Outlook for the Chief Diversity Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a CDO

The good news for those looking to enter or level up in the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) role is that it is a growing role. The not-as-good news is concern that having the role in place is not enough for organizations to effectively rise to the challenge of diversity and inclusion. “Hiring a chief diversity officer is not a silver bullet for a diversity problem,” writes Alison DeNisco Rayome on TechRepublic,” and organizations require cultural changes over time to increase inclusivity. In addition, many CDOs say they lack the support, resources, data, and clout to make a real difference.

A 2018 report by Russell Reynolds, “A Leader’s Guide: Finding and Keeping Your Next Chief Diversity Officer, notes that 47 percent of companies on the S&P 500 index currently have a chief diversity officer or equivalent. Driving the role’s growth, in part, is the research-backed recognition that a diverse workforce boosts a company’s revenue. A 2018 McKinsey study, using 2017 data, found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on their executive teams were 35 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

The CDO role has also garnered significant attention on college campuses. George Leef points out that over the last several decades “the number of college administrators has grown far more than the numbers of students and faculty,” and the highest growth has been in diversity officials. “Chief diversity officers attempt to institutionalize diversity in higher education,” says Rhonda Brown, CDO at Occidental College.

The majority of CDOs come from a background in diversity and inclusion or human resources, while some come from other functional areas, such as sales and marketing, management consulting, and the legal field. “The key is that they have demonstrated interest in doing work that helps the organization toward a diverse and inclusive culture,” says H. Wes Pratt, a CDO profiled by Taryn Oesch.

For bite-sized looks at what CDOs at nine well-known companies have been up to, see Selena Templeton’s article in ITSP magazine.

 

Key Competencies for the CDO Role

The minimum education requirement for a CDO is typically a master’s degree. A doctorate is sometimes required, especially for university CDOs. Prospective CDOs usually have 5-10 years of experience, although the Russell Reynolds report noted that 63 percent of CDOs in its study have been appointed or promoted to their roles in the past three years.

Persuasive communication skills are critical for CDOs, as they will likely need to attain buy-in for their initiatives. Some of these additional CDO competencies and characteristics were suggested by the report “Creating a Competency Model for Diversity and Inclusion Practitioners,” by Indra Lahiri for The Conference Board:

  • Change management
  • D&I [diversity and inclusion, also sometimes expressed as “DEI,” for diversity, equity, and inclusion] expertise and global perspective
  • Business acumen
  • Strategic mindset
  • Integrity
  • Visionary, resilient leadership
  • Conflict management
  • Political savvy
  • Collaboration
  • Influence without authority
  • Innovative problem solving
  • Ability to navigate corporate culture
  • Ability to showcase ROI for diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • HR competencies (total rewards, talent management, organizational development, work and life balance, training, compliance, and employee relations)

Level-Up Tips

Chief Human Resources Officer is often the next step for CDOs; in higher education, the CDO role can pave a path to college president. Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CDO role, expand their horizons in an existing CDO role, or even rise beyond the CDO role:

  • Crusade to prioritize diversity and inclusion. As noted, many CDOs feel stymied by the C-Suite’s failure to prioritize diversity and inclusion. “Many D&I initiatives are disconnected from business priorities, and CDOs often lack the necessary resources or organizational support to make lasting changes,” notes the Russell Reynolds report. The report also found that CDOs can significantly affect D&I success, particularly when they have the authority and skills to set D&I strategy. When the CDO is vaguely defined, it’s easy for the executive team to not take it seriously. Thus, a new CDO should deploy diplomatic, political, and persuasive skills to push for a well-defined role and high priority for diversity and inclusion. Understanding the business and the social environment can help in cultivating influence.
  • Build working relationships with top leaders at the organization. Developing a deep understanding of the business and the types of challenges that you face will also help you build credibility and trusting relationships with other leaders. “Ensuring that CDOs have the ability to influence and enact change is crucial,” states the 2017 report, “The Critical First Year: What New Chief Diversity Officers Need to Succeed,” by Charlene Aguilar and Jennifer Bauer. That ability won’t come solely from building relationships, but those connections comprise a good start. The organization must understand that the CDO isn’t a superhero or knight in shining armor; establishing a diverse and inclusive culture is a team effort. Nicole Roach writes about having gone on a listening tour when she first began her position as associate vice president for diversity and inclusion of Webster University.
  • Be a change agent. Simply managing change will not be enough to get the job done for most CDOs. “In the most successful cases,”” the Russell Reynolds report states, “the CDO is galvanizing the leadership team around a shared change mandate that leads to defined outcomes.”
  • Make the most of your first year on the job. Strategize early successes – and be clear about how your organization is measuring success.

CDO Trends to Watch

  • The definition of diversity broadens. Increasingly, the scope of diversity is spreading beyond gender and ethnicity and into areas such as age and sexual preference. Kayla Kozan observes that aging populations and greater numbers of workers people delaying retirement, age discrimination is gaining particular attention.
  • Executive leadership itself is becoming more diverse. Noting that companies like Netflix, M&T Bank and Uber all increased diverse leadership within their organizations, Janice Gassam stated in Forbes, “more diverse leadership representation is a good indication that companies are beginning to understand the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
  • Companies increasingly use data to measure the effectiveness of diversity initiatives. Among the resources many CDOs say they are deprived of is data. “One of the big bottlenecks for increasing workplace diversity has been relying on practices that sound good on the surface but haven’t proven to be very effective,” Kozan asserts. To reverse these practices, companies will equip CDOs with the data they need.
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Outlook for the Chief Product Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a CPO

The relatively new Chief Product Officer (CPO) role has been entering the C-Suite in significant numbers and is often the result of company growth. Google, CNN, Uber, and Forbes are among well-known companies with CPOs (not to be confused with another CPO, Chief Procurement Officer). The role is closely related to, and sometimes overlaps with, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Marketing Officer. The role functions at the intersection of tech, user requirements, and business requirements, says Tess Bennett, who profiled several CPOs in 2017 and who notes that “CPOs are emerging in industries that are delivering value through digital products.”

One definition of the role comes from an incumbent, Tom Willerer, CPO at Coursera, who was profiled by Sharon Florentine: “My job is to take my deep consumer understanding,” Willerer says, “and apply that to build a product to satisfy, delight, and be useful to people all around the world.” He notes that he is “constantly curating and executing a vision” of what product means to his company. CPOs strive for product engagement aimed at attaining business success.

