Charting Your Course To Becoming a Chief People Officer: The Exact Skills You Need to Become a Successful CPO

Article By
James Cumming
James Cumming
Posted On8th April 2023
Posted On8th April 2023

The career path to becoming a Chief People Officer (CPO), Chief HR Officer (CHRO) or Group HRD is a career goal that requires a combination of experience, education, and skill development. CPOs typically form part of the executive leadership team of a business, with a broad commercial role to play, as well, as a specialist area of expertise.

Chief People Officers are also responsible for managing all aspects of human resources within an organisation, including talent acquisition, employee engagement, retention, training and development, performance management, and compensation and benefits.

Gain the relevant experience:

To become a CPO, you need to have extensive experience in human resources or people operations. This can be gained through a variety of positions such as senior HR Generalist roles, Head of Talent, Head of OD, or Head of HR operations.

As I reflect on the candidates who have swiftly progressed in their careers. It is evident that those who have a good breadth of experience get there the quickest, this is typically by taking rotational roles in to an area of expertise such as Reward or Talent Management.

Advice: Start by building a strong foundation in HR, take on challenging roles that offer exposure to different aspects of the HR function. Seek out opportunities to lead cross-functional projects that give you a broader view of the business.

Here are some other experience areas to consider developing as part of your career path to Chief HR Officer or Chief People Officer:
Business acumen:

A CPO must have a deep understanding of the business they are working in, including its strategy, operations, financials, and industry. This understanding enables the CPO to develop HR strategies that are aligned with the business goals and contribute to the organisation’s success.

Advice: Seek out opportunities to learn about the business by attending leadership meetings, working closely with business leaders, and participating in cross-functional projects.

Talent management:

A CPO must have a strong background in talent management, including recruiting, developing, and retaining top talent. This involves creating effective recruiting strategies, developing training and development programs, and implementing performance management systems.

Advice: Take on projects that focus on improving the talent management function within your organisation. Consider developing new programs to attract and retain top talent, such as employee referral programs or leadership development programs.

Employee engagement:

A CPO must have a deep understanding of employee engagement and be able to develop programs that promote a positive workplace culture. This includes creating programs that improve employee morale, increase employee satisfaction, and reduce turnover.

Advice: Take on projects that focus on improving employee engagement, such as developing employee recognition programs or employee surveys to gather relevant feedback and data points that can influence senior leadership within your business.

Change management:

A CPO must have experience in change management, including the ability to lead and manage change initiatives effectively. This involves developing communication plans, assessing the impact of change on employees, and implementing change management best practices.

Advice: Seek out opportunities to lead change initiatives within your organisation. Consider developing a change management plan for a new initiative or leading a cross-functional team to implement a new HR program.

Data analysis:

A CPO must have a strong background in data analysis, including the ability to analyse HR metrics and use data to make informed decisions. By developing HR metrics, workforce trends, and using data to identify areas for improvement.

Advice: Develop your data analysis skills by taking courses or attending workshops on data analytics. Use can use HR analytics tools to analyse HR metrics within your organisation; such as turnover rates, employee engagement scores, or training and development ROI.


Although it is not a perquisite, most CPO’s I know have a CIPD qualification, a degree in HR, Business Administration, or a related field is typically as the minimum requirement for most HR roles in the UK.

However, to become a CPO, you may need to pursue advanced education such as a Master’s degree in HR, MBA or a related field. An advanced degree provides the knowledge and skills needed to develop HR strategies that align with the business goals.

Advice: Pursue a relevant degree or certification that aligns with your career goals such as an MBA, a Master’s degree in HR, or CIPD.

Develop your leadership skills:

As a CPO, you will be responsible for leading a team of HR professionals and influencing the organisation’s leadership team. Developing leadership skills is crucial to becoming a CPO. This includes the ability to communicate effectively, inspire and motivate others, and lead with empathy and emotional intelligence.

