The Future of Executive Search

The future of executive search has never been as cloudy or as exciting as it is today. The reason for these seemingly at odds perceptions is the same, technology. While it’s true that automation, AI, and social platforms like LinkedIn have forever changed the executive search landscape, in truth, automation has elevated the importance of strong executive search partners.

One area of employment that has been enabled by technology is remote workers. Being connected to a “home” office has never been easier, and with some top talent preferring to remain in rural locations, the barrier to hiring them is lower than it has ever been.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that 40% of the total workforce now have ‘contingent’ jobs. This number is even higher in the millennial segment. Edelman Intelligence research cites 47% of working millennials also freelance in some capacity. The number is expected to rise in the coming decade to more than 50% of the working US population.

Another emerging trend in this area is the use of fractional executives. Depending on whether or not you need a full time permanent person in the role, the number of experienced executives who prefer to work part-time are increasing. Executive recruiters are able to help you find strong candidates that not only possess the technical skills to assist in a short-term project, but are also aligned to your culture.

Placing fractional executives speaks to another trend in executive search, and that’s an expansion of services. With the amount of change and disruption taking place in people management, expectations of executive search firms are changing. Identifying, screening, and presenting well qualified candidates is just the beginning. From offering assessments to creating onboarding plans, and from executive coaching to culture fit analysis or succession planning, executive recruiters are becoming strategic human resources advisors.

Per AESC, companies are asking for additional counsel: for example, assessing leadership teams, advising boards on their effectiveness, succession planning and culture assessment. AESC CEO Karen Greenbaum says, “The profession requires agility.” For example, clients are looking to fill relatively new C-suite roles. Greenbaum explains, “You can’t simply find someone who’s done a job for 20 years, when it’s a role that didn’t exist ten years ago.” She says, “When consultants go into an assignment they are not just filling a slot, they have to think creatively.”

AESC highlights another trend for executive search, culture fit. “About 70% of people who fail do so because of a lack of cultural fit. So breaking the code on cultural fit is key. Knowing the vision, mission and values of the organization hasn’t changed, but that’s no longer enough. New tools can add real context to those foundational statements. Greenbaum goes on to say, “A comprehensive assessment of organizational culture and a candidate’s cultural profile helps us better understand and predict candidate fit.” That level of assessment requires not only advanced tools but the judgment, experience and insight of an executive talent expert.”

A related change for executive search in the future is the ability to identify and quantify soft skills. Originally referred to as emotional intelligence (EQ), finding leaders who demonstrate empathy and can motivate and influence people. This means finding people that may be unexpected candidates, with different experience that goes beyond the traditional skill set match historically used to identify the best candidates.

Lastly, as the business world has become global, the traits of a successful executive have evolved. One of the traits expected of candidates is comfort with ambiguity and the ability to make decisions without all of the information. The speed at which technology moves no longer allows for deliberate decision making. Another impact of globalization is the need for more diversity in both executives and board members. Working across borders carries an expectation that leaders will understand or have experience of other cultures and business practices.

Technology has improved the ability to search for unique and interesting candidates, but the human aspects of search will never be replaced. Regardless of the services provided in the future, when it comes to trust, emotion, and intuition, executive recruiters will always provide value. To learn more about the future of executive search, send us a note.