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C-Suite Executives: A Guide for Employers

Your business’s C-suite executives are among the most important leaders in the organization. Each C-suite role is responsible for leading their department or operations. Since they’re leading and collaborating with all the members of your team, it’s important that the individuals in these roles possess the necessary qualities to effectively guide others to success.

While there are many traditional C-suite titles, other roles have been adapted to the needs of modern businesses. In this article, we’ll discuss the types of C-suite positions and their importance, and how to find the right C-suite candidates for your organization.

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What are c-suite executives?

C-suite, sometimes called C-level, refers to an organization’s most senior executives. C-suite positions start with the letter C, which represents the word chief, followed by a designated department or operational speciality. For example, CEO refers to chief executive officer while COO refers to chief operating officer.

Most people are familiar with the term CEO, but organizations often have several C-suite executives. They can be responsible for specific departments, strategies or daily operations. Traditionally, executives earned promotions to C-level positions through technical skills, such as finance or sales expertise, but today’s executives are often expected to have impressive ambition, leadership abilities and experience.

Advantages of an effective c-suite

Having an effective team of top-level executives in your business can provide various advantages. Although business owners can also take on C-suite duties, delegating these roles and responsibilities to qualified individuals can help streamline your business operations and strategies. This can result in a team of leaders who work together to make key business decisions.

C-suite executives are specialists in their roles, which means they can focus on those specific operations and goals.

C-suite titles and responsibilities

There are a handful of traditional C-suite titles that date back to the emergence of the modern business structure, but titles and responsibilities must sometimes adapt to unique business needs. Across businesses and industries, these titles may look different or carry varying levels of importance. Below, we’ll look at various C-suite roles and their associated responsibilities.

CEO – chief executive officer

The CEO is usually considered the highest-ranking executive in an organization. They collaborate with other C-level executives and typically act as the face of the business. Their responsibilities generally include managing the overall operations and making high-level business strategy decisions. Regardless of technical background, CEOs must possess strong leadership, decision-making and business acumen skills.

COO – chief operating officer

Often considered the second-in-command to the CEO, the COO is sometimes also called the executive vice president of operations or the operations director. They’re responsible for managing daily business functions and internal affairs. When the CEO develops goals and plans for the business, the COO is responsible for implementing them. These executives must possess strong leadership, communication and analytical skills. They’re sometimes assigned the COO role to prepare them for becoming the CEO.

CFO – chief financial officer

The CFO is responsible for overseeing the business’s financial operations. They’re generally responsible for financial planning, expense reports, taxes and cash flow, although they may not perform many of these tasks directly and instead delegate them to members of the finance department. These executives typically have a strong academic and professional background in finance or economics.

CRO – chief revenue officer

The CRO has similar responsibilities and reports to the CFO, but is focused on incoming revenue. This is a newer C-suite role that’s mainly concerned with profit margins and overall profit-making strategies. The CRO’s functions intersect with other executives since they must consider factors like sales, marketing and more when analyzing revenue and profit.

CTO – chief technical officer

The CTO role is responsible for the business’s technology concerns, and it’s often used interchangeably with chief information officer (CIO). The role can sometimes include engineering tasks, but it usually relates to the IT department. They make strategic decisions to improve the technology functions of the business to create products and services for clients. Internally, they aim to develop solutions for the company’s technology operations.

ChENG – chief engineering officer

While engineering responsibilities are often included in the CTO role, certain businesses may require a specialized ChENG. This role is common in industries and businesses that perform significant engineering research and production.

CHRO – chief human resources officer

The CHRO oversees the human resources department, which generally handles hiring, training and managing a company’s personnel. Although the CHRO isn’t always directly involved in these tasks, they’re responsible for setting human resources goals and developing strategies around talent acquisition and employee performance.

Read more: Starting an HR Department

CSO – chief strategy officer

As modern businesses become more complex, they require more in-depth strategic analysis and planning. The CSO reports to the CEO or CFO to support the development of the organization’s strategies and goals, such as creating business growth plans or analyzing market dynamics. These executives typically possess innovative and agile business acumen.

CMO – chief marketing officer

Sometimes called a chief sales officer (CSO), the CMO is responsible for a company’s marketing and sales operations. Since modern marketing calls for innovative strategies and product development, the CMO must be creative, communicative and driven. They don’t often perform daily marketing tasks themselves, but instead analyze marketing reports, create goals and implement plans for the marketing department to carry out.

CLO – chief legal officer

The CLO is the organization’s legal expert. Reporting directly to the CEO or COO, they provide insight and expertise to help the business minimize legal risks or regulatory issues. In a large organization, they may oversee a team of in-house legal professionals.

CDO – chief diversity officer

With growing attention to inequality and discrimination in the workplace, businesses are more obligated to address internal diversity and inclusion concerns. The CDO is responsible for identifying equality gaps within the organization and creating strategies to improve representation and inclusion.

CIO – chief investment officer

The CIO manages the assets of the company, which can include monitoring investments, working with analysts and investors and implementing investment policies. Depending on the size of the organization, the CIO may personally manage investment strategies or delegate responsibilities to a team of investment professionals. In smaller companies, these responsibilities are sometimes handled by the CFO position.

Specialized c-suite positions

The above isn’t an exhaustive list of C-suite positions. These roles are flexible and can adapt to the needs of businesses. In modern businesses, C-suite roles are usually created once a department or function is large enough that it requires a team of people with an executive at its head. Some modern C-suite positions include:

  • Chief environmental officer: Manages a company’s environmental policies and strategies
  • Chief culture officer: Builds and manages an organization’s internal and client-facing culture
  • Chief medical officer: A specialized role in facilities and companies in the healthcare field
  • Chief innovation officer: Creates innovative products, services and strategies for a business

Hiring for c-suite positions

Selecting the right individuals to fill C-suite executive positions is important for your business’s success. Consider the following priorities and strategies to help you find high-quality C-level candidates.

Identify necessary c-suite roles

To start growing your C-suite team, analyze the needs of your business in regards to its size and market. This can help you identify which roles are immediate priorities, in need of modernization, or obsolete and unnecessary. For example, you can modernize a human resources role to include the responsibilities of cultural, diversity, inclusion and employee satisfaction executives.

Most businesses don’t require the full roster of C-suite personnel. Small businesses usually require a smaller team of C-level executives, starting with a CEO. The traditional second C-suite hire is the CFO, but many of these duties can be outsourced and assigned to lower ranking controllers, consultants or accountants.

Update and refine the hiring process

Anytime you need to hire new employees, it’s important to review and refine your hiring process. This involves looking back at previous recruiting successes and revamping your strategy as needed. Make sure to include other important members of your business team, such as existing executives, stakeholders and other leaders.

Craft compelling and accurate job descriptions

Crafting job descriptions that accurately portray the needs and culture of your business can help attract the right candidates. As a startup, you might need to attract an entrepreneurial and dynamic executive. If you have an established business, an experienced candidate may be more suitable.

Plan for c-suite career paths

Succession can sometimes be an issue for C-suite positions. To help counter this, create internal pathways for prospective C-suite employees, and keep in touch with networks and other professionals for future talent acquisition purposes.

Nurture diversity and inclusion

C-suite roles often have disproportionate diversity ratios to the communities their organizations belong to, where commonly marginalized demographics represent the minority of executive positions. To grow an inclusive C-suite team and attract diverse candidates, make efforts to prioritize your organization’s commitment to representation and inclusion.

Related: Employer Human Resources to Create Empowered Employees

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