When the C-suite has a new management priority, a new job title often follows. In the mid-2000s, businesses added innovation executives to focus their companies on organic growth. In recent years, chief diversity officers multiplied to guide businesses toward better equity and inclusion amid a national racial reckoning.
Now, companies are adding job titles focused on remote or hybrid work experiences as the shift to work from home becomes a lasting phenomenon that will require more accountability and greater attention from its leadership ranks.
New data from LinkedIn provided to Forbes finds there has been a 60% increase in job titles related to the future of work and a 304% spike in titles that reference “hybrid work” since the pandemic began.
Some examples, LinkedIn says, include titles like “hybrid workplace flexibility lead,” “director of hybrid working,” “flexible workspace operations manager” and “vice president, employee engagement & flexible work.”
“Organizations are finding that there’s a need to create roles that have a specific focus on these types of programs to really rethink and evolve their thinking about this new world of work,” says Shannon Hardy, LinkedIn’s vice president of flex work.
The roles can include different types of responsibilities and have varying levels of seniority. The job holder might be a wide-ranging executive who collaborates across real estate teams, IT departments and human resource managers to develop an organization’s future of work strategy. Or they might be a middle manager in H.R. who focuses more narrowly on remote work issues, such as facilitating tax issues for employees who want to work in states outside of where the company has offices.
In LinkedIn’s case, Hardy’s role includes a broad array of responsibilities, from providing strategic guidance to reviewing workforce communications on Covid-19 updates and return-to-office requirements, helping managers whose employees want to make domestic moves to other locations and updating H.R. systems to clarify remote and hybrid job postings.
To do the analysis, LinkedIn used keywords in English and nine other languages across three categories: company culture, flexibility and wellness, considering all job titles in the month of September each year between 2019, 2020 and 2021. The analysis, which was done as part of a broader report on talent trends released Tuesday, also found that titles focused on culture, flexibility and wellness were on the rise, with 20% growth in flexible work-related job titles since 2019 and 13% growth in titles related to well-being and company culture. Within job postings, there’s been an 83% increase in posts mentioning flexibility since 2019, LinkedIn’s analysis found.
Darren Murph, whose title is “head of remote” at open-source software firm GitLab, has also seen an increase in job titles focused on the issue, pointing to organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic, which added its first-ever director of remote workforce solutions last year, and Cimpress, the parent of custom printing firm Vista, which has a seven-person team dedicated to remote work issues.
“The only shot that hybrid has of working is if people invest in dedicated leadership to do it.”
“Where it’s gone in the year since [the pandemic prompted such roles] is companies outside of tech are now doing this,” says Murph. He’s held the role since 2019 at GitLab, which has been remote since 2011, and has been an advocate for other companies to add such positions.
Murph thinks positions with such accountability will be particularly important at companies planning to do both remote and in-person work. “The only shot that hybrid has of working is if people invest in dedicated leadership to do it,” he says.
At Unilever, Patrick Hull holds the title of vice president, global learning and future of work, a role he stepped into in early 2021. It’s his job to work on initiatives such as reskilling the consumer products company’s workforce and implementing new employment models, such as Unilever’s U-Work program, which lets employees sign up to act as gig-based project workers.
Hull says that having someone dedicated to the job allows them to not just be aware of trends, like the aging workforce or the growth of the gig economy, but to act on them.
“You can look at all these things as an organization and go ‘ok that’s nice,’ and then just carry on doing what you’ve always been doing, or you can say ‘ok, these things are happening, how do we leverage them?’ ” he says. “That’s the relevance of having this kind of role. Without someone dedicated to this space everyone’s too busy to really [focus on] what these things mean.”