At the end of last year global Executive Search firm, Korn Ferry - identified 10 emerging trends that would affect how businesses secure top talent. As we are over halfway through the year, we thought it was worth commenting on whether these things have come to pass. Please bear in mind that this was published in the USA. The trends were:
1. “(Don’t Mind the Gap) – The stigma of taking time off between jobs is fading”
In Australia, we don’t feel that this has ever really been an issue. What we are seeing more of is Australians who have been working overseas in demanding C-Suite roles, returning to Australia for family reasons. Some executives are returning to start the children in Australian schools, others have worked in more challenging cultural environments and may have been personally funding a kind of executive FIFO regime which is hard to sustain beyond a few years. We think this is great news for the Australian economy. These people typically take a break as part of the return home and we see more and more people taking short breaks to “freshen up” between jobs.
2. “Making artificial intelligence more “intelligent”: Left unchecked, artificial intelligence could undermine recent efforts to boost diversity.”
There was some concern that even with anonymous resumes, AI could still embed gender, race or age bias. The reality is that at a certain level, human interaction is still an essential component of the process. While AI is becoming increasingly helpful in terms of the ability to search internal and external databases for data, there is still little indication that many of the human qualities required during the sourcing process can be replicated, and we find that recruiters across our entire network are conscious of managing diversity issues, using experience and trusting intuition.
3. “Personalized pay: Go ahead, we’re listening:”
There was a general feeling that employers could tailor reward packages around the circumstances of the individual, generational groups, study commitments and international work via one-on-one discussions. In Executive Search, there has generally been a balance between the requirement for predictability at corporate level and recognising individual circumstances of senior executives. Some of these may have relocated from one city to another, or even from one country to another. Such a move creates a variety of lifestyle issues around accommodation, children’s education and dislocation from a natural home that employers are happy to tailor compensation for.
4. “Rethinking the annual performance review: Even if the employee does not have a long tenure, ongoing feedback will help them learn, stay engaged and create an employer value proposition to help attract future employees.”
We are surprised that this one continues to crop up. The reality is the best performance management processes, systems and software already do this. The real battleground for performance management is to ensure that line managers are capable of holding good times and bad times conversations with staff. Conversations that support the business plans that they have written. This is so easy to say, but the reality is that the majority of line managers are not well-trained in this essential skillset. We find that this is true all the way through to the CEO in many cases. HR either accepts this and steps in, or takes a long term development view to create better people managers.
5. “Digging deeper into the diversity and inclusion pipeline
This one does not require any further explanation. While on one level it has been around for many years, this has really generated momentum in 2019. There is no doubt that larger organisations are using diversity and inclusion diagnostics and even smaller organisations have no real way of avoiding the social changes that have been brought about by an increased focus on the social consequences of exclusion.
6. “How are we doing?”
This one was about technology allowing for real-time feedback from candidates. There is no doubt that technology is facilitating greater opportunity for feedback. The problem that we see with this is that we end up back in an exchange of data rather than an exchange of views. In essence, this goes back to the fact that human interaction can’t be removed from the process, nor should it be, and the truth that the best time to provide feedback to a candidate is immediately at the end of the interview process – face to face. We’d be concerned if, particularly in Executive Search, that employers and consultants in the industry hide behind data.
7. “That’s really a title?: New roles and titles are emerging across many industries to meet the changing strategies of organizations.”
The original article characterised this in terms of emerging new roles. These included: Chief Transformation Officer, Chief Customer Experience Officer and even Chief Employee Experience Officer. There is no doubt that individual industries are creating some unique role titles - that has been going on for maybe two decades. Some of these are real and some are just designed to attract the attention of a particular job seeking demographic. The Chief Transformation Officer role does reflect how some businesses are changing. However, we have not seen a great deal of diversion from traditional job titles, or common variances, at the Executive Search level.
8. “Talent analytics becoming just as important as business analytics”
As in earlier years, this is only about business capability. Talent analytics ARE business analytics and the reality is that boardrooms that are not looking at their access to the talent they need locally, nationally and internationally in the places that they do business, are probably asleep on the watch.
9. “Talking talent holistically, from hire to retire”
There are two ways of looking at this. The first is to develop insights from multiple perspectives to ensure that the approach to talent is calibrated around business outcomes. Once again, this just seems to be data analytics doing what great managers have always done. Most Executive Search practitioners would say that they were highly skilled at aligning executive competencies with business goals. The second is to develop "career allegories" to sell the long term benefits of engagement with a particular firm - this is growing in professional services.
10. “Balancing act: Managing short-term hiring needs with long-term”
Nothing new here, this is merely about hiring managers understanding that the roles that create and protect value need superior long-term attention from Executive Search providers and in Leadership Development. Many organisations still obsess about turnover, and it does have a cost, but only securing the right people for the most valuable roles in the organisation will pay long term dividends.