With questions about the future of middle management, many believe that corporations will soon beef up their core leadership teams, allowing them to keep foundational business knowledge close to the top while delegating the increasingly complex attributes of the modern organization to in-house, executive-level experts.
These changes are expected to bring a slew of new positions into the C-suite, currently occupied by members with positions like CIO (chief information officer), CFO (chief financial officer), CMO (chief marketing officer), COO (chief operating officer) and of course CEO (chief executive officer).
With many companies already experimenting with holacracy and flattened organizational structures, some believe that the anti-middle-management floodgates are about to burst.
"You can't be competitive if somebody else has just eliminated this whole layer of management, and suddenly their overhead costs shrink by 10%," said Thomas Frey, executive director and senior futurist of The DaVinci Institute, a futurist think-tank.
"As we get rid of middle management, and we're hiring a lot of freelancers at the bottom, then you have a relatively small organization, and the people at the top are the harbingers of the high institutional knowledge."
Frey believes that companies will require larger management teams in the future in order to maintain their history, direction, and methodology.
Another potential driver of an expanding C-suite is the current war for top industry talent. Some believe that adding new positions at the high end of the management structure will allow companies to retain key personnel.
"I think companies can actually be slowed down when people, based on their title, aren't feeling as valued as others," said Meagen Eisenberg, the chief marketing officer of MongoDB, a cross-platform, document-oriented database. "People are being wooed away to other companies, so how do you make them feel valued and part of the senior team and keep them engaged? They want these chief level titles, so I think we've created more titles just to appease people and keep them."
With many considering a significant expansion of the C-suite imminent, here are a few new titles that we may see added in the near future:
Of course the three-letter acronym is already taken, but putting one person in charge of industry dynamics and partnerships will soon be a mainstay of the corporate structure, suggests Bill Briggs, chief technology officer of Deloitte Consulting.
"As I've seen in banking and financial services and health care, there's a lot of overlap between how the markets themselves are shaping," he says. "It’s going to take different partnerships, understanding the dynamic, getting through risks across those bounds."
User experience used to be an afterthought for hardware and software designers. Now that bulky instruction manuals are largely (and thankfully) a thing of the past, technology companies need to ensure that their products are intuitive from the moment they’re activated.
"I still think that's the major failure point that companies have today," says Frey, suggesting that this C-level position will be created to ensure user experience is considered in all areas of operation. "Creating our relationship with the technology and getting that right, I see that being a big issue."
As jobs continue to get automated out of existence, Frey believes a member of the core leadership team of the future will be put in charge of identifying opportunities for companies to become more competitive through automation.
"We're going to need C-level people that are constantly looking through their system to automate more things and stay competitive," he said. "They can figure out if they can replace a person with a robot or software, and see if there's some way to automate each process."
Fifty-three million Americans, or 34% of the U.S. workforce, are considered contingent, temporary, diversified, or freelance employees today, with that number expected to reach 40% by the year 2020.
As companies continue to increase their dependence on freelance and contingent workers, many believe that the time will soon arise when an executive employee is tasked with maintaining and growing their partnerships and reputation within the freelance community.
The world of intellectual property law is only getting more vast and complicated as new innovations hit the market. Not only will companies in the near future need a core leadership team member who can wade through the dizzying sea of intellectual property laws and patents to ensure their own compliance, but also remain vigilant to protect their own company against infringement.
"The patent offices do not send people out, we don't have patent cops going around saying, 'Hey, you violated something," says Frey. "It really ends up coming down to you as a company or you as an individual to manage and defend your own property."
Chief data officers will help CEOs and COOs run more profitable and streamlined companies by wading through the sea of information now available to them in order to draw valuable insights.
"We're creating so much data now, and with all the sensor technologies that are coming out, we're going to have tons and tons of data to draw from," says Frey. "We need to decide what's useful and what’s not, and how to leverage it."
According to McKinsey and Company, the U.S. will face a deficit of about 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to harness big data effectively. With this talent shortage looming, one can suspect C-level positions will be awarded to retain key data analysts. The chief data officer will also be tasked with providing key insights to support the management team.
As companies hang on to more data, the onus to keep that data safe is growing, with the PR nightmare that ensues following a breach becoming more than most can handle.
"Virtually every company is getting bad PR on one level or another, because they're too controlling in how much information they're getting about you, and their ability to sell that," says Frey. "There's a potential massive backlash against corporations for not doing the right thing."
But the position won’t just be about damage control and public image. Chief privacy officers will also be in charge of managing the company’s internal data.
"We're seeing clearly significant challenges around maintaining privacy, both of customers and of employees," said Art Mazor, a principal of human capital at Deloitte Consulting. "We're finding companies are looking to emphasize the importance of those roles."
One of the few barriers that remain for businesses of all sizes that want to operate beyond their national borders is the issue of compliance. Organizations have gone so far as to designate a chief compliance officer to ensure that all rules of international trade are being met, and many feel that the importance of this role will expand moving forward.
"We're seeing in organizations that have been operating in many different countries the growing need for attention to compliance and the complexity of compliance related matters," said Mazor.
Already an established position within many major organizations today, Mazor believes the role of chief human resources officer is evolving from one of compliance to core leadership as competition for talent intensifies.
"That means being at the table, and being more of a strategist and catalyst, and less of two other important faces of leadership, which are operator and steward," he said. "There is a demand for high-performing talent in a world where knowledge and innovation are the real keys for most enterprises today. Therefore, as a CHRO, there’s a demand for helping the organization figure out how to identify, attract, develop, and grow that talent."
As CEOs delegate tasks to their expanding teams of C-suite executives, they will be required to handle more complex, high-level decisions. As such, chief administrative officers will help relieve CEOs and COOs of some of their day-to-day tasks, allowing them to put their time and effort towards critical, big-picture decisions.
"Placing that in the hands of an expert specializing in administrative back-office accountability is something that I think is also contributing to expanding the C-suite," said Mazor.