Growing (and Shrinking) Functions at the Top

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Confronting challenges that are rapidly evolving and others that are newly emerging, the world’s largest companies have understandably adjusted their C-suites to align their executive management teams for organizational success amidst these challenges.

Over the past four years, we have carefully observed some profound and significant changes in C-suites at the world’s 500 largest revenue-generating companies, as measured in the 2021 edition of the Global Fortune 500

C-suites at these companies are defined as direct reports to the chief executive officer (N-1 to CEO) and their respective direct reports (N-2 to CEO). Four years ago, on January 1, 2018, there were, on average, 28 executives in this N-1 and N-2 category compared to 29 such executives on January 1, 2022.  

Four years ago, on January 1, 2018, we identified and listed 37 executive functions that were then being managed by over 50 executives at the world’s 500 largest companies.

Four years later, on January 1, 2022, we again identified these functions and found that some executive titles at these mega-sized companies had expanded considerably while other had shrunk just as considerably.

In the table above, we identify the respective growth or reduction in these executive titles over the past four years (between January 1, 2018 and January 1, 2022).

Doubling and halving

Over the past four years, as corporate transformational challenges emerged requiring new skills with remote work environments, compensation, retention, and corporate culture development, the world’s 500 largest companies doubled their number of recruiting and talent management executives.

Seasoned human resource executives have been in high demand with VPs of Recruiting and VPs of Talent Development growing more than any other executive function (131 percent and 97 percent, respectively) over the past four years.

Meanwhile, these same companies cut in half their number of dedicated digital executives,which were in high demand four years ago in 2018 when dedicated experts were sought to leverage the promise of social media and to draw on the high-profile digital successes at companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon that could be replicated.

In 2022, the digital function has now been broadly embraced with scores of talented and dedicated digital teams in place at the world’s largest companies.

But the need for C-suite executives dedicated to this function has diminished as these teams have blossomed to meet the opportunities and challenges associated with our digital age. Indeed, the C-suite role of VP, Digital was the executive function that diminished the most over the past four years, falling 47 percent during this period.

Growing and shrinking

VP Compliance or VP Health, Security, Environment and Quality in the Global Fortune 500 have increased as climate, purpose and transparency have grown in magnitude and complexity for all stakeholders, including employees, investors, regulators, and customers.

VP eCommerce or Distribution have also grown over the past four years as eCommerce, whether conducted directly or through partners, has become a necessity in most industries.

As companies focus on their core business by subcontracting satellite activities, the same has proven true with the VP Procurement function, which also has grown.

Coordination roles such as VP Country, VP Local or VP Communications, on the other hand, have been reduced over the past four years as organizations have flattened.

Functions such as VP Tax or VP Control have also fallen over the past four years as software automation has eased the demand for C-suite-level executives dedicated to these functions.

Keeping up

In each of the Global Fortune 500 companies we follow, with roughly 208 executives at each of these 500 giant global corporations, we detected significant turnover with approximately 125 executive moves annually over the past four years, totaling the executives who join, quit, or are promoted at these mega-size companies.

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Related articles:
Five (Recent) Corporate Organizational Trends
12 Emerging C-Level Positions
Newcomers and Promotions at the Top

About Thomas Lot

Thomas Lot is the CEO & Founder of The Official Board. In his own executive roles as head of Apple Europe's retail team and then VP of Amazon Europe, Thomas enjoyed the value of executive networking and recognized the need for clear company org. charts. Now, with the org charts of all the medium & large companies displayed on The Official Board, many more executives can benefit. Please [email protected].