Executive search is booming due to the need for new skills, increasing demands from emerging markets, and the changing needs of organisations who are experiencing significant changes in their business strategies - as a result of trends such as globalisation and digital transformation.

Executive search used to be about finding senior people with the technical skills and qualifications to fill a role. Today, hiring executive talent has become far more complex.

Increasing need to be agile

Just as organisations need to become more agile, so does executive search. Search firms need to be able to constantly assess evolving executive roles.

The speed of technology advancement means companies need people with specialist and often complex skills. In addition, disruption has led to new leadership roles within various sectors, with required competencies constantly evolving. For example, the CFO of today needs to be less focused on the numbers and more focused on results, but at some point in the future the focus will shift back and we’ll come back to needing CFOs with the financial rigour that comes with reconciling the balance sheet.

Meanwhile, changes to the way people work are also impacting search. The majority of executive hires have typically been for permanent roles, but the rise of the gig economy will certainly change this, as more senior leaders choose to adopt different lifestyle patterns from their predecessors. Moreover, as flexible working becomes more prominent, the fact that people can work anywhere adds another new element into the mix and opens organisations’ up to an even wider network of possible candidates.

Emphasis on culture and diversity

Culture is more important than ever for companies today, with culture fit just as crucial as experience and qualifications. Search firms are therefore looking at candidates’ compatibility with the organisation in regards to not just whether they can do the job, but things like emotional intelligence and motivational style too.

Organisations are also under pressure to hire a more diverse mix of people, including different genders, race, and ethnicities, and search firms need to respond to this. We know that organisations who incorporate diversity and inclusion strategies in their business have stronger financial performance.

Support beyond search

Organisations are increasingly looking to executive search firms for more than just finding the most suitable executive talent. Companies value the extended services search firms can offer, including succession planning, organisational design, and executive coaching. Search firms are taking a more proactive and advisory approach to supporting organisations, recognising this value of being a 'one-stop-shop'.

We are seeing more and more recognition of the importance of succession planning, particularly in functions like supply chain, where there is a talent shortage, and in finance, where specialisms often hinder the executive talent pipeline. Search firms are becoming a valuable source of counsel for organisations wanting to invest in a framework for bringing talent up through the organisation.

Search firms are also looking at things like organisational structure and design, and identifying ways they can shape it to help companies achieve their business goals.

They are becoming more advisory to senior executive candidates too, offering executive coaching where they can and help advise on their next move. Although acting as an extension of the organisation they partner with, being close to candidates themselves ensures a match that works for both the firm and the candidate.

Organisations recognise that search firms with extensive market knowledge and functional expertise will be able to provide the best service and the best talent. And to stay ahead of the curve, search firms need to be proactive rather than reactive. The search firms that embrace this new age, who work hard to keep up with an evolving market, and who can offer extended services based on client needs, will be the ones that stand out from the market.

Guide to Executive Search pillar page

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