The New C-Suite 

By July 27, 2020September 4th, 2020Attitudes & Etiquette, Leadership
The New C-Suite


Saving a seat for people people

by Carolyn Culbertson

In the past 10 years, U.S. corporate values have shifted toward humanism, expedited by the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis and the Me Too movement. Large corporations are finally realizing what has long been true, that “people are the most important raw material” in the U.S.’s top industries, according to Quartz.

For companies that truly want to take care of the people who make them up, they’ll need to take a hard look at who gets a seat at the C-Suite table. Though some of these titles are new, they’re long overdue.

Chief People Officer

Though this title has been around for a while, its name has taken on new meaning in the past few years. The Chief People Officer monitors and ensures the organizational health of a company through the satisfaction and fulfillment of its people, knowing that happy people are at the heart of healthy and wealthy businesses.

Though some companies might use this title as a trendy translation of the more traditional Chief Human Resources Officer, the CPO differs in that their role is meant to be more strategic than that of a CHRO. The CPO focuses on developing human capital by employing strategies that increase the stock of good habits, company and industry knowledge, and the unique social and personality traits of individual workers. At the end of the day, the hope is that a deep and diversified inventory of human capital will positively influence the bottom line.

Chief Diversity Officer

Roughly 20% of Fortune 500 companies employ a Chief Diversity Officer, tasking them with not only fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion but also using those strategies to impact the company’s bottom line. Sounds easy, right?

Many companies hire CDOs following a scandal, like Victoria Russell, who was hired as the first Chief of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Papa John’s after CEO John Schnatter’s n-word scandal and the plummet of sales that followed. Russell knows she has a lot of work cut out for her, but she has a strategy. “We’re working to change the culture, we’re educating, we’re doing our best to bring everyone along,” she said to an audience at Louisville’s Chamber of Commerce in July. “At some point it’s okay to allow people to self-select out. As we say, we’ll promote you to the customer.” Papa John’s officials reported in February that they expected to see a slow but steady increase in sales in the U.S. and Canada this year.

Chief Talent Officer

The talent pipeline is at the top of the agenda for CEOs, according to University of South Carolina professor and researcher Patrick Wright,. A Chief Talent Officer oversees the attraction and retention of talent within a company, presenting a more proactive approach to peopling a company than the CDO or the CPO’s internal strategizing. The hardest task of the CTO is coming up with strategies that compete with other companies for what’s cited by Forbes as a shortage of talent among job searchers. As for retention, the CTO might work on developing company values that reflect what millennials and Gen Z hold dear: communication, transparency, work-life balance, diversity, and inclusion.

Of course, there’s a limit to who holds a seat in the C-Suite. Smart companies will realize that if they want smart people on board, they’ll need people people in the boardroom.