As society has evolved and consumer wants and needs have expanded, so have C suite jobs.While there is debate about whether or not these new C suite positions are necessary or simply “corporate Kindergarten playtime title-making,” as Mark Stevens, a marketing and management expert and author of Your Marketing Sucks, asserts.1 And while some titles, such as Google’s “VP and Chief Internet Evangelist”2 may seem silly, this shift does mean that more room is being made at the top of the corporate ladder. Any time you’re given the title of “chief”, there is a level of respect that comes along with it, but will there be actual power behind these new titles?
Do we need more than the traditional C suite roles?
Traditionally, C suite positions feature titles like CEO (chief executive officer), COO (chief operating officer), CMO (chief marketing officer), and CIO (chief information officer). For years this structure seemed to work well, but changes within the job market and consumer expectations have led to many companies changing the way they view the C suite structure. With a limited number of positions at the top of the corporate food chain, top talent within companies could start to look elsewhere for upward mobility. This war for top talent within industries led many businesses to the idea that adding new positions at the high end of the management structure would allow them to retain key personnel.
Others believe that they can become a more competitive company by hiring freelancers, cutting out middle management, and keeping more people at the top be the forerunners of the high institutional knowledge and history. It remains to be seen if this structure works across the board, but at the very least it appears to help cut overhead costs.3
In some instances, expanding C suite jobs is not simply to cut out the middle man or to keep high performing employees from leaving. In many cases these new executives are crucial to addressing key areas of an organizations success, reflecting a growing professional specialization among business leaders.4 This bodes well for those who are just starting their MBA journeys, as they can examine certain specialties or focus areas and hone their skills to suit some of these newer niche positions.
New C Suite Positions
While some of these new positions of power seem to be specific to a company, think Google’s “Chief Internet Evangelist”,2 others can be seen across the board. Some of these include but are not limited to:
- Chief Intellectual Property Officer (CIPO): Intellectual property (IP) law is vast and complex, and it’s only getting more complicated as more we continue to push to innovate. While some companies outsource tasks like patent applications, enforcing copyright infringement, and compliance law to a law firm, a core leadership team member who has a legal and business background may be a better fit than an IP lawyer who may not fully understand your brand portfolio.3
- Chief Culture Officer (CCO): A strong and ethical company isn’t just a trend, it’s necessary for achieving a sound business strategy that employees actually buy into. CCOs generally implement initiatives that help the company achieve its goals while also nurturing and fostering strong values in the communities they serve, as well as the lives of its employees. They ensure that all of their employees, from the warehouse to the front lines, feel heard and appreciated.5
- Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO): Knowledge management is still a relatively new discipline but it is on the rise. The CKO’s job is to maximize their company’s value by managing its intellectual capital. They accomplish this by overseeing strategy, planning, analytics, and research capabilities so that they can then bring the collective knowledge and broad experience of the company or firm to the client.1
- Chief Experience Officer (CXO): User experience (UX) used to be an afterthought, but in a day and age where customer experience is becoming a differentiator in the business world, an easy and pleasant experience has become paramount. Technology companies especially need to ensure that their products are intuitive and easy to set up from the moment the customer unboxes them. The CXO should stress the importance of user-focused design and experience to the boardroom, and then make it an integral part of the company goals and culture.5
- Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO): According to Tracy McCarthy, an HR executive at talent management software company SilkRoad, HR becomes more central and strategic when companies view their employees as a competitive advantage.1 As the demand and competition for top talent grow, having a CHRO to help the company identify, attract, develop, and grow talent has become paramount.5
What does it all mean?
So, are these titles just made up positions to pander to top talent and keep them in the corporate family? Or do they actually have a useful function? There’s still debate about this, some say that the only positions with actual power are those that report directly to the CEO, otherwise, they’re just “vanity titles”. Others say that the new titles are mostly meant to signal, internally and/or externally, that the people in the boardroom are listening and affecting change. Bigger companies are more likely to take these new positions seriously, as they have the resources and infrastructure to do so, whereas smaller companies have the ability to get more creative with some of these titles. However, most experts warn that the title, no matter how creative or unique, should reflect the actual job as well as the person’s experience.1
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1. Retrieved on May 30, 2019, from forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2012/01/10/c-is-for-silly-the-new-c-suite-titles/#7dbed03e2a01
2. Retrieved on May 30, 2019, from https://ai.google/research/people/author32412
3. Retrieved on May 30, 2019, from fastcompany.com/3048398/10-c-suite-jobs-of-the-future
4. Retrieved on May 30, 2019, from martechtoday.com/c-suite-titles-join-upper-ranks-ceos-make-growth-digital-transformation-top-priority-205607
5. Retrieved on May 30, 2019, from profilemagazine.com/2018/witness-the-evolution-of-the-c-suite/