Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | The private sector offers a glimpse into new leadership roles that can help state and local governments foster a better work environment.
Over the past couple decades, C-suite roles in state and local government have proliferated. Think chief innovation officer, chief technology officer, chief data officer, chief sustainability officer or chief equity officer.
The rapid technological transformation in our society combined with the social justice movement and the very real threat of climate change spurred the need for state and local governments to create leadership positions focused on tackling these major long-term issues.
In just the last few years, more C-suite titles have surfaced: chief heat officer, chief officer of the public realm and chief housing officer, to name a few.
This follows a similar trend that has been happening in the private sector. As the nature of work continues to transform in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the private sector is experimenting with new C-suite roles that cater to the needs of their employees and their industries in ways that drive innovation and foster a healthy work environment.
As state and local governments look for ways to raise their profile as an employer of choice, an opportunity presents itself to learn from the private sector and consider creating new leadership positions that directly address some of the challenges public employees are facing.
Below are three emerging leadership positions in the private sector that state and local governments should consider replicating.
Chief Happiness Officer
Public sector workers have experienced high levels of burnout and stress since the onset of the pandemic, affecting overall employee morale. About 42% of state and local government employees considered leaving the workforce or retiring due to burnout, according to a survey by the MissionSquare Research Institute, a nonprofit that studies government workforce issues.
If state and local employers want to stabilize their workforces and retain employees, they need to pay more attention to employee satisfaction and overall well-being. That’s where a chief happiness officer or chief wellness officer comes in.
A chief happiness officer is basically a human resources manager that believes happy employees make better employees. This role partners with executive leadership and management teams to build experiences within the work environment that focuses on maintaining employee happiness and well-being.
Companies like SAP, Google and Deloitte have chief happiness officers that gather data to better understand employee satisfaction and use research-based strategies to elevate productivity, increase retention, support mental health, help recruit top talent, and create a sustainable, inclusive, and positive culture.
Candidates for this role should be able to problem solve, think strategically and display empathy.
Chief Remote Officer
The pandemic changed how and where everyone worked, and although the transition to remote work was largely successful in delivering continuity of government operations, much of the remote work landscape was built on the fly.
Nevertheless, the success of the transition has led many state and local governments to fully embrace the possibility of remote or hybrid work and use it as a selling point to attract new workers to unfilled positions. But now that remote work is here to stay, states and localities can benefit from having someone in a leadership position focused on crafting policies, identifying tools and upholding security standards for a permanent remote work culture.
Companies that have created chief remote officer positions include Okta and GitLab. Examples of roles are responsible for creating performance metrics to evaluate remote workers, vetting and auditing tools for effective collaboration and asynchronous communication, and promoting cybersecurity procedures.
Chief Trust Officer
Since the pandemic, every level of government has seen a decline in trust. Although state and local governments fare better than their federal counterparts, misinformation and disinformation threaten to further erode what little trust is left.
Additionally, governments’ susceptibility to cyber attacks that have led to leaks in residents’ personal identifiable information has raised questions around how well they are protecting the information they possess.
As states and localities continue to navigate how technology is interwoven with its business operations and look to future technological advances powered by artificial intelligence, strategic decisions will need to be made on the appropriate use of—as well as the costs and benefits of—leveraging these tools. Enter the role of the chief trust officer.
The chief trust officer’s role is to understand the quickly evolving nature of technology tools and apply them in a way that protects the organization and its users, safeguards data, and ensures that content is ethically sourced.
Forbes distinguishes the role of the chief trust officer role apart from existing IT roles such as chief information security officer or chief risk officer by defining it as one that is responsible for ensuring that when technology mishaps occur, the integrity of the organization remains intact.
SAP and Cisco are two companies that have embedded this role into their operations. The chief trust officer’s role goes to the heart of preserving the trust people have in state and local government, as well as preserving the brand of government as a place to go work to do good.