The Chief Work Officer: Should We Hire One?

Leadership and Remote Working

Over the past year, I’ve been asked to speak at various executive sessions with Chief People Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, and CEOs. There is a rotating list of about 17 questions that keep coming up. This is the start of a series where I will share my perspective on each of these questions. I will start with the two most frequently asked questions:

What is the job description for a person assuming the responsibility of making a remote company work well? and …

When is the right time to hire a person into this role?

Before we dive in, I want to talk context. Context is everything when answering these two questions.

The starting point of answering each question is correctly understanding your organization’s macro context within the market. This means you need to understand if the industry you operate in is a laggard one or generally more on the early-adopter end of the spectrum. This is important because it impacts your resources, especially your people. Secondly, it is important to contextualize the Virtual Maturity of your organization. Some companies are only just starting out on a truly virtual journey whereas others are leaders in this area and have been doing this for many years.

These are two baselines that should influence and impact any decisions you make regarding this topic. Placing your industry and your company on a spectrum allows you to make decisions that are suitable to that context, rather than trying to benchmark yourself against all the companies who are grappling with this very real challenge right now.

It is also important to understand that there is a difference between a remote team and a fully virtual team.

So to question 1 …

The Chief Work Officer is the Swiss Army Knife on the leadership team. They do a little bit of everything: finance, people, legal, operations, engineering, product, sales. They touch all functions yet specialize in none. They are the connective tissue that brings the entire team together.

I have created a job description for a Chief Work Officer. I have created this based on the actual work myself and my co-founder have done over the past 5 years as we have built WNDYR and Pattyrn, our remote-first companies. This role will be implemented in full if you are a leader in remote work. This role will be staggered in its implementation if your organization is only just starting out on this journey.

Moving onto question 2 …

The right time to hire this person is right now. The future is no longer the future. The future of work has dawned and this role should be viewed as essential in any companies’ ability to remain competitive moving forward.

It may not warrant a full-time role just quite yet but it requires these duties to be assigned to a person or a team of people. The roles outlined in this job spec are critical to the long-term health of any digital organization.

Next week I will be answering a set of questions related to human connection in virtual spaces and how it is fostered naturally.

CEO of a startup redefining the future of work — part chaos, part rocket fuel. Find me on www.clairehaidar.com

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