The Rise of the Chief Workplace Officer

Reporting lines matter. A direct line into the chief executive officer creates different parameters and opportunities according to The Stoddart Review. The companies who are doing it successfully appear to be learning directly from their employees about their workplace needs – formally through appraising their workplace and informally through regular feedback.

Reporting on workplace projects into the financial director and chief operating officer unsurprisingly often guarantees a traditional, cost-driven approach to workplace planning.

PokerStars has changed the reporting lines, spent time coaching the CEO and taken a disciplined approach to measurement. At Thomsons Online Benefits, workplace decisions are made based on defined productivity measures and a clear understanding of staff needs.

In fact The Stoddart Review has shown that the interface between people, place and process should be the preserve of a specialist – the Chief Workplace Officer – with appropriate levels of access and influence.

Julie Kortens, Chairman, BIFM, says, ‘As the nature of the economy is changing to one biased towards intellectual outputs over production outputs, so too we are seeing a change in the value placed on professionals who act as workforce facilitators, making marginal gains in performance in each and every employee.’

The CWO acts as a ‘super-connector’ who knows the right people to turn to and who is able to match the right people to the right opportunities.

This role is now meaningful for the first time because so much more data is available to inform the role. This CWO can develop integrated business cases and act as the interpreter between individual team/business unit needs and the infrastructure teams that deliver them.

Scandinavia seems to be leading the way. Exemplifying this is Ericsson’s recent appointment of a global head of workplace experience, Charlotte Ivars, with a budget of SEK 2 billion. Airbnb’s CHRO, Mark Levy, recently changed his job title to chief employee experience officer. This isn’t just evolution of titles. These companies see that senior appointment with responsibility for HR, tech, corporate real estate and FM enhance business agility and keep all performance levers in step.

Q: Who do your workplace professionals report to? Reporting in to the CFO will result in a very different emphasis from the CEO, CHRO or CTO.