The COVID-19 pandemic has not only changed the way we live and think but has also brought about significant changes in the way we work. As the whole world is going digital and organizations are embracing new and innovative ways of working, CEOs and leaders are now recognizing the need to relook at existing talent strategies. The age-old dilemma of grooming internal talent or hiring external candidates has become even more relevant than ever before. Most businesses are indeed actively involved in reskilling and upskilling their employees to meet the challenging business demands in a very ambiguous environment.
The report with business leaders says that employees at leadership levels as well will have to be reskilled/upskilled and groomed in today’s context. With technological advancements, new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and big data are resulting in a reskilling revolution. More importantly, the pandemic has brought about the emergence of new skill sets and certain competencies, too have become non-negotiable for certain key roles at leadership levels. While yes, there is a lot of thrust on the role of a Chief Digital or a Chief Technology Officer, the trend that we are seeing is that almost all roles now come with a high “Tech” overlap. One of the recent mandates that we are having for a very senior CFO has an extremely strong technology overlap and we see this trend reflecting in many other searches as well. Hence, in many cases, upskilling/reskilling and grooming internal talent in today’s context has become critical.
In the present scenario, there is a lot more focus on retaining talent at leadership levels. More and more companies are investing in people and grooming them to take on larger roles and responsibilities. More so a lot of unconventional moves are happening. We are seeing a top-notch CHRO taking on additional responsibilities of a Chief of Marketing, or a CFO moving on to take over as the CEO. In such cases, a lot of groundwork and reskilling/upskilling has to be done before “potential fits” move to real-time actual roles.
Today, more companies are coming forward with unique programmes to upskill their teams and get them “future-ready”. The Economic Times recently reported that leading Technology companies in India are reskilling and upskilling employees as they are competing to fulfil the digital demands of clients in the post-pandemic scenario. In the near future, most of the leading organizations will integrate AI in their strategies to assist and improve employee productivity.
Similarly, all consumer businesses are seeing the need to develop extremely strong E-Commerce channels, and accordingly, the need to upskill/reskill teams to work in such environments. Consumer “Tech” is a big piece now and cuts across many segments like FMCG, Health, Education, Finance and many others. Hiring a CEO for a fast-growing Food company needs to be a potential candidate who is just not from a Food or Consumer business, but who has spent a fair amount of time in leading E-Commerce Businesses. Surprisingly it is the preferred experience rather than pure-play food exposure.
So does this mean that companies are totally shutting themselves off from external hiring – Definitely not! Now that the markets have opened up, there is a rising demand for niche talent pools and organizations would have to fulfil this demand by resorting to external hiring. Businesses are now exploring the concept of hiring interns, especially for leadership roles (Interim CEOs and Advisors), which allows them to fulfil challenging workplace demands at short notice without adding to the headcount. On similar lines we see many start-ups getting on board senior leaders/industry veterans, leaders who have grown businesses. Could they have groomed/upskilled anyone from the existing teams? Unlikely! This seems to be the best time for IPO’s in India and there seems to be a frenzy in the market. Most companies heading the IPO route are looking at wooing the best of talent from outside for various roles. One of the most critical roles and this is reflected in search mandates as well, are looking for CFO’s with very relevant IPO exposure. Now could such a candidate come from within? Again completely unlikely.
Hence, the key lies in creating a balanced hiring strategy that builds on the existing talent and also leverages the external talent landscape to build high-calibre teams that can be successful in a rapidly changing business environment.