Executive Expectations

1 September 2021

The pandemic has transformed the process of hiring top executives.

Many companies are poorly served by their current hiring practices – especially when competition for top talent remains so keen.

A recent study from research and advisory firm Gartner surveyed 3,500 managers and found that only 29% of new hires have all the skills required for their current roles, let alone for future ones. The shelf life of skills is becoming shorter and shorter. The research found that in key functions such as finance, IT, and sales, positions filled today will require up to 10 new skills within 18 months.

Globally, we are seeing some very specific themes emerge in 2021:

The pandemic created all sorts of disruption, from technology to corporate culture and a greater focus on diversity.

Many boards are focusing on the need to accelerate their digital transformation. and there is an increasing demand for business transformation specialists.

Virtual interviews have certainly cut the time it takes to interview and hire, but the hybrid scenario is here to stay where the first-round interviews can be done online, but further stages require in-person interviewing. However, virtual interviews can mean far less investment is required on the part of candidates, so it is vital to explore their true motivations for wanting a new position.

Companies also are giving priority to different values in their leaders, such as communication skills.

Sometimes it is good to hire for potential and transferrable skills not just specific industry experience. All too often firms simply put together a profile mirroring that of the person who has left, perhaps tacking on a few new requirements. At best, this highlights candidates who are prepared for yesterday’s challenges, but probably not ready for tomorrow’s.

Candidates are being increasingly selective about who they work for and companies are having to sell themselves to the candidates as much as the other way around.

  • In a survey of 2,800 job candidates conducted as part of the research, 65% reported halting the process because they found some aspects of the job or the company unattractive.

There is an increased demand for leaders who can bring an organisation together with shared values and a mission worth pursuing, with transparency and responsibility, to present the organisation in the right way.

The freedom (or the imperative) to work remotely and to manage one’s own time has increased the effect that an individual can exert over the design of their jobs. WFH also has broadened the applicant pool - many employers are no longer limited by borders and geographies.

Executives who can motivate and lead their teams from afar will therefore bring a huge benefit to the stakeholders.

Finally, CEOs and Boards are very conscious of the need for contingency planning and lessons learned in anticipation of future events. Succession planning has become even more vital and so retaining key people is essential.

We are all living in a different world, and that world demands a new approach to hiring that can't be ignored.

Lorri Lowe
Partner, UK


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