Advice: Look for opportunities to lead teams or projects, attend leadership development programs or conferences. It is important to seek out external guidance either in the form of mentorship from experienced HR leaders or finding a professional coach.

The HR market is constantly changing, and staying informed about industry trends is essential to being a successful CPO. This includes keeping up with changes in employment laws, emerging technologies, and evolving best practices in talent management.

Advice: Join professional HR organisations, attend industry conferences, and read industry publications and blogs.

Build a strong network:

Building a strong network of professional contacts is important in HR. This includes building relationships with other HR professionals, industry experts, and business leaders.

Advice: Attend networking events, join HR-related groups on LinkedIn, and seek out coaching from experienced HR leaders.

  1. Access to Opportunities: Networking opens doors to various opportunities that may not be advertised. Many senior positions, including CPO roles, are often filled through referrals and personal connections. Being well-connected in the industry increases your chances of hearing about these opportunities and being recommended for them.
  2. Knowledge and Learning: Through networking, you can gain valuable insights, information, and knowledge from experienced professionals and industry leaders. This can help you stay updated on the latest trends.
  3. Mentorship and Guidance: Building relationships with senior HR leaders can provide you with support as you progress in your career. Learning from their experiences and receiving advice can be helpful in your journey towards becoming a CPO.
  4. Influence and Collaboration: A strong network allows you to collaborate with other people in your industry. As you climb the corporate ladder, its important to have a strong support system. As well as having people who respect your opinion and who can be advocates for your career growth.
  5. Building Trust and Credibility: Networking allows you to show your skills, knowledge, and achievements to a wider audience. As people get to know you and your work, it helps build trust and credibility, which are vital traits for a CPO who needs to gain buy-in from employees and senior management alike.
  6. Opportunities for Personal Development: Engaging with diverse professionals through networking can expose you to different perspectives, cultures, and leadership styles. This exposure can aid in your personal development and make you a well-rounded HR leader.

How to build a strong network of professional contacts:

  1. Attend Industry Events: Participate in conferences, events, workshops, and HR-related events where you can meet with like-minded professionals.
  2. Join Professional Associations: Become a member of HR-related associations. These groups offer networking events and opportunities to connect with HR leaders.
  3. Utilize Social Media: Platforms like LinkedIn can be powerful tools for expanding your professional network. Connect with colleagues, attend virtual networking events, and engage in discussions and industry groups.
  4. Attend Informal Gatherings: This can be an excellent way to meet people in a more relaxed setting and to form relationships.
  5. Provide Value: Networking is a two-way street. Be willing to offer assistance, share knowledge, and help others in your network. Building genuine relationships based on mutual respect is crucial.
  6. Maintain Relationships: Building a network is not a one-time event. It requires consistent effort and nurturing. Stay in touch with your contacts, congratulate them on their achievements, and be genuinely interested in their success.

Remember that networking is about building meaningful connections, not just collecting business cards. Invest time and effort in fostering authentic relationships…

Over time, your network will become a valuable asset in your journey to becoming a successful CPO.

Our view:

The path to becoming a CPO is a challenging yet rewarding journey that requires a blend of experience, education, and skill development. Aspiring HR leaders must build a strong foundation in human resources.

By taking on diverse and challenging roles that provide exposure to various aspects of the HR function.

Staying informed about industry trends and by building a strong network of professional contacts, HR professionals gain access to various opportunities, mentorship, and valuable insights that contribute to their personal and career growth.

Our focus on long-term partnerships

At re:find Executive Search we believe that recruitment is not a one-off transaction but rather a long-term partnership. By building long-term relationships with our clients, we help them to find and retain the best talent for their organisation.

Every organisation is unique. We feel that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to recruitment.

re:find offer bespoke recruitment solutions, that are tailored to meet the specific needs of each client. Whether you need help with a single hire or a full recruitment campaign, we can help.

We commit to providing our clients with the highest quality service. We take the time to understand your organisation’s culture and values, as well as the specific skills needed for each campaign.

For more information please get in contact with our Managing Director, James Cumming.

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