Transitions and Transformation in the Executive Search Market

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Andy Raymond.



The corporate world is in a state of rapid transition and companies need the right people to successfully lead them through this transformation. With the last twelve months having been defined by political, legislative and economic unpredictability, as a result, Executive Search has been tasked with adapting to continued macro-sized changes to fulfil clients’ hiring needs across the engineering and technology industry.

From the devaluation in sterling and digital transformation continuing to drive movement, uncertainty serves to underlie the value of strong leadership.

It has proved adaptable and always comes out on top during times of transformation, demonstrating strategic resilience as leadership teams, within its client-base, look to adapt to changes within their particular industry.

Andy Raymond, Director of Redline Executive observes: “Despite the makeup of Boards changing, client strategies evolving and different leadership skillsets coming in, and out, research suggests that the industry continues to play its role as an important strategic partner to its clients. Clearly LinkedIn and other social media support the identification process when sourcing talent. But identification is the easy bit. What they can’t replicate is the rigour that a search firm can bring to a process, nor the objectivity of perspective or currency in the market place that comes with working with a professional search firm - you still need experts to manage strategic hiring.”

Andy continues: “Efforts to drive diversity are definitely beginning to pay off with more female CEOS and female candidates at the C-level. Plus we are seeing greater flexibility on location and co-location - this is having a positive impact.”

As executive search consultants, we help companies find senior leaders and executives who are able to drive growth and implement change in a world that’s ever more digital, says Andy. These trends reflect the digital nature of the change that impacts all of the sectors in which we operate. Yet the human dimension remains a central component: talent is at the heart of all considerations when driving such change and taking organisations forward.”

“The aspirations of a new wave of employees are impacting HR strategies and pushing organisations to clarify and redefine their purpose. Companies are expected to demonstrate their values, which are ever more visible and subject to scrutiny, due to increasing digitalisation. Leaders are instrumental in successfully attracting talent from Generation Z, those born in the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. Business leaders represent not only what their company does, but what it stands for. They will increasingly need to make their business attractive to these enterprising, resourceful ‘digital natives’ who are now entering their twenties. With baby boomers, millennials and older members of Generation Z active in the workplace, the very nature of how a company operates is affected, and its management even more so,” says Andy.

Andy’s view on the next leaders

“Generation Z, the youngest of the set, are highly perceptive, due to their online access and culture, and can quickly see through corporate brands that are disingenuous, says Andy. They want to see companies passionately uphold their principles and stand by what they advocate – not just ‘talk the talk’. Leadership style, talent retention strategies and employee engagement are just some of the challenges companies will face as a result.”

 “Companies traditionally tend to approach work with a ‘there’s a job to be done’ mind-set, whereas employees are increasingly driven by the mission and by being trusted to fully execute their job. Such employees tend to want to contribute, making them ideal entry-level professionals. Employers must therefore review their strategy, so they can find and connect with these potential employees. Generation Z put their work ethic, diversity and work-life balance at the centre on their interest and priorities when deciding whether or not to join a company,” says Andy.

“Generation Z are self-motivated and entrepreneurial in spirit. They have been confronted with uncertainties, more even than the millennials, the generation that preceded them. As a result, they seek a job that is meaningful: salary isn’t the bottom line. Furthermore, they have seen their parents’ and older siblings’ loyalty go unrewarded by employers, so for them loyalty has to be a two-way street. They are digital natives who have grown up in the online world. They are progressive and have had access to more resources than ever. They tend to be great networkers, which significantly improves their chances of succeeding at whatever they put their mind to.”

Andy continues: “Others are those who tend to prefer working in flatter corporate structures, and in companies where they can be agile and participate in the decision-making process. More traditional companies now need to create common ground for working with such a generation. Flatter management structures and using an agile methodology are just some of the measures that will create the conditions for a more fruitful and mutually respectful working relationship and help in retaining talent.”

Is what you stand for attractive to Generation Z?

Reflecting on purpose is important to Generation Z. Companies need to revise what they stand for, particularly as it is expected that the workforce will include at least 50% of Generation Z by 2020.

But how do employers do this effectively? For a start, they must go beyond the marketing blurb and corporate social responsibility (CSR) page that appear on their websites, as these will not whet the appetite of those wishing to be part of a greater cause. CSR as a cynical act for tax-saving purposes will certainly not impress this generation. Does the company really stand by its chosen cause? Often businesses lose sight of this. Having invested great effort into sourcing a cause and aligning it to their business in the early stages, they allow the relationship to peter out over time.

“Leaders need to ensure that in defining what they stand for, they don’t just ‘tick the boxes’. In an era where companies continually find themselves in the public spotlight, this will soon become all too apparent. This makes the visibility of the employer’s brand, in its broadest sense, increasingly important in the HR strategy, with the need to project value, culture and delivery – all of which need to be consistent and managed effectively.”

Executives must lead by example

CEOs need to be engaging and take every opportunity to communicate what they stand for and ‘go beyond businesses. Leaders need to be more vocal – and active – on social issues such as equal pay and human rights, be more engaging and have an influential approach showing how an authentic leader can make a big difference. As the prominent face of the company, CEOs and other leaders should show solidarity and a genuine intent to make a difference, or risk losing credibility. They must ‘walk the talk’, as ultimately employees will mirror managers and managers will mirror leaders. Profitability is, of course, essential to running a sustainable business. But focusing solely on the numbers indicates a disconnect and a missed opportunity to identify and project what you stand for.”

In conclusion

“The real challenge for businesses is retaining Generation Z employees, making it clear what the business is working towards and creating an attractive proposition for them. Leaders must consistently demonstrate why their employees have made the right decision in choosing to work for them. As the prominent face of the company, CEOs and other leaders should show solidarity and a genuine intent to make a difference, or risk losing credibility. They must ‘walk the talk’, as ultimately employees will mirror managers and managers will mirror leaders.”

Redline Executive are the industry-aligned key partner for C and D suite permanent and interim hiring assignments for the European Technology market. To find out more about our Executive Search Process click here.
To have a confidential discussion about our executive search services, please call 01582 450054.


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