Interesting Times

Posted on 21st September 2018 | Thought Leadership

Interesting times – How current geo-political and economic turbulence impacts the search for top executive talent.

There’s an old Chinese curse, the origins of which are heavily disputed, which reads, “May you live in interesting times.” Though at first glance a blessing, the insinuation is that ‘uninteresting times’ are marked by tranquillity and peace, and so to wish ‘interesting times’ on a person, is to wish them a lifetime characterised by uncertainty, disorder, and even conflict.

With the clock ticking on Britain’s exit from the EU, a growing appetite in the West for protectionist politics, and old alliances starting to fray, it can be said that we most certainly live in interesting times. 

Amidst any period of time deemed ‘interesting’, there are always various groups whose interests they claim to be uniquely threatened. Across the corporate landscape many business leaders are laying such claims, becoming particularly anxious that growing geo-political and economic insecurity might impact on their ability to recruit the best talent. 

The state of play

Much has been made about recent unemployment figures which are being recorded as the lowest since 1975, with only 4% of the working population currently jobless. However, despite these promising figures, there are trends which are giving some cause for concern given their comparability with trends which surfaced around 2008 and the collapsing of the global financial order.

One such trend is the increasing difficulty organisations are having in recruiting top, executive talent. These professionals are remarkably adept at maintaining high performances even within a turbulent financial climate and are consequently well looked after by their employers. Despite their high performances though, fewer of these executives are willing to actively put themselves in the shop window for more lucrative offers, preferring instead to ‘play it safe’ and remain within their organisations.

Answering the call

With some top executives distancing themselves from the job market, organisations seeking to fill senior positions are finding it more difficult than in recent years – but there’s a solution. Instead of advertising for roles via traditional channels and making little headway, there exists great opportunity for those employers willing to engage the support of experienced executive-search partners. Partners able to uncover those hidden ‘A-Players’ who are open to new challenges but are reticent about putting themselves in the shop window, so to speak.

High-end, boutique recruitment services offer a degree of service that some employers are unfamiliar with and thus don’t fully appreciate. Their modus operandi goes a lot further than simply matching a batch of CVs with a job description before spending a day on the phones. Using increasingly sophisticated research methods, today’s top exec-search specialists are able to engage executive talent across a range of sectors and assess a whole array of diverse individuals before zeroing in on candidates that have the potential to be transformative for their new organisation. 

Even then, when a selection of candidates have been whittled down, the process gets more sophisticated still. Assessments scrutinise the biographical journey, key competencies, behavioural traits and psychometric profiles until the perfect fit for the executive team is unearthed.

By-passing the turbulence

We indeed live in interesting times. The vista of both the geo-political and economic landscape is unclear and there is little question that this is impacting the ability of organisations - of all types – to bring in the best people. However, it is not a problem without a solution. 

Those employers who choose to partner with relevant executive-search professionals are finding that their new relationships are going way further than simply filling top positions with ideal candidates. They are relationships which are becoming symbiotic, integral to both the employer’s performance and growth and right at the top of the value chain of ‘true partners’ to the business.

If assembling the perfect executive team for your organisation is proving elusive, a competent executive-search partner with a focus on ‘partnerships’ could be the answer and a long-term one at that.

Rob McKay - Managing Director, Sherrington Associate