Most CPOs report to the CEO. In an article about lessons learned as a CPO, Sylvester Kaczmarek observes that CPOs oversee all product-related matters from conception and development to innovation and eventual launch. “The CPO also ensures that the product would attract sales and ultimately generate profit for the business,” Kaczmarek says. CPOs develop product concept, strategy, design, development, and marketing and influence production, distribution, and procurement departments, he says.

Key Competencies for the CPO Role

A bachelor’s degree may be adequate for a job as CPO; Willerer suggests courses in project management, planning, business, management, design theory and design thinking, marketing, advertising, and sales, noting that management and soft skills are also vital for CPOs. Asked by the site IDG Connect to name three skills or abilities he looks for in prospective CPO candidates, Paul Trulove with SailPoint said, “the ability to communicate, technical and functional expertise in the job, and a track record of being able to process and tackle challenging situations.”

When preparing career communications to send to employers, those aspiring to the CPO role should emphasize these qualities:

  • Vision and ability to communicate that vision, as well as the ability to communicate across various functions, such as design, engineering, marketing, and user research
  • Hyper-focus on customer needs
  • Evangelistic marketing
  • Research and analysis
  • Tech-savvy and software-proficiency
  • Innovative problem solving
  • Product development
  • Trend-awareness
  • Design thinking

Level-Up Tips

Pointing out that the CEO of Instagram rose from a CPO-like role (VP of Product), writer Shane Schick predicted that “proving yourself as a CPO may soon become one of the quickest paths to the top.” A typical career path in the product realm looks like this, according to Dana Solomon at ProductPlan: Associate Product Manager to Product Manager to Senior Product Manager to Director of Product to VP of Product to Chief Product Officer, and beyond. Alternate paths are also possible, Duncan Malcolm points out, listing such roles as lead product manager/principal product manager, contract product manager, consultant product manager, and specialist product manager.

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CPO role, expand their horizons in an existing CPO role, or even rise beyond the CPO role:

  • Determine if a company is product-centric or sales-driven. If you’re looking to make your mark in a top product position in a company new to you, you’ll be happier in a product-driven company. Companies that develop a product but fail to invest in it, instead investing resources in sales, are not product-centric, says Jeetu Patel, CPO of Box, in Bennett’s article.
  • Don’t be discouraged from the role if you lack a tech background. “It can be helpful to have a technical background, but it’s not entirely necessary.” That’s the observation of P.K. Agarwal, as quoted in Florentine’s article. “Agarwal says understanding that three departments – design, analytics/data, and engineering – must “coordinate efforts to design, develop and build a winning product and a successful CPO must be able to manage all those effectively” is more important than a tech background.
  • CPO is an excellent opportunity for women product leaders. The CPO position represents an excellent opportunity, points out Shelley Parry, operating partner at Insight, for women product leaders to step into the gap that has occurred because the emergent quality of project leadership has reduced the pool of available talent. “My advice to women is to take action and position yourselves to take advantage of an open and growing opportunity,” Parry advises. Mary Clark, Chief Product Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Synchronoss, adds that aspiring female CPOs should “listen to their instincts and have confidence,” particularly with regard to conflict resolution. While opportunities are promising for women, not surprisingly female product managers earn less than their male counterparts.
  • Be hungry and curious. Box’s Patel says he looks for product leaders with hunger and curiosity. “Without enough of those characteristics, even the smartest or most technical person on the planet won’t do things the way they need to be done,” he says.

CPO Trends to Watch

  • Product teams are starting to report in greater numbers to a CPO, instead of to marketing. Jake Sorofman reports in The State of Product Leadership 2019 that in 2018, Chief Marketing Officers were the main role overseeing product management by a wide margin. That’s still the case, but the margin is shrinking, with an almost 7% increase in reporting to a chief product officer or equivalent in 2019.
  • Understanding of systems thinking increases. “As product managers, we can no longer just stay in our lanes or keep our heads down,” notes Rosemary King. “Our first order of business is to understand the ecosystems of our customers, organizations, and products, and how they all affect each other.” As director of training products for Mind the Product Training, King has noticed increased interest in systems-thinking training.
  • Customers guide decisions. Sorofman cited concern about a tendency in the recent past for product decisions to be informed “more often by competitors than by customers.” Happily, Sorofman says, the pendulum has now swung back to customers as guides.
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Outlook for the Chief Procurement Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a CPO

The Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) role has broadened in the face of digitalization. The CPO role has morphed beyond a cost-cutting function to one that seeks new, strategic ways to create value – so much so that that some experts have suggested changing the title to Chief Value Officer or Chief Purpose Officer.

While the procurement industry lacks a common definition for the CPO, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) defines the job this way: “The identification, acquisition, access, positioning and management of resources the organization needs or potentially needs in the attainment of its strategic objectives.” On the site Spend Matters (an excellent resource for CPOs, by the way), Pierre Mitchell and Michael Lamoureux characterize the CPO as the “highest ranking leader in the organization that has the accountability and authority to influence this supply (and the third-party spending disbursed to acquire that supply) across the organization.” The authors note that CPOs typically report to the COO, CFO, or CEO (16 percent report to the top officer). Only 9 percent of procurement organizations have a CPO who is part of the C-suite.

CPOs tend to have worked their way up from procurement or finance roles; an alternate route is via management consulting that focuses on procurement or processes. Some advance into top operational roles, such as CFO and COO, after serving as CPOs.

Key Competencies for the CPO Role

The minimum education requirement for the role of CPO is typically a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s degree in finance, supply-chain management, or procurement – or an MBA – will enhance a candidate’s marketability. Some CPOs have advanced degrees in technical areas, such as engineering. A number of certification programs also are available in the field. Organizations typically seek at least 15 years in management, with a significant portion of that involving managing purchasing and procurement departments. Developing relationships with suppliers while advancing toward CPO can be an advantage.

