Executive search in the next decade - trends and challenges

Digital 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.

Key factors to consider while hiring senior executives
Understand 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?