Being a CPO – five things I’m pleased I did (part 2)

We recently featured a series about my time as a CPO and regrets around things I could have done better. But now we’re onto things I feel good about.... And if you think this is a bit arrogant, you can go back and read the negative stuff to balance it! Here’s number two.

I’m pleased... I treated people fairly

I moved into one particular CPO role to find a very de-motivated team, with a turnover rate approaching 40%. One immediate observation for that – it is impossible to run a successful professional team with that sort of staff attrition.

One factor that became clear after a few private conversations was that there were definite cliques within the team. That’s not unusual, but one group was strongly identified with a specific senior executive, who had left by the time I joined. The perception, rightly or wrongly, was that decisions on promotions, on bonuses, even on which company car you were allowed, were made partly at least on a “who you knew” basis rather than objectively.

So at an early stage, I stood up at a team meeting and explained that we would promote from within whenever possible; that opportunities would be open to anyone and would be based on structured selection process, with my involvement whatever the level of role; that salary increases and bonus decisions would be made on objective grounds as far as possible, discussed by my management team but I would make all those decisions. Oh yes, and the company car list was non-negotiable.

Whilst it sounded a little megalomaniac perhaps, it said to people that there would be no-one but me to blame if they didn’t like what was happening. No powerful cliques unless I was a clique of one I suppose. So it did defuse some of the existing tensions – and of course it was then necessary for me to live up to the intent and be very objective and structured in how we did HR type decisions. I had to avoid building my own new clique of ‘mates’ as well, which is tough sometimes.

But I do believe it worked. Staff turnover dropped dramatically over the next few months, we had lots of internal promotions although we did recruit externally at junior and middle levels at times. And whilst there was a bit of inevitable moaning at bonus time, it was nothing that couldn’t be handled.

Treat people fairly - it’s such a basic and simple thing, and yet it can have such negative effects when it doesn’t happen.

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