Leadership and communication skills are a given for CPOs. In your career-marketing communications, showcase the additional CPO competencies and characteristics on this list you possess:

  • Procurement-development and budgeting skills
  • Ability to identify cost-reduction opportunities
  • Ability to select and manage cutting-edge procurement systems
  • Strategic thinking and problem-solving
  • Analytical mind
  • Risk-management knowledge
  • Business skills, especially in finance and accounting as applied to budgeting, cost management, financial accounting, treasury, and risk management
  • Strong negotiating skills
  • Collaborative and team-building skills, especially with IT, finance, HR, and legal
  • Solid operational management and general business skills and savvy
  • Change-management skills
  • Knowledge of enterprise risk management and business continuity planning

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CPO role, expand their horizons in an existing CPO role, or even rise beyond the CPO role:

  • Be sure you fit the culture. The lack of cultural fit in which “the culture of the CPO does not fit with other senior managers, perhaps his or her immediate boss or maybe the wider stakeholder group,” is one of the top 3 reasons CPOs are fired, reports Peter Smith on Spend Matters (the other reasons are lack or results and deficient strategic alignment). Whether you’re climbing the ladder into a CPO role or moving from one CPO role to another, you can pre-empt lack of cultural fit through careful research and observation in the job-search stage. Learn as much as you can about an organization in which you are interested in serving as CPO. Consider informational interviews before you even apply for a job. Talk to members of your network who work for the organization to get a feel for the culture and whether you fit. Ask questions in job interviews, and ask if you can talk with members of the team you’d be working with.
  • Make an impact in your first hundred days. KPMG lays out a detailed plan for success in a CPO’s first hundred days on the job, suggesting that a new CPO focus on three key aspects:
    • understanding the culture and environment (see above point about culture), the role, and the stakeholders;
    • managing communication, business expectations, and change;
    • developing a compelling vision and plan.
  • Sharpen your skills and expertise in risk management. Deloitte’s Global CPO survey 2018 lists risk management as one of three top priorities for CPOs (new products/market development and reducing costs are the others). Indeed, companies are scrutinizing the supplier stability, considering the survival of specific suppliers, as well as the possible effect of natural disasters and geopolitical events.
  • Become a master of procurement technology. The Deloitte report notes a relatively low use level of technologies such as predictive analytics and collaboration networks, with just a third of procurement leaders deploying these digital approaches. Given technology’s role in transforming the CPO’s ability to lower costs and aid collaboration with suppliers, CPOs and prospective CPOs ready to use these technologies will stand out. Indeed, blogger Alexia Antuzzi affirms, “in the coming years, we’ll see the further evolution in next-generation digital procurement. It’s imperative that CPOs start (or continue the pursuit of) their digital procurement journey now to ensure they’re not left behind in the race for competitive advantage.”

CPO Trends to Watch

  • The CPO becomes more of a strategic partner. So says Antuzzi, noting that “the role of cost-killer is rapidly giving way to critical business partner.” CPOs are now expected to deliver value across the entire organization.
  • Strong supplier relationships gain in importance. CPOs are using technology to better understand supplier processes, reports, Killian McCarthy, sales director for SoftCo. McCarthy recommends creating a supplier strategy and deploying technology for supplier onboarding, managing data, creating an intuitive supplier catalog, tracking, purchase orders and invoices, and communicating with suppliers. Procurement teams, advises blogger Malvi Goyal, should involve suppliers in strategic decisions from the initial planning phase on.
  • Digital transformation slowly makes its way into the procurement world. Like all aspects of business, procurement is affected and enhanced by digital transformation. Vollmer, however, identifies roadblocks to this transformation – in the form of budget restrictions, talent shortages, and more. Most CPOs believe these technologies will improve procurement performance but must find the resources to implement them in procurement operations.
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Outlook for the Chief Creative Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up

The watchword for the Chief Creative Officer role is “change.” Headlines of articles about the role often refer to “evolution,” a “murky future,” and a function redefined by digital transformation. Some practitioners note the role has become more collaborative and that it veers more toward the marketing function than in the past.

The title of Chief Creative Officer (CCO) is frequently applied in large advertising and other creative agencies, but it also applies to an executive role in companies such as GE, Target, Best Buy, General Mills, Microsoft, and Chobani. The role evolved as creative content went online and became more pervasive and important, motivating large brands to bring the creative function in house. In essence, Chief Creative Officers oversee an organization’s creative output, which may include marketing, media, and branding.

Because the Chief Creative Officer’s purview often includes responsibility for the overall look and feel of creative content, the role can overlap that of Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Communication Officer, or Chief Branding Officer. Forbes journalist Jason Compton calls the role, “leadership at the intersection of ideas and commerce,” suggesting that blending creativity and commerce can be dicey.

Gain insight into the Chief Creative Director role by reading this Lifehacker “How I Work” feature about Squarespace Chief Creative Officer David Lee and his shortcuts, workspaces, and routines, and an interview with Anjelika Temple, Chief Creative Officer at Brit+Co, who discusses such topics as the skills top creative leaders need to succeed and Temple’s biggest creative challenge to date.

Key Competencies for the CCO Role

Writing on the AllBusiness site, writes Courtney Feider suggests the CCO leads change management, “setting up strategic and thoughtful creative disruption, and implementing it with a process.”

In your career-marketing communications, showcase these additional Chief Creative Officer competencies you possess:

  • Creativity, innovativeness, and the ability to imbue an organization-wide culture of creativity
  • Abroad background combined with the ability to manage a team of specialists
  • Collaborative across silos
  • Ability to inspire new business strategy
  • Solid grasp of analytics
  • Quick adaptability
  • Leadership skills, including the ability to lead change management.
  • Drive to cultivate creativity throughout the organization

See also Top 50 Chief Creative Officer Skills.

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the Chief Creative Officer role, expand their horizons in an existing CCO role, or even rise beyond the Chief Creative Officer role:

  • Don’t sweat educational requirements. The role of Chief Creative Director tends to have lighter educational requirements than other top-executive roles. While some CCOs hold a Master of Fine Arts degree, others in the role have only an associate’s degree. If you are interested in the CCO role, you may be heartened to know that people in this role come from diverse backgrounds, and no single list of hard-and-fast qualifications exists. You may be able to break in based on reputation, stellar past accomplishments, and your ability to show how your creativity will enable you to deliver results to your next employer.
  • Be sure the total organization is behind you. That advice comes from Jay Haines, founder of a creative recruiting firm, as quoted by blogger Adrianne Pasquarelli. Haines also suggested “CCOs need the support of management and a sponsor in the executive office to truly succeed.”
  • Know how to blend strategic business objectives, marketplace attraction, staff engagement, and company innovation to create results. “Using branding know-how and the history of what resonates with customers,” writes Feider,“ a CCO can uncover detailed audience segmentation by individual marketplace connection and help match up the differentiators, artistry, and assets of the product to the audience’s need.” Feider asserts that the Chief Creative Officer role comprises leadership advising, strategizing, and igniting creative thought, suggesting that organizations not using their CCOs in this way are missing out.
  • Use the role to generate creativity throughout the organization. Fieder cites Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, whose client received 55 percent more new ideas after Epstein trained the staff in core creative competencies. That level of innovation is bound to impress the C-Suite.
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Outlook for the Chief Operations Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a COO

Google search results for “COO trends” include the 2011 Harvard Business Review article, “The Rise of the COO,” immediately followed by the Forbes 2015 article, “The Decline of the COO.” Which is it? This article explores the state of the Chief Operations Officer (COO) role, as well as providing suggestions for those aspiring to the role.

