Executive Search In 2020: A Deeper Dive Into The Trends

Executive Search in 2020 - Invenias

By Christian Coley, Account Executive, Invenias by Bullhorn

Christian ColeyOver the years, executive search has seen shifts and changes, but never at the pace, or unfortunately, with the global impact that we are experiencing today. We are living in an unprecedented time of uncertainty and economic upheaval. As we navigate through these difficult waters, running our businesses will require innovation, creativity, and increased efficiency, all with work and travel restrictions never before imagined.

These challenges impact all stakeholders in a search engagement: the consultant, the candidate, and the end-customer. This has search leaders thinking, “How do we adapt to and support the terms of engagement to compete and stay productive during this ‘new normal?’”

In February of 2020, Invenias by Bullhorn released its annual Executive Search Trends Report surveying 400 executive search professionals for the year ahead. While this survey was conducted long before the COVID-19 pandemic had spread globally, the key issues elucidated will impact executive search in all business environments. While respondents are excited about the possibilities provided by technology, they are anxious about how to maximize use of it. Digital transformation and candidate engagement all play significant roles in the day-to-day lives of their teams.

Let’s take a few moments to dive into the key takeaways and challenges that were highlighted in the trends report, and, hopefully, add more insight and ideas to help navigate them.

Getting The Right People

The top priority of respondents for 2020 was candidate acquisition and 77% listed it as their top hiring challenge.

“Find someone with all of the hard skills, soft skills, and leadership experience our client needs, including leading a company through IPO and currently be a sitting CEO in a business with $100-$500M Revenue.” Sound familiar?

Based on the initial criteria of some searches and the state of today’s talent market, the candidate pool can be much too small while the client pushes for a longer longlist. So successful search firms are diversifying. They are going outside the client’s main industry for fresh perspectives on talent pools and functional expertise. Also, firms are searching beyond the realm of specific position histories and targeting people with strong competencies that align with the client goals and requirements. They may not be sitting CEOs, but they would make a significant impact in the client’s organization.

The question to ask is how are search firms systematically tracking that high value information—insight into the strongest candidates based on an assessment of their competencies? How are they systematically tracking and differentiating between the relevant and great talent? It’s not uncommon for a company to get stuck in a hiring pattern, so it is up to a client’s trusted advisor (their search partner) to bring them a broad and diverse candidate slate.

The idea of doing this remotely in a “work from home” environment common with so many corporations will be especially difficult, as face-to-face interviewing and interaction has traditionally been a cornerstone of engagement. That being said, embracing video interviewing strategies and solutions can help mitigate this hopefully temporary arrangement.

Digital Transformation

I’ve decided to address digital transformation second, because while it is usually overlooked as a priority, it can actually help with almost all of the challenges and issues in the report and that we’ve touched on thus far. As an outsider who’s now become entrenched in the intriguing world of search, I appreciate that search businesses are businesses that have been built on people relationships and, in some ways, technology has been viewed as relationship kryptonite.

While the element of having a great network and developing relationships will never change, the reality is that in order to compete at the highest level, firms are being forced to address digital transformation to extend their expertise by digitizing their knowledge with intuitive technologies shy of plugging USBs in the back of their consultants’ heads.

Unfortunately, our current reality of dealing with the business and societal fallout of COVID-19 underscores this to an extreme degree. Every company that can still do business in this environment is now, by definition, a technology company—providing services and products and interactions over the internet. Embracing digital transformation and formulating a digital strategy isn’t just a matter of future-proofing your business—it’s about immediate sustainability.

58% of respondents say the top operational challenge they’ll face is how to embrace digital transformation to improve operations.

85% agree that digital transformation will help their business, yet adoption remains a major hurdle.

Those firms who are prioritizing their technology approach have an edge on those who don’t. The processes they’ve set up for their teams is allowing them to capture all necessary data on all the candidates and clients they speak to more quickly than others—and it’s allowing them to better leverage that data for future searches. Candidate acquisition is among the top priorities and challenges faced and these firms have a leg up because the likelihood of them forgetting highly qualified candidates that they have talked to before is much lower due to the quality and quantification of high value data.

How else can digital transformation help take a firm to the next level?

  • Powerful reporting (like pipelining, forecasting, and financial modeling) can help make data-driven decisions. This is valuable at any time but especially at a time of economic uncertainty when diversifying the portfolio of services should be considered.

  • Client management and customer experience is a top priority for 2020. Well guess what? Technology/data should help promote the firm’s brand in a fresh way to stay ahead of the competition. Are clients having a memorable digital experience, for example?

  • Data privacy regulations: technology helps automate processes and helps firms stay compliant.

2020: A Year of Uncertainty and Challenge

While at the time of the survey more than 72% of firms expected revenue to increase in 2020, the economic landscape has changed dramatically given the economic impacts of COVID-19. However, the spread of the pandemic doesn’t need to interrupt your migration to a digital-first strategy and continuing to focus on delivering value to clients, helping them meet their changing business needs. Engaging with clients and candidates will plant the seeds for a future harvest, when companies begin to focus on growth again.

About Invenias

Over 1,000 Executive Search Firms across the globe, including many AESC member firms, use Invenias to deliver search assignments more effectively, build stronger relationships with their clients and candidates and transform the productivity of their operations. To learn more, visit www.invenias.com to request a free no obligation demo.

Download Issue Eighteen