Over the last two years, the Covid crisis has elicited stark changes within multiple business areas and Executive Search is no exception.
In my opinion, there have been two noticeable structural changes to our industry:
The wider use of video conferencing allows us now to significantly reduce the lead time to a first interview between a consultant and a candidate, or a client and a candidate. Arranging in person meetings, with all the diary negotiations that necessitated, was always problematic and in many ways life seems to have become more fluid. However, this ease of business is not all positive.
I have observed an increasing volatility of candidates within selection processes. Indeed the 'plug and play' aspect of video conferencing appears to result in many candidates committing to the process much less than in a face-to-face as the former requires a far lighter logistical input than the latter.
Some candidates engage in a recruitment process without any sincere motivation for making a professional change. And even if motivated, some candidates also would consider video interviewing a lesser process, versus face-to-face, and so sometimes do not give it the necessary preparation, time or attention. Some may even unconsciously believe they will be given a later opportunity to have a 'proper interview' but actually they adversely impact their chances to even qualify for the next step.
Video interviews can limit our capacity of thoroughly assess an individual as traditional paralinguistic nuances are distorted such as waving, opting for a blurred or fake backgrounds, poor connectivity etc.
There is no doubt that the rise of remote working has shaken up organisations by giving a reduced focus on where people decide to live relative to the the location of the company. This recent change elicits a larger pools of relevant candidates and consequentially a higher quality shortlist. This new WFH culture needs to be supported and lived by our clients - either through their own culture and conviction, or by mere pragmatism in reaction to what is a hugely competitive Talent market.
In spite of all the recent changes imposed upon our ways of working, effective Executive Search remains strongly based on the basics - simply finding the very best leaders or problem solvers for the benefit of our clients.
Julien Wilhelm, Partner
Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centres, Infrastructure, and Industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems.
How did you adapt to Covid pandemic and what challenges did you face during this year?
A year ago, when the pandemic started, we were lucky that we needed only one meeting to decide that we would work from home. However, over the past 12 months, we faced challenges we never thought we would. By far the strangest feeling for an HR professional is being away from colleagues at work, but since we all agreed that the work from home solution was the best, we all started to get used to seeing each other via our online meeting platforms.
The toughest challenges we have had to face so far are probably recruiting and onboarding due to the limitations we now have in demonstrating the Schneider Electric Romania organizational culture to the new recruits. We have a vibrant organization of dedicated professionals, and meeting with them and understanding the feeling of camaraderie we all share is especially important for any new employee. Of course we tried to replicate most of that online and we made sure new employees have access to as many relevant colleagues as possible.
We are now allowing some of the people to return to the office under strict conditions, and we can see they missed each other. On a positive note, online communication has been more intense than ever. Many managers now have a chance to reach out to their entire teams even more frequently than in the past. It is easy to set up a quick online meeting, involving many employees - and this is much easier than in real life! So managers have taken the opportunity to talk to their people directly about how the pandemic has affected both their professional and private life.
What are the projects you implemented during this time?
Schneider launched a big global project last year in April, 'Open Talent Market'. There were many discussions at HR level at the time about whether we should launch it, being in the middle of a pandemic and worrying people would not have time necessary to dedicate to this type of program. However, there were many employees who said they wanted to join the platform as soon as it was launched.
Open Talent Market is a platform that allows all employees to enter and connect with mentors from across the Schneider world, if they want to develop their skills. They can connect or apply to local or global projects, but also apply for full-time roles. At South East Europe level, the area for which I am responsible, Romania is leading with an adoption of 78% in less than a year, according to last reports.
'Career Week' is another project that was recently launched in June. In this learning week we offered content, both locally and globally, on five main directions: technical career, functional career, cross-country career, a career that involves interaction with clients and a career in
Many larger companies are holding up well anyway, but more upbeat news cannot come quickly enough for the number of small and medium firms who are still struggling.
The last year has given us all a chance to reassess what is important in our lives. And so it is not surprising that so many people, including those in senior roles, are for one reason or another tempted to seek greener pastures - a new job, new challenges – a new start in this new normal. But why look to move when their current role is rather good?
In 2021, outstanding leadership has never been so important to the success and growth of an organisation.
When people look to those in charge and need them most, outstanding leaders act swiftly, decisively, and confidently without ego, undue emotion or public gnashing of teeth. They actively want to build a culture where mistakes are simply challenges to overcome, not opportunities to point fingers and assign blame.
I was chatting with a CEO last week who said, in a rather downbeat way, that just as he needed everyone to step up a gear, he was actually seeing a lack of motivation and productivity. Outstanding leaders don't pretend to know everything – I would argue that they actively hire people who know more than they do, because they instinctively ask questions. I suggested that it could be because his workforce had lost the connection between what they are doing and why. When there is a lull in motivation, he simply needed to remind them of the big picture and how they fit in. Communication is key. Outstanding leaders explain and then they listen--because the most effective communication involves way more listening than talking.
We know that firms are starting a phased return to the office, securing more new business and of course with that comes certain people challenges. I have always thought it noteworthy how businesses spend so much time figuring out how better to engage with customers, and so comparatively little time on how better to engage with their own management.
Having the right people at the top has never been so important. Employees are an organisation's most important asset, so taking care of them is essential if you want to retain and attract great talent.
Based on recent client consultations on Organizational Development, conducted by our team of experts, including Zoltan Kadar Friisberg Hungary’s Senior Consultant, and our special advisers at BondWeaver, the following clear trends were observed as changes within organizational networks due to Covid-19:
This has been on the rise within organizations due to the onset of the pandemic, as well as the ensuing economic recession/crisis. It can be seen through the change in communication patterns – in particular there is a higher level of “noise” within the networks as people try to gather information about the company and their tasks from multiple sources. On the one hand this information drought perpetuates the uncertainty of employees, and on the other the effort invested in gathering necessary information results in less energy remaining for work-related tasks.
New ‘key’ people
These are appearing within an organization. This is noticeable throughout unstable situations or as working remotely becomes the norm long-term when new skills and competences are required as well as a greater degree of flexibility. This enables some people to become key players, while others can lose such roles. In such new situations it is important for organizations to identify the key players who managers and colleagues can rely on (such as experts, information brokers, opinion leaders, etc.).
Relationships become more diluted
In the absence of regular physical contact, even those groups with established strong, trusting networks are diluted. Those with weaker links get fragmented / break up, typically cliques of 2-3 people emerge and/or some people break off from the group losing their relationship with the community altogether. This tendency has a clear negative impact on the efficiency of work (numerous studies show that the foundation of efficient work is mutual trust between parties), so leaders have to pay particular attention to strengthening the network of trust and maintaining the personal wellbeing of their subordinates.