SAP COO Dave Spencer on CIO.com refutes any decline, noting the COO role has “never been more important.” Spencer asserts, “the function of COO has evolved to become not just about resources and efficiencies, but about people, collaboration, and empowerment.”

The COO is often seen as something of a partner to the CEO; in fact, some experts suggest the individuals holding these two roles should have personalities that complement each other so the COO is a “counterbalance” to the CEO. Because of this tight partnership, the question arises whether the COO outranks other C-suite officers. Generally, all officers report to the CEO, even as the COO is considered second in command. COOs may also have additional functions, such as marketing, attached to their roles.

Research by Nathan Bennett and Stephen A. Miles in Harvard Business Review reveals seven types of roles for COOs in relation to CEOs: Executor of the management team’s strategies; change agent who facilitates organizational transformation; mentor, perhaps guiding a less experienced CEO; “the other half,” who complements and balances the CEO; a partner working as half of a pair with the CEO; heir apparent expected to eventually take over for the CEO; and MVP, a superstar placed in the COO role to keep him or her from being lured by other organizations. (Hint: Becoming a superstar in your organization will increase your chances of becoming COO).

While Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is one of the world’s most famous COOs, the role appears not particularly welcoming to women, though exact statistics are hard to come by.

COOs oversee day-to-day operations of key departments, develop procedures and processes to keep those operations running smoothly, and update the CEO with key operational information. The incumbent may also oversee the human-resources function.

Key Competencies for the COO Role

The role of COO is possible with just a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s degree, especially an MBA, will add to the individual’s marketability. Those without an MBA may want to consider an online short course offering an operations-management certification. Organizations typically seek at least 15 years in management, with a significant portion of that also involving staffing or HR.

More than for other C-Suite roles, experts suggest humility and lack of ego for COOs. The reasons are unclear, but they may relate to the idea of counterbalancing the CEO, given that CEOs don’t usually have humble reputations.

Leadership skills are a given for COOs. In your career-marketing communications, showcase the additional COO competencies and characteristics on this list you possess:

  • Cross-departmental knowledge
  • International experience
  • Flexibility
  • Thinking that is both strategic and detailed
  • Courageous and data-driven decision-making
  • Sociability, an appreciation for talent, and a passion for performance
  • Acumen in both business and financial management
  • Excellent written, oral, and client-facing communication skills 

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the COO role, expand their horizons in an existing COO role, or even rise beyond the COO role:

  • Get to the meat of the job. Alexander Tuff, COO and head of strategy at Winged Keel Group describes his cluelessness of the job upon being appointed as COO in charge of 600 people at CIT Group, even after 15 years of “skill accumulation.” Three COO roles later, Tuff identified key functions of a good COO:
    • Fill leadership gaps
    • Fix big issues
    • Execute core strategy in concert with senior leadership.

“Most importantly,” Tuff advises, “a COO needs to be an effective communicator and collaborator with whom people want to work.”

  • Take advantage of situations in which an effective COO is critical to an organization’s governance. While Gary L. Neilson wrote in 2015 of the decline of the COO role, he cited situations would-be COOs might be able to capitalize on:
    • When companies want to show they have a handle on succession planning by appointing a COO as heir-apparent to the CEO.
    • When the CEO needs to place an unusually strong emphasis on strategic concerns.
    • As previously mentioned, when a counterbalance of skills and personalities between COO and CEO is called for. Spencer notes that CEOs are increasingly expected to be the public faces of their organizations. That means COOs must step into representing the company to employees.

If you seek an internal promotion to COO, keep your eyes and ears open to tap into these potential situations. If you seek a COO role from outside, rely on research and your network to keep you informed of compatible opportunities.

  • People come first. People may not immediately come to mind when we think of “operations,” but the COO role, says Spencer, needs to go beyond “resources and efficiencies” and instead should focus on “people, collaboration, and empowerment.” Spencer adds that “trust has become the driving metric for the modern COO.”
  • Consider one or more interim COO positions. Desmond Pieri has built an entire career as an interim CEO and COO, completing 25 such roles since 2000. As he points out in his blog [https://changeagentdes.com/] about his experiences, “most startup CEOs in high-growth mode would love having a COO, but they don’t want the long-term addition to payroll.” The typical reason Pieri is hired as an interim COO, he says, is “when a CEO wants more bandwidth for a period of time, often during a period of rapid growth.”
  • Know that the COO role provides a solid path to CEO. As of 2015, Forbes reported, 44 percent of current CEOs were COOs before climbing to the top of the ladder. 

COO Trends to Watch

  • Greater responsibility at greater speed. The plates of COOs grow ever fuller, and the expected speed with which initiatives need to be implemented is increasing. In the banking industry, for example, more than 90 percent of COOs in a study believed initiatives and projects under their purview had increased during the past 3 years, with 75 percent also citing an increase in expected implementation speed in the same period (from “COO Agenda 2020—Trends and Need for Action in Banking from A COO Perspective,” by Ehlerding, Herkert, Willbold-Majling, Müller, and Neuberger.)
  • COO as driver of digitalization of business processes. More work at greater speed requires end-to-end process optimization. Ehlerding et al suggest the COO therefore needs to act as driver of digitalization of business processes.
  • Growth of companies in both size and complexity raises operational challenges. Strong COOs are needed to connect the dots among technology, finance, and leadership needs.
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Outlook for the Chief Communications Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a CCO

Chief Communications Officer (CCO), a relative newcomer to the C-Suite, is often characterized as a more contemporary name for Public Relations Officer. But since, arguably, corporate communications has changed more since the turn of this century than just about any other organizational function, the CCO role is viewed as increasingly strategic and important while encompassing much more than public relations.

