Three Tips for Finding Your Next Chief People and Culture Officer (CPCO)

At Waterstone, our executive search experts excel at helping organizations recruit high-performance leaders for tough-to-fill roles – like those with rapidly-evolving skill sets or unique requirements. Few roles have seen more change (and challenge) over the last few years than the Chief People and Culture Officer (CPCO).

While always a core function of successful, culture-centric organizations, the role of CPCO has grown to include accountabilities far beyond traditional human resources. In fact,  according to Accenture, 89 per cent of CEOs say the CHRO/CPCO should be central in driving long-term growth, and Mercer’s 2023 CHRO Survey found that most CHROs were acutely aware of the challenges resulting from a rapidly transforming world of work and the resulting adjustments that have been necessary to meet the changing demands of the role.

All of this can make it challenging for hiring committees to find CHRO candidates with the right mix of skill and connection to the organization’s culture and purpose. When it comes to finding leaders who can balance the day-to-day challenges of a growth-focused C-suite role with the ever-changing requirements of today’s people and culture departments, our executive search professionals have three tips:

1. Think fit – then think outside the box

It would be easy to assume that the best candidates will be leaders with extensive experience in a similar industry or with a similar background to your current talent leads. While identifying candidates who fit with your current culture is important (demonstrating attributes and behaviours that are indicators of success), you also need to keep an eye on the future – how can this person help you grow and evolve your culture for success in the coming years?

Looking outside your field or industry may also result in candidates who have skills and attributes that you didn’t know you needed. For example, does your candidate need a background in human resources, or can you consider candidates who started their career in a different function? Not only does this approach deepen your candidate pool, but it helps create diversity of thought as well.

At Waterstone, we work with clients at the beginning of each search to really understand the organization’s culture, and what skills and behaviours are requirements (versus nice-to-haves). We then test these assumptions by looking at traditional candidates as well as few outside the box candidates. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want can be just as useful as knowing what you do want – and that isn’t always a traditional candidate.

2. Explore up-and-coming talent

Many companies tend to go for experienced leaders who’ve already proven themselves when they’re looking to fill top positions. But it can be to your benefit to check out next generation talent too, especially if you’re dealing with a smaller talent pool or a role that requires a unique skillset.

When you’re recruiting a CPCO, consider giving a rising star a chance to prove themselves! Look for someone who’s excelling in their current role and who may be ready to level up in their career, or someone who’s demonstrated a commitment to growing their knowledge of key skills from within all the CPCO functionalities (like operations, finance, and more). There may be more of a learning period, but next generation talent brings fresh ideas, may be more open to trying out something new to gain the experience, and might even be a better fit for your budget (compared to tried and tested C-suite leaders).

3. Play up your employee value proposition (EVP)

Putting your purpose and mission front and center in your recruitment efforts, and having a clear and compelling EVP can help your organization stand out from the crowd when it comes to recruiting top talent for senior roles (it can also help your hiring committees and people leaders sell the organization to potential candidates during job interviews and feel better equipped to address opportunities and challenges during stay interviews or performance reviews). 

People and culture leaders in particular will be on the lookout for how your organization represents its purpose and culture throughout the interview process. Being clear on what your organization offers employees and making sure everyone can articulate that offer in a consistent way is key.

For more than 20 years, the executive search experts at Waterstone Human Capital have been inspiring organizations across Canada and the United States to build high-performance teams and cultures that drive growth and success. Connect with us to find out how we can help you succeed with your next CPCO search.