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The future of work requires a new C-suite

CIOs, get ready for C-suite 3.0, where corporate chiefs will have to break out of their silos to future-proof the enterprise.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The rapid advances in technology are not only affecting the platforms or the size of the data stores used to get work done, they're also affecting how employees from across the organization work together. The C-suite has been slow to feel the effects -- until now.

Deloitte Consulting LLC believes the future of work depends on leadership teams making a significant transformation -- one that breaks company chiefs out of their management silos to more easily collaborate with colleagues on strategic initiatives. Deloitte's calling it the "symphonic C-suite."

"When we took a step back and thought about the evolution of the executive ranks in both government and corporate America, we think about it in three chapters," Janet Foutty, chairman and CEO at Deloitte Consulting, said at the recent EmTech Next conference. "I believe we're entering the third chapter today, which is the symphonic C-suite."

The C-suite and the future of work

Foutty referred to the C-suite's traditional structure as being all about command and control, with clear direction and dictation from the CEO. A leader's geographic location was often paramount for his involvement in C-suite 1.0: The closer to the CEO, the better.

C-suite 2.0, where most C-suites are today, focuses on functional expertise and depth of knowledge. Those hired into leadership roles of CIO, CFO, CMO and so on were seen as "the best and brightest in their domain," Foutty said.

It is this unforgiving focus on expertise that triggered the still ongoing proliferation of C-suite titles, according to Foutty. Take the chief digital officer (CDO) as an example. As companies start to develop a digital business strategy, they are sometimes prone to establish a CDO role to lead the charge.

But the role of the CDO is a Band-Aid for a bigger trend that will affect the future of work, in Deloitte's view. Technology -- be it digital, AI or robotics -- is no longer a back-office modernization or an upgrade. It's changing how companies compete for customers and for employees.

Erica Volini, U.S. human resources consultant, Deloitte ConsultingErica Volini

"This is bigger than technology," Erica Volini, U.S. human capital leader at Deloitte, said onstage at EmTech Next. "It has significant workforce impact that needs to be managed, and it can't be relegated to one title or one person."

That's where C-suite 3.0 comes in. In this model, the leadership team has shared accountability across all domains and comes together as needed to tackle the kinds of challenges that businesses face today. Volini said key players include the head of HR, finance, risk and, "without question," IT, which is needed to help develop a competency about the effects technology can have on the business across the C-suite.

Together, the corporate chiefs can establish a culture and an org structure needed to embrace emerging tech, manage risk, launch new business models or overhaul hiring and retention practices.

Talent and tech

Janet Foutty, chairman and CEO, Deloitte ConsultingJanet Foutty

Indeed, the future of work will require new skills, and Deloitte believes the modern-day workplace should find ways to provide their employees with continuous learning opportunities. "Formal training and learning doesn't stop at any point in your career, and the ability to continuously reinvent yourself is absolutely key," Foutty said.

Initiatives like these are often thought of as an HR responsibility, but Foutty and Volini argued that HR doesn't have enough authority to do this alone -- that these programs need tech experts, financial resources and credibility if they're going to succeed.

Foutty, for one, said she's pushing for her team to become "tech-savvy." It's a companywide initiative involving employees from across the technology spectrum, from IT practitioners with deep expertise who need to become generalists to nontechnology employees who need to become technology-conversant.

Indeed, companies and their boards that are able to think about the intersection of talent and technology, rather than see the two as discrete topics, may be on the verge of a competitive advantage -- even if they're slow to adopt cutting-edge technologies.

Foutty and Volini described it as a potential tortoise-and-hare story. Fast adopters may be too focused on the newest technology and too quick to declare success that they fail to see the ripple effects the technology is having on talent and culture.

"Our clients are trying to figure out how to bring those two together -- to fundamentally rethink the manner with which they handle all dimensions of their business as it relates to talent, which is a broad aperture, in light of disruption and enabling technologies," Foutty said. "That is the secret sauce."

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