Social media leads the list of changes affecting corporate communication, with CCOs, as Patrick Hanley describes, “aggressively and proactively manag[ing] their brand narrative in a digital ecosystem where organizations lack control of how they’re talked about online.” Forbes Communications Council member Lou Casale adds that in the current climate, “any public comment can be misinterpreted or misrepresented, causing damage to a business’s reputation and brand.”

Other changes include globalization, a 24/7 news cycle that cries out for immediacy, increasing importance of corporate social responsibility, the growth of branding and reputation management, a mandate for proactive and immediate crisis communication, and the need for a consistent, cohesive message and communication strategy. Hanley notes that CCOs are “guardians of company culture, values, and beliefs,” organizational elements often most effectively conveyed through stories. “The CCO helps the organization connect the dots of vision, purpose, values, beliefs and strategy to express the company’s character in a story that will resonate with its customers,” Casale writes. Some organizations even have Chief Storytelling Officers.

Just over a third of CCOs report to the CEO, with the rest reporting to other C-Suite officers, including 12 percent who report to Chief Marketing Officers. CCOs are often corporate-communication directors/VPs or public-relations directors/VPs before stepping into the CCO role.

Key Competencies for the CCO Role

In seeking a CCO, organizations look for individuals with 10 years of experience in a given sector. In 2017, McKinsey studied job postings for CCOs, identifying these as the most mentioned competencies for the role: Team orientation, collaborative approach, negotiation skills, mentoring abilities, versatility, credibility, and relationship-building skills. A bachelor’s degree is often a sufficient foundation for this role, though some employers prefer a master’s degree (about a quarter of CCOs hold a master’s degree).

Role-specific competencies are also needed for CCOs. In your career-marketing communications, showcase the additional CCO competencies and characteristics on this list you possess:

  • Communications skill, including solid writing
  • Ability to spot trends early
  • Talent-management skills
  • Stakeholder management
  • Team leadership
  • Strategic thinking
  • Media and social-media knowledge
  • Capabilities in research and metrics
  • Public-relations and storytelling skills
  • Crisis-communication skills
  • Courage to step up “to address difficult issues, saying what needs to be said” (identified by almost half – 49 percent – of CCOs from Fortune 500 companies surveyed by Korn Ferry).

 Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CCO role, expand their horizons in an existing CCO role, or even rise beyond the CCO role:

  • Be able to answer the “what” and “how” questions. A report from the Arthur W. Page Society examining the CCO role suggests that CCOs should be able to describe “What value do we create?” and “How do we create it?”
  • Look for organizations that lack a consistent message and don’t already have a CCO. Is the user experience of visiting a given organization’s website consistent with talking to customer service, visiting the company’s retail or physical space, and following the organization on social media? Carving a niche for yourself based on an employer’s shortcomings is a delicate proposition, but the lack of a consistent message and experience can point to the need to create a CCO role. Carefully proposing such a role to an organization without being overly critical can be an effective path to the CCO position.
  • Aspire to be an elite corporate-affairs executive. A Korn-Ferry study of CCOs identifies “a small and distinctive subset of corporate communications of best-in-class corporate affairs officers [who] shoulder a broadening scope of responsibilities and an increasing mandate to act as high-level strategic advisors to CEOs, and they frequently serve as members of the senior leadership team.” The key to this elite status appears to be broad mastery of corporate communications, government relations, community relations, employee relations, marketing, brand/reputation, investor relations, and more.
  • Become an integrator. The Korn-Ferry CCO report cites a mandate for “greater integration of communications with other functions, particularly around creating and executing strategy.” Indeed, “CCOs are working more closely than ever with their C-Suite contemporaries,” reports “The New COO” from the Arthur W. Page Society, “co-leading on issues like diversity and corporate culture with the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), marketing and sales promotion with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and building digital systems in partnership with the Chief Information Officer (CIO).” The ability to drive cross-functional collaboration and integration around strategic priorities is seen as key. The best way to be an integrator is to nurture partnerships with C-Suite colleagues.

 CCO Trends to Watch

  • Mandate for creativity. “In 2019 and beyond, it is a must for CCOs to foster a continuous flow of creativity,” writes Gregg Apirian and Chuck Gose of the communications platform Social Chorus. “This starts with building a diverse team made up of data-driven specialists and ‘creatives’ such as visual designers, copywriters, video producers, graphic illustrators, and web/mobile engineers,” they assert. This creativity, the authors note, is critical to engaging and activating employees. CCOs should “build a connection through culture, communication, and technology,” Apirian and Gose advise.
  • From employee engagement to employees as communicators. The Gartner 2019 Agenda Poll identifies driving employee engagement as a top priority in corporate communications. The goal is “enabling employees to understand how strategic goals relate to their own work is the most important driver of employee performance,” says Gartner’s Jordan Bryan. At the same time, Staffbase observes that “all employees are becoming communicators.” As employees communicate more publicly about their employers and roles via social media, their understanding of this alignment between strategy and their own work becomes even more critical. This alignment can help generate what a study by grad students at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University calls “a shift from employee engagement to employee activism where employees are empowered and can truly connect with a company’s purpose.”
  • Authenticity addresses many corporate-communication challenges. Authenticity generates trust, and as Matt Abrahams, writing for the company Quantified Communications, writes, “that trust builds up the leader’s credibility and breeds confidence in her capability and intentions, which motivates greater engagement and effort from her audience members, peers, and subordinates.” Abrahams defines authenticity as “the audience’s perception that a speaker’s words match his or her beliefs and actions” and notes that authentic leaders are audience-centric, open, warm, and present with their audiences. Storytelling is an effective technique for conveying authenticity.
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Outlook for the General Counsel Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a General Counsel

General CounselA General Counsel (GC) serves as a company’s main attorney and primary source of legal advice. Today’s General Counsel role has its roots in what Ben W. Heineman, Jr., calls the “inside counsel revolution” that began in the late 1970s. In his book, The Inside Counsel Revolution: Resolving the Partner-Guardian Tension, Heineman declares that “working with the CEO and other senior executives, the GC must forge an unbreakable bond between performance, integrity and risk on a set of foundational corporate issues: business strategy, culture, compliance, ethics, risk, governance, citizenship and organization.”

Demographically, in 2018, 28 percent of GCs were female and 14 percent minorities, reports Spencer Stuart’s annual study, The State of Today’s Fortune 500 General Counsel. Average GC age was 55. GCs stay on the job an average of six years. Sixty-two percent of Fortune 500 GCs gained their experience in-house, and 25 percent of externally hired GCs came straight from a law firm. Forty-eight percent of GCs have previous experience in the role, up from 39 percent in 2014.

