executive search in the next decade - trends and challenges 

executiveDigital transformation has disrupted the rules of the game when it comes to hiring.  Across the board, companies are struggling with retention and shortage of skilled and experienced talent. Higher up the ladder, the search becomes even more daunting. Increasingly, top-level managers are also being shown the door for non-performance. 

One study notes that almost 39% of top-level executives quit their jobs within the first 18 months of taking on a new role over concerns of non-performance, while a Harvard Business Review study points out that  50-60% of hires fail within the first 18 months. The reason for these abysmal failures is perhaps best explained with another statistic—Gallup found that 82% of the time, companies fail to choose the right candidates. 

With disruptive change and advancement in technology, its potential to emerge as the great equalizer will only increase. In this context, it becomes imperative to find the right people who can function as the company’s ‘key differentiators.’ Senior professionals will require a combination of market knowledge, technical skills, emotional intelligence and people skills to vie for leadership positions. Above all, they will need to be a good cultural fit, contributing to the growth of the company not just financially, but also by contributing to a strong organizational culture, bringing employees together with a shared vision and common goals.

Here are a few key trends that are driving the recruitment of senior executives in the coming years:

the demand for niche skill sets:

In 2018, many organizations reported that CXO hiring was on the rise. Overall demand for C-suite executives in 2018 witnessed a 20-25% hike. Senior professionals will require niche skill sets to take on roles such as heads of product development, R&D, engineering, chief digital officer, and product architects. Organizations are seeking senior execs who are familiar with new technologies including cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science, and virtual reality, among other emerging tech developments; so that they can accordingly enable the company to ride the growth wave that comes with these advancements. While firms will continue to focus on growing inside talent, there will be an increasing openness to hiring senior professionals from the market who can bring a fresh perspective, add value to the organization and guide it through its next burst of growth. 

increase in replacement hiring:

The economy will no longer favour average performers and non-starters, especially at the higher levels. CXOs will be expected to add value from the get-go in their roles. As a result of this impatience with average performance, replacement hiring will be on an upswing. HR professionals should proactively prepare for this.

HR will need to don the business cap:

Just as businesses need to become more agile, adaptive, customer-centered and resilient, employees must embody and reflect these values as well. The HR function is no exception and it will need to transform itself accordingly. Instead of restricting itself to a support function, HR will have to understand the needs of the business, and lead from the front in transforming the organization and hire with an eye on business goals. Organizations will increasingly consider Implementing artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), analytics and related technologies to sort and discover more about potential candidates, follow their digital footprints and examine their professional profiles thoroughly before making a hiring decision. People managers will also leverage these technologies extensively in the coming years to evaluate employees and help chart their career progression internally into middle and senior management roles based on performance, capability, attitude and people relations. 

key factors to consider while hiring senior executives

senior executiveUnderstand the requirements and expectations: When hiring senior professionals, make a thorough assessment of what the role entails in the long and short term. Ensure this is clearly communicated to the candidate. The more well-articulated the objectives, the higher the chances that the hire will succeed. Assess if the task at hand is a long-term one. If it is a short-term project, would a senior consultant be more likely to answer the demand? 

map the market:

To ensure that you are making an offer that is competitive, it’s important to work on your talent pipeline and market map prior to the actual vacancy. Understand the packages being offered by your competitors, identify the roles that your competitor has and whether your business demands similar ones. This information will also ensure that you are able to protect your talent from being poached.  

build a talent pipeline and nurture it:

The best way to recruit senior level executives is to take a proactive approach– and build the talent pipeline beforehand. Your company’s talent pool could consist of both internal and external candidates. Have a clear succession and training plan for internal candidates and nurture relationships with external candidates. Ensure that you are constantly evaluating your hiring efforts by analyzing data and developing metrics to assess each stage of the process.

focus on the candidate’s professional needs:

While most companies spend time assessing if the candidate will fit the company, not many pause to do a reverse evaluation—that is, will the company fit the candidate? Understand what your candidate’s career goals are and if your company will be able to offer it in the long run. Else, you may win on hire but fail on retention.

make sure you’re looking in the right place:

Recruitment of senior level employees are different to others, so it’s important to look at the right place. There are several recruitment agencies that focus only on CXO-level hires, make sure you’re approaching only the right ones. Several studies confirm that referrals are still the most effective hires, senior level hires included. Professional networks like LinkedIn are a great place to identify potential candidates for a talent pool. Industry-related platforms, associations and industry publications are also great avenues to find candidates with specific skills.