Change may always have been part of business life but in today’s market, change is for many organisations now constant. Rather than simply bringing in change leads for focused transformation projects, businesses are increasingly hiring permanent leadership talent to link change with strategy, then support and co-ordinate the work required.
In response to this shift Alex Hyde, a Director in BIE’s Transformation Practice with over 17 years of recruitment search experience, established the Transformation Search Practice in 2021. Since launching we have seen a significant increase in the demand for permanent transformation leadership, and this trend looks sets to continue.
Drawing on his experience across a wide range of sectors and organisations, including global PLCs and PE/VC backed, Alex examines this growing trend in more detail.
Change is now constant. Increasingly, organisations are reacting to this by appointing permanent leadership talent with a skillset in developing strategies, target operating models, and roadmaps, to complement support from external consultancies and interim resources to successfully deliver change & transformation that will drive positive business outcomes.
For businesses, global events and crises such as the pandemic, conflict and macro-economic conditions, now exist alongside the more traditional commercial triggers for change – technological advances, shifts in markets, demographics, supply chain disruption and regulatory change to name a few.
Historically, this hasn’t always been the case with businesses typically identifying a need for change and instigating programmes of work to make it happen. Change was typically viewed as a more finite occurrence with a clear launch date and objective. Leaders would know their business had changed when they hit milestones and the process would be set out over a defined period of time.
Today, such is the pace of technological change businesses can no longer stand still. Once change has been realised, the time required to implement new systems and the speed at which new products and services come to market, often mean further change is required.
Add onto that the myriad of change triggers mentioned above and businesses easily find themselves in a state of constant change. As soon as one target is met, another emerges. The pandemic is over, the economic crisis begins. Businesses need to be agile, to constantly evolve, ensuring they are ready for growth – otherwise they risk being swept away by the change around them.
These changes were supported by research for our 2022 Transformation Report, with 57% of the 200 organisations in our survey revealing that they were undergoing full business transformations. Change isn’t just a functionally-led initiative or a new process for operations, technology has forced businesses to make it intrinsic to their ability to thrive and the ability to transform quickly needs to be instilled in to fabric of the organisations culture.
Further, figures from Accenture and Brightline’s The Chief Transformation Officer Report suggest that 70% of enterprise transformation projects fail to meet expectations. This is a worrying state of affairs in itself, but if change is a constant, there are greater implications. Is a business always at risk of failure and if so, what can it do to protect itself? Increasingly we have seen organisations hiring Chief Transformation Officers (CTrO) and Transformation Directors at a group level to build their capability for successful change delivery.
This role, stationed at C-Suite level, and with influence across all other business functions, gives organisations understanding, vision, influence and focus for change. From their position, a CTrO has the ability to guide every part of the business in what it needs to do to make successful change happen.
Where previously organisations might have appointed into CTrO-type roles using a high-performing functional leader from within the business, or hiring externally on a short term/interim basis, the CTrO demonstrates how businesses need to integrate the ability to change into their everyday operation. The CTrO offers an anchor for the organisation – a point of stability and focus to guide and coordinate all parts of the business. Certainly, as the future appears more uncertain and subject to more factors that could cause change, the CTrO will become essential, and they must be ready to address an increasingly diverse agenda. As a permanent part of the board, their presence means the knowledge and experience of managing change stays within the company, rather than walking away when a change project is over.
At BIE, we’ve responded to this increasing demand for permanent Chief Transformation Officers and Transformation and Programme Directors at C-1 level by establishing a search practice to complement our market leading interim offering. With the support of its market leading research capability the search practice is also able to support clients looking to hire highly technical SMEs and Senior Managers for transformation and programme focused roles.
Key to our success is working closely with our clients to understand what their strategic objectives are, what transformation means for them, what a successful outcome looks like and who is going to be the right fit for their business. The best candidates for transformation leadership roles often need to have highly technical skill sets, and experience, but having the correct approach to leadership and stakeholder management style is critical to enabling clients to realise the benefits of transformation.
As companies seek to future-proof themselves, and with one eye on the scale of disruption and change that organisations need to tackle head on, gaining a strong transformation leader can be critical to the survival and success of a business. With this skillset on board, companies can be ready for anything, proactive and preparing for growth despite all the challenges they face.