The GC, typically reporting to the CEO, carries a broad scope of responsibility that may include antitrust issues, leasing agreements, patents, trademark and intellectual-property protection, due diligence regarding merger-and-acquisition activity, labor and employment law/compliance, and approving marketing communications. The GC may tackle legal crises, public-policy advocacy, tax issues, insurance and risk management, ethics and business compliance, real estate, human resources, and research and analysis into proposed laws and regulations.

Heineman cites as the fundamental challenge confronting inside lawyers their imperative to partner with the board of directors, the CEO, and business leaders while ultimately serving as guardian of the corporation. Indeed, Abbott Martin, VP of legal-team research at Gartner, cites five roles for the GC: Board Adviser, Corporate Executive, Chief Assurance Executive, Corporate Responsibility Officer, and Leader of the Legal Department.

Blogger Sterling Miller, an experienced GC, cites some of the downsides of the role – long hours, 24/7 phone availability, difficulties in balancing work and family life, a schedule tied to those of the CEO, CFO, and Board of Directors. Rewards, however, include serving on an executive team that makes decisions for the entire company, compensation, prestige, rewarding work, managing your own budget, implementing your vision for how a legal department should operate, and putting together and leading your own team, Miller notes.

Key Competencies for the General Counsel Role

The General Counsel role comes with one of the more specific sets of educational and credentialing requirements among C-Suite roles – a Juris Doctor degree and passage of at least one state’s bar exam. The competency that arguably gets mentioned more than others for GCs is sound judgment for the many decisions this role must make.

In your career-marketing communications, showcase the General Counsel competencies and characteristics on this list you possess:

  • Leadership and vision to oversee the legal function and manage people and processes.
  • Unquestioned integrity.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Broad legal subject-matter expertise; proven understanding of national and international labor, trademark, and copyright laws.
  • Alertness to laws that could affect the organization and industry.
  • Business savvy and experienced at transacting diverse types of business and handling issues, as well as possessing working knowledge of corporate finance.
  • Teamwork- and teambuilding-minded with an ability to advocate for protecting the company.

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the General Counsel role, expand their horizons in an existing General Counsel role, or even rise beyond the General Counsel role:

  • Be more than “just a lawyer.” Develop financial and business acumen. Writing for Korn Ferry, John Amer advises developing a business perspective by seeking out opportunities to learn more about the enterprise and the industry. Amer suggests “intentionally seeking out development assignments to build their business and financial knowledge and skills.” In a 2015 report entitled “More than Just a Lawyer…,” Korn Ferry mentions “serving on the internal legal team working on mergers and acquisitions” to establish the bridge between law and business.
  • Be proactive and visible about your own career development. “In-house lawyers must be intentional about their own career development,” the 2015 Korn Ferry report cautions. Sterling Miller concurs: “If you are interested in being general counsel you need to let the right folks know as it is highly unlikely that someone just ‘recognizes’ that you would be awesome in the role.” Make sure others, especially your boss, know of your ambitions; reach out to recruiters and search firms. Join cross-functional teams and seek out complex projects.
  • Figure out how to “get ’er done.” General Counsels tend to focus on what can’t legally be done. Miller suggests ambitious would-be general counsels could gain significant mileage if they more often said, “we can figure out a way to get that done” (legally, of course).
  • Don’t rule out a quest for CEO. In 2017, Harvard Business Review studied the 9 percent of 3,500 CEOs who had law degrees (not necessarily experience as GCs). One of the study’s authors, M. Todd Henderson, noted the “economically meaningful” result that “firms run by CEOs with legal expertise were associated with much less corporate litigation.” While clearly lawyers and GCs currently comprise only small proportion of CEOs, legal skills are increasingly recognized as valuable in the top C-Suite role.
  • Consult additional resources. The Internet provides far more level-up advice for GCs than can be covered here. Especially recommended:

General Counsel Trends to Watch

  • Today’s climate is filled with 11th-hour political and regulatory developments. In a 2019 article, E. Leigh Dance cites an atmosphere that extends “beyond sanctions and trade wars to restricting or enabling access to markets and affecting cross-border movement of people and data.”
  • The innovative General Counsel emerges. Dance also points to legal leaders who are “taking a fresh approach to advocacy at a time when company ethics and their positions on today’s issues affect performance and reputation.” Dance notes that this advocacy on vital stakeholder issues goes far beyond the legal scope.
  • Women are making inroads in the General Counsel ranks. SpencerStuart reported in 2018 that “the number of female Fortune 500 GCs appears to be increasing dramatically, as nearly half (46 percent) of the new class of GCs are women.” The company cites the increase as aligning with the roughly 50-50 gender breakdown seen in law schools for the past several years.
  • Ethnic diversity is also increasing, though too slowly in the opinions of some. While the SpencerStuart report noted that ethnically diverse Fortune 500 GCs (i.e., a general counsel listed as non-white) has increased over the last four years from 11 percent of the total in 2014 to 14 percent in 2018, more than 170 general counsel and corporate legal executives signed an open letter to big law firms in February 2019 expressing their disappointment that “many law firms continue to promote partner classes that in no way reflect the demographic composition of entering associate classes.”
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Outlook for the Chief Sustainability Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a Chief Sustainability Officer

SustainabilityThe Chief Sustainability Officer role emerged, as writer Gael O’Brien notes, in the last 20 years “as it became clear that companies were expected to address their impact and share responsibility in solving some of the world’s biggest problems.” In The Atlantic, Christine Bader asserts that the country’s first Chief Sustainability Officer was appointed in 2004, at DuPont.

Chief Sustainability Officers (this article uses the CSO acronym, even though it also applies to other C-Suite roles, such as Chief Security Officer) address such areas as energy-use reduction, resource conservation, recycling, pollution prevention, waste elimination, transportation efficiency, building design, human rights, and community development. In some companies, the sustainability element of the role is joined by safety, environment, corporate responsibility, or global corporate citizenship.

Sustainability recruiter Ellen Weinreb sees the CSO as not just the top corporate-social-responsibility professional for a company, but one of the top leaders of the company making key strategic decisions. Weinreb suggests that listing the CSO on the company’s 10-K, the SEC filing that identifies the corporation’s accountability to shareholders shows that “sustainability is owned at the top and integral to strategic decision-making.”

