The demand for C-suite leaders, or the top-level management positions in an organisation, has been witnessing a consistent spike over the past few months.
Among this, the movement of CXOs was inevitable as companies began holding on to expansion plans from 2020 as Covid disrupted life and business, but markets began getting bolder from the middle of the year.
Kushhagr Agarrwal, founder of executive search firm KNR Management Consultants, says there has been an almost 70% spike seen in the year 2021-2022 in C-suite job searches.
“As the pandemic settles down, CXO hiring has experienced a record increase this year, with the highest demand for external CXO talent coming primarily from the software, fintech, e-commerce, media, manufacturing, and healthcare and wellness industries. Unexpected digitalisation and IT transformation has made it obvious for the leaders in technology functions as front runners accounting to almost 40% of the C-suite job searches,” he says.
Varun Sarin, co-founder, director at PeopleAsset, a boutique executive search and talent advisory firm, however, doesn’t find this rising trend surprising.
“Given the slowdown of the technology sector, other core sectors such as FMCG, manufacturing, telecom, media, and consulting, as well as companies in the supply chain tech, EV manufacturing, etc, have shifted their focus to building new businesses and investing in stronger leadership teams. At the same time, tech companies that had set out to build new categories and verticals are also starting to pivot, leading to an unexpected influx of leadership talent from the tech sector in the market,” he contends.
Aparna Ahuja, senior principal, Athena Executive Search & Consulting, agrees.
“With supply chains and energy sources disrupted, there are new opportunities for growth in the industrial/manufacturing/energy sector, which climbed to No.2 compared to No. 4 last year. Digital acceleration has created demand for C-level technology-related roles for a decade, but since the global pandemic, this demand has reached levels of intensity previously unseen. From chief transformation officers to chief AI officers, the C-suite is increasingly digital-focused,” she says.
Ahuja adds that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is also a driver of new C-level positions.
“The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) members see a heightened demand for chief sustainability officers and chief diversity officers, and emerging demand for chief wellness officers.”
Factors influencing C-suite leaders' lookout for a new job post-pandemic
The pandemic has nudged everyone to re-evaluate their priorities. C-suite leaders are no different.
Sarin says in this dramatically changing business environment, C-suite leaders will, without a doubt, examine the past and current financial stability of an organisation.
“Other important factors, like the growth potential of the organisation as well as the sector, their role in shaping the organisation’s growth, and the extent of decision-making autonomy, will help C-level leaders take the final call,” he adds.
As per Agarrwal, C-suite level leaders are attracted to jobs that elevate their capacity to perform bigger or larger roles. “A lot of CXOs at the country level look at international along with regional expansion while tech CXOs are pursuing future Unicorns, challenging roles and different product lines to work on,” he adds.
Ahuja contends three factors drive a C-suite leader's decision when considering new job opportunities in the post-pandemic world.
She identifies these as:
Impact of their role - Leaders would consider opportunities where the impact of their role is global, holistic, and impacts internal and external communities.
Organisation’s growth mindset and aspirations – The stage and agenda that the organisation is at and is aspiring to achieve. This, she says, is a critical aspect for leaders to evaluate, leaders in his view and based on their interactions with C-suite, are likely to work and deliver in organisations that are aligned around a shared mindset, strategy, and capabilities.
Organisation’s purpose and employer's brand - Leaders want to commit to organisations that are purpose-driven. Leaders want to be part of organisations that try to do good for the long-term future of the world, and purpose hence ensures that employees are united by a focus on sustainability and global communities and where leaders emphasise shared ideals and contribute to a greater cause.
How to successfully navigate a C-suite job search?
A C-level job search is a time-consuming process for everyone involved.
Industry experts say it always helps to do thorough research about the prospective organisation, its current business leaders, the growth curve, work culture, and other parameters that are important to the aspirant.
“Tapping into your network is highly recommended. Reach out to former employees, have detailed conversations, and ask relevant questions that will help you get a better understanding of the company. Do not rely on secondary research like online sources alone for authentic information. Learn about the sector, and the landscape - investors, competitors, opportunities, and threats before meeting your interviewer,” suggests Sarin.
Sarin says another important aspect is to determine whether the organisation’s values/goals are aligned with yours. “Avoid going through the entire process and back out as early as possible if you see a mismatch.”
Agarrwal says senior executives should identify their actual purpose to scout the opportunities. “Most importantly they should build a strong LinkedIn profile detailing everything possibly from the successful award-winning campaign run under their leadership. They should consider how they can be a more inclusive leader and employ a more diverse workforce and use technologies such as AI, analytics and Geofencing while looking for suitable candidates for job roles.”
Given the impact, responsibility and criticality of positions at the leadership level, candidates must assess the opportunities from a long-term perspective, hence, ethics, growth mindset, purpose, and other factors that are critical for an individual to be invested in an opportunity for the long run should be well considered, feels Ahuja.
“Leaders should evaluate opportunities where there is an alignment with existing leaders' thought process, and business fundamentals and where they can increase current and past responsibilities that form a straight line to their overall career and personal goals.”