The Other CEO – Chief Engagement Officer

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Shakespeare’s line from Romeo and Juliet rings true today in the C-suite. As new titles are created, responsibilities continue to be the same. One of those titles is often referred to as the other CEO – Chief Engagement Officer.

In some companies, this is a formal role on the executive team. For others, it falls under the Chief Marketing Officer, the Chief Human Resources Officer, or the CEO as part of their responsibilities. Regardless of what you decide to call the person overseeing engagement, the need for it is important for growth. In 2016, Korn Ferry conducted a study that showed the impact of high engagement. Those companies who mastered it had four and a half times higher revenue growth than the companies who scored the lowest in engagement.

It’s no surprise to see why engagement matters in today’s business landscape. Klaus Schwab, founder of the Word Economic Forum and credited with coining the term the Fourth Industrial Revolution, stated that customers are increasingly at the epicenter of the economy, which makes improving how customers are served business’s main consideration. 

In essence, businesses need to shift their focus to understanding their customers, instead of focusing on selling things. By meeting customers needs, the selling will follow as a natural consequence. This shift, while sounding simple, can be complex. It’s easy for companies to sell their products or services, no one knows these things better than the company, it’s easy to speak about them. 

While that may have been a sound strategy in the analog world, it doesn’t resonate with consumers today. Investing the time and energy to understand customers concerns, pains, challenges, and needs is a lot harder. Companies are no longer the experts in this approach. It requires listening, learning, and changing your approach to meet customer expectations. In short, it requires engagement.

Engagement has always been important. Technology advances have shifted the dynamic. Consumers play as important a role in Branding as company executives do. Engagement became a hot topic in boardrooms as consumers started to flex their collective muscle on social media. Which has created the question of who should own engagement from a leadership perspective?

The first choice is the traditional CEO, evolving how they manage the organization. A solid argument can be made that real engagement has to be top down to permeate the entire organization. However, this requires the development of a new skill set that not all CEOs possess.  

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer stated that, “CEOs are Failing to Meet Evolving Leadership Expectations.” This may be that CEOs are not seen as authentic. Or they may not have a personal touch to connect with employees at every level. Employees expect transparency, honesty, relatability, and straight talk, not corporate speak.

Others believe the responsibility for engagement should be with the CMO. Shar VanBosKirk, a VP and principal analyst at Forrester, thinks it makes sense for CMOs to oversee all aspects of the customer journey, “The future of marketing is not just about creating great customer experiences everywhere, it is about demonstrating a firm’s brand promise through great customer experiences everywhere—with a product, in a store, at a bank branch, checking in for a flight, on a mobile app, using a tablet, calling customer service, ordering at a restaurant, logging into your account.” 

Customers expect a seamless experience across interactions, be it with digital marketing messages, sales conversations, or support tickets, they prefer one voice from the company. Regardless of how you decide to handle engagement internally, making it the focus of your go to market strategy will provide dividends for years to come.

To determine the best way to handle engagement at your company, send us a note. Our executive recruiters will work with you to find your strengths and weaknesses and design a leadership team that works for your culture.