The number of C-Suite officers holding this CSO role is still relatively small. In her company’s 2018 GreenBiz State of the Profession, Weinreb reported only 44 CSOs at publicly traded companies as of the end of 2018, up from 29 in 2011. Gender parity is not far off, with the CSO population consisting of 55 percent men and 45 percent women.

Key Competencies for the Chief Sustainability Officer Role

The minimum educational requirement for a Chief Sustainability officer is a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business or an environmental science field, such as biology. Professional certification is available through several organizations, including the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP-Certified Sustainability Associate or Professional) and the Center for Sustainability and Excellence (Certified Sustainability Practitioner).

In your career-marketing communications, showcase the Chief Sustainability Officer competencies and characteristics on this list you possess:

  • Effective, succinct, and persuasive communicate skills. Tim Mohin, CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative, writes: “The ability to condense complicated topics into a relevant and cogent set of messages and present them skillfully can be the differentiator for your success.” More than one expert takes this skill a step further, suggesting that Chief Sustainability Officers also function as Chief Storytelling Officers.
  • Both business acumen and a passion for a sustainable environment, along with current expertise in sustainable business practices, energy production, consumption, and environmental impact.
  • Strategic ability to promote sustainable initiatives inside and outside the organization.
  • Creativity and problem-solving skills.
  • Systems thinking.
  • Collaborative skills.

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the Chief Sustainability Officer role, expand their horizons in an existing Chief Sustainability Officer role, or even rise beyond the Chief Sustainability Officer role:

  • Broaden your experience. “The issues under the sustainability umbrella keep growing,” notes Weinreb. In fact, as Tim Mohin cautions, “The breadth of this role can be both terrifying and exhilarating. The terrifying part is being asked to represent areas you know very little about. The exhilarating aspect is learning about all of these areas.” Simon Propper, CEO of Context, which helps companies with sustainability strategy, refers to this breadth of expertise as “multi-specialization.”
  • Take advantage of outsider status. While at least half of sustainability hires once were internal, Weinreb reports that “companies are looking outside their business for talent.” Today the percentage of outside hires is close to two-thirds. The reasons tie in with the need for broad knowledge and experience. You have the opportunity to sell your next employer on your wide-ranging, external perspective.
  • Gauge the top-down commitment to sustainability of your employer or prospective employer. Propper advises studying the company and the CEO. If you see “only token executive support” for sustainability, you will likely find it frustrating to spark transformation.
  • Show how sustainability adds value. You can make great inroads in this role if you can persuade others that sustainability drives value. Innovation and growth can be seen as the enemies of sustainability. You will stand out if you can help people understand how to integrate growth and sustainability (and how, in fact, sustainability can spark innovation, as seen in the Trends that follow).

Chief Sustainability Officer Trends to Watch

  • Strategy plays an increasing role in sustainability. Important and fundamental changes are occurring in the sustainability role, Coro Strandberg notes. Writing in a briefing paper, Next-Generation Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Jobs, Strandberg predicts, “the role shifts, job descriptions evolve, and skills change as organizations transition from an operational to a strategic sustainability focus.” One way to build strategic capacity in yourself is to develop expertise in scenario planning, advises Gilbert “Gib” Hedstrom, president of consulting firm Hedstrom Associates.
  • Simultaneously, sustainability plays an increasing role in business strategy. In his book, Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto, Adam Werbach asserts, “any strategy without sustainability at its core is just plain irresponsible ­– bad for business, bad for shareholders, bad for the environment.” To build that sustainable core, Propper observes, “the trend is to embed sustainability expertise in core functions such as sourcing, manufacturing, facilities, R&D, communications and marketing,” even suggesting that sustainability will be so integrated into business strategy that the CSO role will no longer be necessary.
  • The CSO title is frequently used to send a message. Strandberg points to greater use of the title Chief Sustainability Officer “to signal intent and commitment and facilitate strategic conversations.”
  • Environmental challenges fuel innovation and creativity. In fact, a study by Ram Nidumolu, C.K. Prahalad, and M.R. Rangaswami in Harvard Business Review labels sustainability the key driver of innovation. “Our research shows that sustainability is a mother lode of organizational and technological innovations that yield both bottom-line and top-line returns,” the authors reveal.
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Outlook for the CRO Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a Chief Revenue Officer

CRO OutlookChief Revenue Officer is one of the newest C-Suite roles, with articles first appearing about the role around 2012. CRO has its roots in Silicon Valley, spurred by the quest for revenue generation around digital products and services, especially the software-as-a-service (SaaS) sector. In 2018, Sean Callahan cited stats from the book The Future of Sales: Rise of the Strategic Seller that pointed to a 73 percent increase in Chief Revenue Officer titles on LinkedIn.

CRO is easily confused with, and often overlaps with, other executive functions connected with sales, marketing, the customer experience, finance, and revenue growth. Each organization tends to put its own spin on the role. The overlap is enough to motivate articles on the difference between CRO and CSO (Chief Sales Officer), the difference between CRO and VP of Sales and the difference between CRO and CFO. Chief Revenue Officers are sometimes referred to a Chief Growth Officers.

We can gain insight into the CRO role through two unique 2018 blog posts – one by CEO of a Silicon Valley startup and the other by the candidate he hired for the CRO role. CEO Eyal Lifshitz, who founded BlueVine, says wanted to hire a CRO “mainly because we were growing and our sales and account management operations were becoming more complex. We were also ramping up marketing spend.”

Eric Sager, the CRO hired, in turn describes BlueVine’s need for the role: “BlueVine created the chief revenue officer position to take on the challenge faced by many companies, especially startups, where marketing, business development, sales and account management usually operate in silos. This frequently leads to friction and misalignment because teams don’t all report to and work with the same executive leadership.”

Key Competencies for the CRO Role

“Technology,” “data,” and “customers” are words that frequently appear on lists of competencies for CROs, but perhaps the word that appears most frequently is “alignment,” meaning aligning all revenue-generating departments: marketing, sales and customer experience. The cost of misalignment? “Every company I’ve seen in the last 20 years is drastically overpaying for revenue,” writes Rick McPartlin in his blog The Revenue Game, “because there’s no common strategy or alignment.” Alignment clearly requires relationship-building skills, among others.

