Along with the rise of the chief human resources officer, the many challenges of 2020 spawned new C-suite roles. Only some will become permanent fixtures.
The creation of new executive roles is a standard practice of CEOs faced with daunting new challenges. It can be an effective way to focus resources on urgent matters and bring in new talent. It also communicates that the company is paying attention to a problem and taking action. Some newly minted roles become obsolete once the crisis subsides or the unfamiliar trend becomes part of everyday life. But others, notably the chief sustainability officer, become integral.
It comes as no surprise that the trials and tribulations of 2020 have given rise to several new executive positions, which may or may not have staying power. The chief medical officer has the most potential. Of course, this role was already common in healthcare and life sciences, as well as industries with inherent dangers, such as mining, or where risk is top of mind, as in insurance. But in 2020, organizations in industries ranging from hospitality to technology added health experts to their C-suites. Chief medical officers are crucial for managing issues around sick leave, safety protocols and mental health, to name a few, which are likely to persist for some time.
The pandemic also brought about the emerging role of chief remote officer, responsible for developing and implementing policies and best practices for working from home. There is a need for leadership to manage this transition; however, the more common remote work becomes and the longer it continues, the less guidance companies will require. In all likelihood, the function will move to the domain of human resources.
Though not new, the roles of chief revenue officer and chief growth officer gained momentum as the pandemic’s economic impacts created an urgent need to focus human resources on managing revenue-generating activities. As The Economist notes, “it is bread and butter that continues to preoccupy bosses.” An analysis by LinkedIn found that in the U.S., from January through October, the roles of chief revenue officer and chief growth officer grew by 27% and 42%, respectively, in their proportion of total C-suite hiring.
By far the most dramatic rise seen in 2020 was that of the chief diversity officer, driven by widespread protests against racial injustice in America. The need to ensure a diverse workforce is unquestionable; social issues aside, the benefits to companies are significant and well-documented. However, there is still much progress to be made. Many chief diversity officers, though part of the C-suite in title, are not truly part of the inner circle. The march of progress suggests that this will change, perhaps to the point where the position is no longer needed.