COOs – The Stats Behind These Corporate Superstars

Chief Operating Officers have never been more critical to a company’s success. Responsible for a host of business initiatives, teams and functions – a great COO is a huge corporate asset.

But what does it take to be a great COO today? What does the role entail? To find out, we studied a mix of COOs operating within both UK and overseas businesses.  Here are some of the key research findings:

Role & Responsibilities

  • 87% agree that the role is currently undergoing change.
  • Over three quarters report 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.
  • 62% feel that COOs are more strategic and 46% believe they are more involved in talent management.

Reporting Lines

  • The majority of those surveyed head up transformation and change, facilities, strategy, HR and IT.
  • 40% also have governance over finance, marketing, R&D and supply chain or procurement, with teams reporting to them across all these areas of the business.
  • One in five also have the sales function reporting into them.

Business Priorities

In addition to managing a broad spectrum of departments, continuous business improvement, optimising operational processes and driving key transformational projects are the key elements of the role.

Priorities also include keeping the business running, delivering cost efficiencies, shaping the future of the organisation and designing a framework to turn strategy into operations.


As a result, COOs are required to have a broader spectrum of skills than ever before.

  • 64% say that leadership ability is the most important attribute for the position.
  • 57% believe COOs must also be good at decision making, be able to manage transformational change (36%), have courage (26%), strong interpersonal skills (36%) and be comfortable with complexity (29%)


Unsurprisingly, COOs have previously held a real mix of roles. 

  • 73% had previously undertaken Operations Director or Manager roles before moving into the role of COO.
  • 20% have previously headed-up production, and 40% transformation and change management.
  • Current COOs have also been procurement, sales, marketing and HR directors.


Clearly no one 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. 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.

If you are looking to scope or fill a COO role, get in touch with our Executive Search experts