In your career-marketing communications, showcase these additional CRO competencies on this list you possess:

  • Sales, marketing, and CRM expertise
  • Data-driven approach
  • Tech savvy
  • Collaborative, a team-builder
  • Self-starter who can execute and implement change
  • High-energy
  • Customer-focused
  • Strategic
  • Able to balance short- and long-term goals

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CRO role, expand their horizons in an existing CHRO role, or even rise beyond the CRO role:

  • Seek out companies in which revenue-generation is growing complex. Look for organizations whose “revenue starts being driven by multiple channels supported by a marketing team that’s spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month,” Lifshitz advises.
  • Demonstrate that you are a closer. Sales will always remain at the core of revenue generation. “As a CRO,” writes Jim Herbold in VentureBeat, “no matter how broad or limited your reach may be in a company, you still need to close deals and build lasting and profitable customer relationships.”
  • Develop the mindset of a revenue strategist. Because some experts suggest that revenue-generation is rarely treated strategically, those who can apply strategy to revenue growth will stand out. “After the business plan,” asserts McPartlin, “most companies – 99% — just go out and hire salespeople and a marketing person and get to work. Surprisingly, there’s very little focus on revenue strategy.” McPartlin suggests that CROs and prospective CROs have a good grasp of what the revenue strategy looks like so they can execute the corporate strategy. In contrast to sales and marketing executives, the CRO “leads the strategy for generating more profitable revenue over the long term,” McPartlin says.
  • Be able to execute. CROs come from diverse backgrounds. Those with successful operations experience may have an advantage in executing short- and long-term wins for the organization. “It takes operational excellence to deliver results for your customers and drive revenue,” says Lisa Utzschneider, chief revenue officer at Yahoo.
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Outlook for the CHRO Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a Chief Human Resources Officer

CHRO OutlookThe perceived skills gap, the rise of human-resources technology, and the fierce competition to hire and retain the best talent are among the reasons the role of human resources in general, and specifically Chief Human Resource Officers (sometimes called Chief People Officers), have gained new importance.

In recent years, the CHRO role has taken on a greater strategic focus, as well as a mandate toward change management, organizational transformation, and innovation. “The key charge for the CHRO functionally,” notes a 2014 study by Heidrick & Struggles, “is to turn talent management into an instrument of business transformation that advances strategy, develops agile leaders, and coalesces in culture.”

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also notes these aspects of the CHRO role: succession planning, talent management, organizational and performance management, training and development, and compensation. The CHRO also conveys HR needs and plans to the executive management team, shareholders, and the board of directors.

Agilon CHRO Rick Thompson perhaps summed up the role best when he said in an interview by employee Samantha Holland, “it comes down to, ‘Are we really giving our employees what they need to be successful?’”

Key Competencies for the CHRO Role

The list of competencies that industry experts prescribe for CHROs is quite lengthy compared to other C-Suite roles, perhaps reflecting the eclectic background that many gurus suggest for those in this role. Some, of course, apply to all C-Suite roles – business acumen, ethics, leadership, communication, strategic focus, as well as understanding of board governance and ability to negotiate effectively with the board.

In your career-marketing communications, showcase the CHRO competencies on this list that you possess:

  • HR expertise, including learning and development, compensation and procurement costs, benefits administration, critical evaluation, talent acquisition and market knowledge, compliance and legal knowledge, proficiency in executive compensation, and financial planning and forecasting. SHRM suggests 15 years of experience.
  • Change and transformation management, as well as innovation and disruption
  • Relationship management
  • Culture creation
  • Global and cultural awareness
  • Consultation
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Ability to read people
  • Comfort with ambiguity
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Ability to use data
  • Operational thinking

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CHRO role, expand their horizons in an existing CHRO role, or even rise beyond the CHRO role:

  • Beef up your HR education. A graduate business degree is almost always valuable. In addition, writing for Chief Executive, Fran Hawthorne cites two educational programs recommended by HR experts:
  • Plan your career with a mix of HR positions and roles in other parts of the business. Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, and Dennis Carey assert in the Harvard Business Review that would-be CHROs should progress up the ranks through line positions, “where they have to manage people and budgets.” The authors go on to suggest that “all leaders headed for top jobs should alternate between positions in HR and in the rest of the business. You will stand out because, as Gartner reports, “only 20 percent of Fortune 250 CHROs have working experience outside the HR function.”
  • Attain international experience. Global experience among CHROs is increasing. “CHROs need to have much more of a global perspective than their predecessors,” writes Flavio Kosminsky and Kathleen Cannon. Some experts suggest several years of experience abroad, while others assert that even a few months can be valuable.
  • Seek out HR-friendly organizations. “Look for CEOs who understand that it is people who add business value,” advises Barry Lawrence with the HR Certification Institute. “Get clear answers about the leadership team’s HR expectations,” he says.
  • Don’t rule out a quest for CEO. “With the heightened attention to talent and culture,” writes Heather Landy on Quartz at Work, “and the increasing interest in having those functions led by well-rounded executives, it isn’t difficult to imagine a day when the CHRO job becomes a natural pathway to the CEO role.” Similarly, Harvard Business Review reported in 2014 on a research study by Ellie Filler and Dave Ulrich that concluded: “Except for the COO (whose role and responsibilities often overlap with the CEO’s), the executive whose traits were most similar to those of the CEO was the CHRO.” Although the article focuses on why companies should consider CHROs for CEO roles, it also describes characteristics of CHROs who advance to the top role.

CHRO Trends to Watch

  • CHROs are less experienced in traditional HR functions than in the past. On the flip side, however, they are more experienced in diverse aspects of business, which is seen as adding greater value.
  • A CEO/CFO/CHRO triumvirate is seen as powerful. This prescription comes from the Harvard Business Review’s Charan, Barton, and Carey: “Just as the CFO helps the CEO lead the business by raising and allocating financial resources, the CHRO should help the CEO by building and assigning talent, especially key people, and working to unleash the organization’s energy. Julia Modise, writing in HR Future, concurs: “The CHRO is seen as a strategic partner to the CEO and CFO.”
  • The CHRO role appears to be woman-friendly. More than half (57 percent) of Fortune 200 Chief Human Resources Officers are female, reports a 2017 study by The Talent Strategy Group.
  • Human Resources is gaining greater respect. In 2015, Charan, Barton, and Carey reported on research by McKinsey and the Conference Board that “consistently finds that CEOs worldwide see human capital as a top challenge, and they rank HR as only the eighth or ninth most important function in a company.” By the end of 2018, “the CHRO has progressed from fighting for a seat at the table to playing a key role in the executive team,” writes Modise.
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