The New CXO: These Are the Titles Changing the Corporate Landscape for Tomorrow

Photo Credit: iStock, Mek Frinchaboy

By Lindsey Galloway

The big three — CEO, COO, and CFO — once ruled the C-Suite, but today's corner offices are expanding to include more roles than ever before. In fact, a recent analysis by LinkedIn, found 51 unique C-Suite titles, which reflect the changing priorities of leadership at the highest levels.

The time has never been better for women to claim their rightful seat at this growing table. Research by Deloitte shows that women are as much as 10% more likely to hold roles within the ''emerging C-Suite'' versus traditional C-Suite roles. Women already tend to spend more of their time doing the work in emergent areas like sustainability, equity, and creating a hybrid work culture; one McKinsey study found that women were in fact twice as likely to spend time on DEI work as their male counterparts, even when it was outside the scope of their normal job responsibilities.

That leadership work is finally being more formally recognized in the form of new positions across organizations. Here are a few of the fastest growing new C-Suite roles, and a few roles of the future, that women leaders can step into today to be ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

The Power of Purpose

Employees, investors, and other stakeholders (including the general public) have put more pressure on companies to clearly define their purpose and play a larger role in addressing societal issues, like racial and environmental justice. That change in priority has shown up at the top levels of leadership.

The C-Suite title that saw the most growth by far from 2020 to 2021 according to LinkedIn was the role of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and its variants, seeing 111% year-over-year growth. The number is up from an already fast-growing 84% from 2020 in reaction to George Floyd's murder. This shows that companies are continuing to prioritize the need for enacting real and lasting reform across industries, not just in relation to racial bias but also for corporate governance and environmental impact.

Despite not driving revenue, these non-financial roles nonetheless impact key areas of the business, particularly when it comes to talent attraction and retention. In a recent Deloitte survey of C-Suite leaders, 79% said their companies had a clear purpose-driven strategy that permeates through everything that they do.  Roles like Chief Sustainability or Chief Purpose Officer therefore are emerging titles that could help this integration — especially as the generational makeup of corporations is changing. 

''As more millennials and Gen Z come into positions of power within organizations, they're placing more of a focus on environmental issues than these companies had previously,'' said Mary Nitschke, VP of Sustainability at RealPage. And these positions actually matter when it comes to real impact. ''Companies with an ESG-focused leader tend to perform significantly better than those without one.''

Divesting From Departments

The C-Suite has also seen new roles emerge that aim to improve communication and strategy across the traditional siloed departmental roles like marketing, sales, and technology. Growing at 43% and 38% year-over-year respectively, titles like Chief Growth Officer and Chief Customer Officer have been popular titles to better connect external facing customer roles to internal strategy.

Mandy Edmund, Partner at recruiting firm SwingSearch, has been seeing a lot more Chief Customer Experience Officer roles in her recruitment efforts, especially for roles that might have once been more marketing focused. ''More and more, marketing is thinking through every touchpoint on the customer journey,'' she says. ''The role answers the question of ‘How are we treating our customers across every touch point?''' 

Chief Data Officer has also been a role on the rise, growing 29% year-over-year, which typically bridges technology with other areas of the business. As privacy regulations continue to become law, the role has also shifted from its original analytics and business metrics focus to one that involves more data compliance and governance. Even more granular, the title Chief Privacy Officer gives more formal authority and prioritization to this growing business need.

As companies look to stay relevant and on-trend, titles like Chief Metaverse Officer might be the next big thing connecting the real world with the virtual one. Fashion houses and brands are dipping their toe in the water by hiring for two-year consultants and positions, but a full-blown C-Suite title might be next.

Solving People Problems

While it was once thought that pandemic-related workplace shifts would be temporary, companies now recognize the ways that work has permanently changed and have created and expanded certain roles to better serve its employees.

The role of Chief People Officer has never been more important, continuing to grow 61% year-over-year. The HR-focused role has expanded to include important duties like managing a remote or hybrid workforce, mental health initiatives for employees, and attracting and retaining talent amid the Great Resignation. ''These roles focus internally on total rewards to keep your employees engaged and happy, and ensure you have the best benefits in this war of talent,'' says Edmund.

Those responsibilities, however, may be fractioned off into their own C-Suite roles with the rise of the Chief Wellness Officer — most prominent in the medical field — which specifically addresses employees' mental, physical, emotional, and financial needs in a comprehensive way. The Chief Remote Officer dials into the complexities of a distributed workforce, by managing compensation, culture, and cybersecurity. Futurist Marian Salzman, author of the forthcoming The New Megatrends, sees one role potentially bringing it all together: the Chief Cohesion Officer. ''As organizations and employees experiment with infinite permutations of hybrid working, cohesion agents will bring the scattered parts together,'' she says. ''Their impact will show up in key metrics of talent retention and employee satisfaction ratings.''

The View From the Top

This expanded C-Suite creates new leadership opportunities across many different areas of expertise, allowing more voices to have a seat at the table. Women already do so much of the work in these fields, it's only fair they step up to claim the authority that these new roles provide. By advocating for and applying for these types of roles, rising leaders can shape the C-Suite into one that finally represents everyone.

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