The CMO of People: The titanic shift from HR to People

A Bridge

Update from Dreamforce: Sage People leaders’ reception, 4th October

On Tuesday night as Dreamforce got into full swing, I was delighted to host a Chief People Officer reception along with our friend and board advisor, Rebecca Janjic Foreman of Heidrick & Struggles.

With the top HR leaders in the Bay area and an incredible view of the Bay to match, we were raring to talk about the shift from HR to people. We think it’s as significant a change in perspective and title as when Personnel turned into HR in the late 80s and 90s. But what’s driving it?

First up, we asked our guests about their own job titles. Only three were Chief People Officers. The rest used HR in their titles in the traditional way. Rebecca shared some research data from her sector recruitment work: only 1% of roles use “people” in their job title and 80% of roles recruited are described as dealing with “HR” and not “people”. Enlightening but not surprising.

But humans are not resources, and it’s beginning to sound like an outdated notion. So what about the idea of a Chief People Officer?

In a fascinating discussion, incisive observations emerged. One posed the idea that the new HR Director is actually the CMO of People because it’s all about the end-to-end experience for employees. People Science is becoming a core responsibility in the function, because of the urgent need to gather and evaluate data to inform recruitment and retention strategy. And it’s not called “HR science.” So, the shift is not just about softening up a function or job title, it reflects both a renewed focus on employee experience rather than process, and the new technology skills that increasingly underpin our decision-making.

The rise of People Science was clearly at the forefront of leaders’ minds. One attendee bemoaned having to draw from 17 different sources to generate vital information. Another commented that cutting-edge business Uber reportedly employs 30 data scientists in HR alone.

Another People Science opportunity is being able to predict those employees at risk of leaving and then determining what could cause them to leave or stay. It just so happens that also this week at Dreamforce, we announced People Analytics; new functionality in our HRMS that harnesses the power of Salesforce Wave Analytics to do exactly that.

It was a thought-provoking and energising evening for everyone and we went our separate ways excited about how technology is driving our professional focus from HR to People, delivering potentially game-changing benefits to our organizations’ business performance.

Find out more about how Sage People’s HRMS is supporting the emergence of People Science by leveraging the latest Salesforce tech innovation.

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