Friday, September 24, 2021
COVID-19 cases are still rising and falling the world over, with many organizations adopting a hybrid work model. And how better to support the transition and operations moving forward than a new position? Enter “CROs”—and this time, it doesn’t stand for Chief Revenue Officer or Chief Risk Officer, but for Chief Remote Officer. Facebook, Quora and Zapier, among other major players, have already hired their CROs. The role may be another byproduct of the pandemic, but is it here to stay? Let’s see.
A Chief Remote Officer’s key mission is to facilitate, smooth over and streamline remote operations to drive success across the organization. By default, it’s a cross-functional, multidisciplinary position directly related to human resources management. The Chief Remote Officer supports the HR department (hiring, onboarding and training talent, organizing the workforce), technical services (overseeing virtual tools and specialized software implementation, monitoring compliance), and operations (championing change and internal communication).
While this position is gaining popularity, a few pioneers had already appointed their own Chief Remote Officer long before the pandemic. For instance, GitLab hired a “Head of Remote” in 2019 to manage team members’ experience in an all-remote approach—valuable lessons learned are available on the remote-work resources hub. However, not all companies adopted a 100% remote work model. In most cases, the Chief Remote Officer makes sure in-office and remote teams stay connected, and that they’re also involved with training management when leaders have to adapt to a hybrid work environment.
Some of Silicon Valley’s big tech players are even taking the hybrid work model into consideration when reinventing office space. For example, Google created a new meeting “room” concept where in-person attendees sit in a circle interspersed with large vertical displays—this way, virtual participants are on the same footing as those physically present, and physical distancing measures are respected. This kind of innovation requires global coordination and significant change management, two areas where the CRO also has a role to play.
A Chief Remote Officer builds relationships, facilitates communication and supports the organization’s evolution towards a more agile model. In that respect, this is the go-to person for addressing immediate issues and identifying potential challenges inherent to adopting the hybrid work model. Main goals typically are:
● creating a consistent experience for all employees, regardless of their work location
● engaging remote employees for full, inclusive participation in all events and meetings
● implementing tools and systems to identify any potential remote employee disengagement
● developing initiatives to support new work environment architecture, employee well-being, home office ergonomics, etc.
“Chief Digital Officer,” “Chief Happiness Officer,” “Chief Brexit Officer,” “Chief COVID Officer”... Many leaders can legitimately wonder whether Chief Remote Officers are part of a long-term trend or whether this is just a temporary role to support change driven by an external event. In fact, no matter how the COVID-19 pandemic situation evolves, skills developed by Chief Remote Officers will most certainly be part of the core competencies forward-thinking companies are looking for to manage human resources. The hybrid model offers many advantages and has taken hold. Organizations most likely to succeed in the future will be the ones that capitalized on best practices and lessons learned from this human and organizational transformation.
Bottom line is the emergence of a Chief Remote Officer role is highlighting a paradigm shift at the leadership level. Remote or hybrid workplaces require a technological and cultural revolution powered by strong soft skills in order to build an efficient, open, creative, inclusive and benevolent leadership—for both in-office and remote environments.