires intentional nurturing. Trust, a foundational element, needs to be deliberately cultivated, especially in distributed work environments. The CPO, alongside leadership, must champion transparent communication, reducing unnecessary anxiety, and consistently reinforcing the organization's mission to remind employees why they're here. Driving resilience amongst the employee based and coincides with high expectations and a performance-based culture but those expectations, goals and outcomes need to be clearly defined, communicated and regularly checked-in on to achieve sustained resilience and outperformance.

3. Designing the Virtual Workplace for Productivity and Belonging

With the shift towards remote work, the responsibility falls on the Chief People Officer to design virtual workplaces that foster productivity, belonging, and inclusion. Initiatives like "follow the sun" collaboration models and inclusive practices ensure that employees across diverse locations feel connected and valued, despite physical distance. Tony argues with so much intentionality required to drive productivity, belonging and connection in a remote workplace, these companies will be better equipped to perform due to a deeper level of thought and intention which has gone into “designing” the way people will work, collaborate, make decisions, etc. And that this presents a massive opportunity for the CPO to have an outsized and meaningful strategic impact on the business.

4. Strategic Storytelling: Influencing Change with Compelling Narratives

Effective storytelling is a powerful tool for CPOs to drive change and garner buy-in from the C-Suite. Using frameworks like Tony’s “ABC approach” (Acknowledgement, But, Change), CPOs can articulate the need for organizational shifts while recognizing past achievements and addressing challenges. Meaning, helping leaders down the path of change, while acknowledging what has worked, what work is well done and the accomplishment of the past, while still seeing a path to improvement, better outcomes and adaptability. Additionally, leveraging data-driven insights and tailoring messages to different stakeholders' needs will enhance the persuasiveness of narratives–so even within your organization's relatively small executive team, positioning the message and story to align with each stakeholders unique perspective will help gain buying, champions and willing participants in change.

5. Enabling Managers as Champions of Engagement and Productivity

The role of the CPO extends beyond designing employee experiences to empowering managers as frontline advocates of organizational goals. By providing training, resources, and clear expectations, CPOs equip managers with the skills to drive engagement, productivity, and fulfillment within their teams. This collaborative approach reinforces the interconnectedness of employee experiences and managerial effectiveness in achieving broader business objectives.

The art of influence for Chief People Officers lies in orchestrating a harmonious convergence of financial pragmatism and human-centric values within the organization. It is an often thankless job, but it’s more and more of a critical linchpin to any successful organization. Fostering trust, intentional design of work, inclusivity, and empowered managers, CPOs can effectively influence and navigate the complexities of the C-Suite and the modern workplace moving towards a future where people and profits coalesce for sustainable success.

Want to learn more?

Listen to this entire conversation through the link below. This conversation took place at Pando Horizons 2023, stay tuned for info about Pando Horizons 2024, coming soon.