Private Equity Advisor

About Ralph Thurman

For more than a decade, Ralph Thurman has been an operating partner and senior advisor in the private equity industry. He has led several companies as they transition from the private to the public sector and completed more than $2 billion in acquisitions, equity investments, and other transactions across several industries in Europe and North… Continue Reading

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5 Ways the Pandemic Has Changed How CEOs Recruit and Retain Executives

5 Ways the Pandemic Has Changed How CEOs Recruit and Retain Executives

Executives have faced some of the most challenging times of their careers since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Few, if any, were prepared for the disruption of their industries. At a personal level, many have lost family, friends, and colleagues and may have battled illness and long-term symptoms themselves.

An awakened sense of what’s important for them personally and professionally is causing them to reconsider their current employment. In a WittKieffer survey, 95 percent of them indicated that they are open to a new role.

The pandemic has also highlighted new requirements of leadership. Priority is being placed on diversity, empathy, and the protection of the organization’s public reputation. And new skillsets and roles can be seen emerging in executive talent searches. This article proposes five significant trends in executive recruiting and retention post-pandemic:

CEOs Interviewing

1. Increased Executive Turnover

At the onset and height of the pandemic, executive turnover slowed to a minimum as leadership tried to stabilize what was still within its control. However, delayed retirements and “itchy feet” will change this now. Additionally, some executives didn’t perform well during the pandemic or don’t fit the future requirements of the organization’s leadership – CEOs and their boards must now address this.

2. Recruitment Is Different and Faster

COVID-19 normalized the virtual interview process. The cost and time savings mean it’s likely to remain a feature of initial-stage executive recruitment, although 70 percent of candidates interviewed by WittKieffer rated face-to-face meetings with potential employers as either important or extremely important. And as vaccines roll out, companies are requiring face-to-face interviews for the final stages of recruitment.

Virtual interviewing has sped up the executive recruitment process to between four and eight weeks from months of travel-intensive sessions squeezed into busy schedules. But it has also broadened the talent search, making it more realistic to interview remotely located candidates. It has also made it easier for more people within the organization to meet and talk to potential candidates. This potentially reduces the risk of selecting a candidate that isn’t a good fit for the organization and allows the board to assess the candidate’s ability to speak to a cross section of stakeholders.

3. Recruitment Is Becoming More Inclusive

In the past, the high investment required of executive recruitment meant it was often limited to closed networks of “proven and known” candidates. But with virtual interviews taking an hour or less, it’s feasible to broaden the candidate pool in every respect. As a result, companies are taking the chance to meet less experienced candidates they might not have previously considered. This may mean that candidates can be grown internally so that promising employees at the management level are retained.

Virtual interviews have also reduced the formality of the process and shifted the power dynamics because everyone appears in the same size square and there’s no “head of the table.” Additionally, interviewers get extra insight into a candidate when, in the background, they see family members or pets or the books the candidate has presumably read.

4. Diversity Will Take Priority

Data emerging from the pandemic clarifies the extent to which women and people of color were disproportionately affected by it. As a result, companies will be increasingly judged on the diversity of their executive teams – not just for form’s sake, but because success in the future will require divergent points of view and skillsets.

Executive recruiters confirm that requests for diversity candidates are rising. And board members are asking candidates for opinions on political or social issues that wouldn’t have been raised just a few years ago. To cope with the demand for diversity, specialist recruitment organizations such as Monarch Collective and Take Your Seat are springing up. They are working hard to introduce suitable diversity candidates into the network of C-suite candidates.

5. New Skillsets Are Being Sought

Executives need to commit to changing corporate systems and including previously excluded minority groups. And they may be required to give more attention to topics such as sound environmental practices and corporate governance than their predecessors.

In addition to their political and social views, candidates are being asked to display hard skills that were never considered previously. They’re being judged on how they coped during the pandemic and asked whether, and how, they would handle returning the organization to normalcy. Employee and customer well-being are of paramount importance, and new clinical leadership roles such as chief medical officer appear in industries where they were never featured previously.

By 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials. Current executive candidates are being questioned about their ability to manage such a workforce – not just the generational change, but the changes in technology. Can prospective candidates innovate in a digital environment? And cope with the threats that accompany it? Recruiters say more organizations than ever before are seeking C-level cybersecurity experts.

Whatever the future holds for your industry and organization, a high-performing, multi-skilled, and visionary executive team will be essential to your success. So, it could be time to take advantage of the fluidity in the candidate market, but also to woo those colleagues you wish to retain.