Norris Johnston Recruitment (NJR) has surveyed COOs and found the role of chief operations officer is becoming more vital to a company’s success than ever before. COOs Are now required to take responsibility for a host of additional disciplines and business initiatives.
Norrie Johnston Recruitment (NJR) covers executive search and interim. Their research found that 87 per cent agree that the role is currently undergoing change, with over three quarters reporting that it now involves greater emphasis on driving business and digital transformation, creating new business opportunities and overseeing the allocation and prioritisation of corporate resources. Many also feel that COOs are more strategic, requiring the person holding the position to become more deeply involved in talent management.
COOs are also required to have a broader spectrum of skills than ever before in order to fulfil the pivotal role. 64 per cent of people agreed that leadership ability is the most important attribute for the position. However, individuals must possess a range of other skills if they are to succeed, with good decision making, the ability to manage transformational change, courage, strong interpersonal skills and tolerance of complexity all flagged as vital for a COO.
The breadth of expertise required is reflected in the diversity of the positions previously held by the COOs studied. 73 per cent had previously undertaken Operations Director or Manager roles before moving into the role of COO but, interestingly, their previous experience spanned a number of areas, including senior roles in procurement and development, sales, marketing, production, strategy and transformation.
COOs are also responsible for a vast number of functions within the business. The majority of those surveyed head up transformation and change, facilities, strategy, HR and IT. Many also have governance over finance, sales, marketing, R&D and supply chain/procurement, with teams reporting to them across all these areas of the business.
In addition to managing a broad spectrum of departments, NJR’s research found that the role itself encompasses a range of business initiatives. According to the COOs, continuous business improvement, optimising operational processes and driving key transformational projects are the most key elements of their role. However, the position is hugely varied, with responsibilities often also including keeping the business running, delivering cost efficiencies, shaping the future of the organisation and designing a framework to turn strategy into operations.
Graham Oates, Chief Executive of Norrie Johnston Recruitment comments: “Our research certainly shows that COOs are often corporate stars, multi-talented and with a phenomenal breadth of skills and experience to draw on. However, it also highlights that no single size fits all when it comes to selecting the right COO for an organisation. How the role is defined and used will depend on so many factors – the company’s wider organisational structure, its priorities and challenges – which, in today’s fast-paced climate, can quickly change.
“That’s why it is so important for companies looking to introduce the COO role for the first time, or indeed those looking to replace a COO, to talk to people like NJR, to make sure they are scoping the role properly, so that it is fit for purpose and integrates effectively with the wider business.”