Jamie Hoobanoff is founder and chief executive officer of The Leadership Agency, a Toronto-based recruitment firm.
There’s rapid growth happening in the C-suite, and these changes reflect more than just the placement of a few more chairs around the head table.
The emerging job titles that are appearing at the very top of the org chart tell us a great deal about the pressure many organizations are feeling to secure the leadership talent they need. The real story is what these newly created executive roles reveal about the changing culture of work itself right now.
LinkedIn recently published a study of the fastest growing C-suite job titles from 2015 through 2019. Chief growth officer led the pack with an increase of 42 per cent over those four years.
However, what’s most telling is the rapidly increasing number of C-level leaders being given a seat at the table in order to manage relationships.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that chief people officer had the second greatest increase since 2015, with 32-per-cent growth.
The CPO is more than just the highest-ranking member of the human resources department. Giving the head of HR a chief job title is evidence of the elevation of human resources itself as a key part of an organization’s leadership team. Decisions involving people and culture have a vital impact on organizational success and must be considered at the very top levels.
Some relatively new titles to appear on the LinkedIn study’s top 10 roles for rapid growth over the past four years include chief experience officer (up 27 per cent), chief customer officer (up 22 per cent) and chief diversity officer (up 17 per cent). The CDO is also often known as the CDIO – chief diversity and inclusion officer.
Notably, all of these are leadership positions that are involved in the careful curation of relationships with internal and external stakeholders. The chief officers of human capital. People matter.
While the chief people officer, in particular, is concerned with shaping the overall culture of an organization, a variation on this is the fast-rising role of chief talent officer. The CTO (not to be confused with chief technology officer) is hyper-focused on the organization’s internal and external talent-acquisition planning, particularly for strategic and leadership roles.
Especially in the red-hot and ever-evolving tech industry, but also across most sectors in the current competitive labour market, having a key decision-maker analyzing trends for future shortages and long-term goals to ensure the necessary skills are in place can be vital to an organization’s viability.
More and more companies are grasping the idea that specialized leadership is an asset. Diversifying the pool of decision makers at the top leads to more successful outcomes.
So while it’s interesting to note the fastest growing C-suite job titles – as the LinkedIn study documented – and to observe the expanding variety, the real story is the changing attitude towards leadership itself.
For one thing, true leadership involves recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses. While the chief executive officer sits at the head of the table, they may not be the strongest marketer, recruiter or the most technically proficient. Hence the need for a dedicated chief brand officer, chief people officer and chief information officer.
Incidentally, that realization – that founders and initial leaders need help with decision-making outside of their own areas of expertise – is one of the biggest growing pains that startups and emerging organizations often face.
Given the growing concern for corporate social responsibility among stakeholders from customers and clients to current and future staff, companies are increasingly appointing a chief sustainability officer to take ownership of the organization’s reputation and impact. The list goes on and on.
Another noteworthy trend that is contributing to the sea change in the C-suite is the competitive labour market itself. From established enterprise brands to disruptive startups, there is increased competition for leadership talent. How can organizations identify and recruit the best of the best?
One more key factor of a successful leader is the desire to lead. In order to attract and engage with this sought-after leadership talent, it can be essential to provide them with the opportunity to take ownership of their area of expertise and to make a real impact on the organization’s success. This means offering them a seat at the head table – a C-level job title.
People, diversity, data, information and so on – these changes in C-suite job titles mirror evolving trends in the workplace and our broader culture. What successful companies need to be good at. Where leadership is needed.
While CEO, chief financial officer and chief operating officer are still the most common chief-level job titles and have traditionally been a company’s most pivotal roles, they can’t do it all. And since leadership expertise in a rapidly expanding array of specializations is becoming vital not only for growth but also for the survival of organizations – and competition for that vital talent is high – the rising number of C-suite job titles appearing on the market shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
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