Even as job growth remains sluggish, a refreshing trend among progressive organizations is emerging: treating and investing in your people--your talent--more as assets than expenses. What a concept! Previously I’ve posted my views on the importance of the mindset of that, and today I thought it worthwhile to focus on how to turn that mindset into action.
Many are noting the growing prevalence of the Chief Talent Officer (CTO). Success in setting up and empowering this role can make a significant positive impact on your critical human capital.
Doing it Right
Define: At best, this c-level talent head, whether an internal executive or external provider (for smaller organizations), partners closely with HR, Finance, Business Unit heads, and the entire executive team to design and implement strategies to enhance the organization’s talent: hiring, development, promotion, weeding, and leadership succession. In addition, they should play an ongoing role in assessing, enhancing, and steering the organization's culture, a heavily people-oriented key to sustainable achievement.
(As a divisional C O O in a Fortune 500 company, I was challenged by the absence of this function. As an executive coach working with many organizations, I see the strong, positive effect the CTO can have, and what it looks like when it’s not defined well, or empowered.)
Measure: In fact, simply adding this function to your leadership team doesn’t mean it will add significant value. So it’s important to consider it with the same deliberation and clarity as you would view any serious investment—define measures and ongoing expected return on investment (ROI), and even potentially an ongoing P&L view.
Grant authority: Empowering the person or function to do its job, with budget, decision-making authority, a clear charter, and an equal voice at the leadership table are all success factors to consider.
Profile: For those reasons, I think someone with a business leadership background (e.g., General Management experience) is particularly suited to this type of role. That’s not to preclude other backgrounds, but I would be critical (or maybe careful) about putting someone in the role who had NOT demonstrated a track record of ROI, and an ability to influence for change.
The reason I find it so appealing—in fact it’s a job I would enjoy perhaps as much as executive coaching—is what it says AND does about valuing and believing in your people. So much of the talk about “process simplification” and “knowledge economy” and “higher-skilled workforce” has amounted to doing more with less—downsizing, that an empowered CTO is truly refreshing.
Greg Smith’s critical OpEd in this week’s New York Times “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs” reminded and inspired me to post about this.
Hire or empower your CTO. Putting people before—or at least on par with—product and profit is not only humane, but also smart business, and a key to sustainability.