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What executive level recruiting will look like for candidates in 2022?

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As “hybrid” becomes the hottest workplace catch-phrase and many are contemplating the “Great Resignation”, or at least the “Great Re-evaluation”, Signium Africa Director: Executive Search, Annelize van Rensburg looks at what’s been happening in the executive recruitment industry and what 2022 could bring.

At executive level, the employment market is buoyant, with positive moves afoot as many companies revisit their plans for growth and expansion. However, as we begin the “Great Recovery” from two years of a novel and disruptive virus, South Africa is starting to come back from the edge.

The so-called “Great Resignation” has resulted in many people leaving their jobs, usually after finding new positions that are more aligned to their needs. Among those who have vacated their C-suite posts are some who were drawn to opportunities across the pond.

To take full advantage of the movement in many markets, Signium looks to the effects of hybrid working models, which disrupted every industry. Here we note that leadership candidates are looking for employers who will respond to their unique set of needs and expectations, whether they be matching values, the choice to work remotely, or an increased potential to add value.

With a view of the employment market from all angles, matching candidate’s values with those of businesses means we can enable a “Great Re-evaluation” in both parties.

Agility and flexibility will count

Even with “nice to have” employment conditions, I believe candidates who insist on complete remote working may well exclude themselves from quality opportunities. The key here is flexibility, as most executive or C-suite roles require extensive travel, in-person meetings, and roles that are customer-facing.

Given what we know about Covid-19 and its variants, a Plan B workforce would be prudent. Organisations should create guidelines for multiple scenarios, and have the technology, security and rules of engagement in place to adapt if necessary.

Shrinking candidate pools

So, are candidate pools becoming smaller in South Africa? Yes and no. The previously mentioned high-level candidates may be looking abroad for opportunities, whilst importing talent is challenging due to strict local visa and work permit requirements.

This narrows options to hiring locally, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Organisations have been talking about the need for upskilling and succession planning, so perhaps 2022 will be the year that the talk becomes the walk.

Full disclosure and trust

In all aspects of executive search – and particularly in the current hiring market - overall full disclosure and declaration by candidates is of paramount importance.

By this we mean that candidates must disclose any and all information that may conflict with their new role or jeopardise their new position. This could, for example, relate to any board positions they hold at any other businesses they are involved in; or even circumstances surrounding the departure from their previous employment which may be a material consideration for a prospective new employer.

Ethics is a governance issue and the importance of environmental, social and governance issues in the context of sustainability is becoming increasingly important to all stakeholders of an organisation.

Ethical wellness is critical for both financial and non-financial reasons, particularly during times of change. Strong C-Suite and Executive level candidates should demonstrate strong ethics, not only through their achievements in previous roles, but throughout the selection process as well.

While advocating what prerequisites a company implements is not within the scope of what the executive search professional does, candidates themselves are expected to be familiar with possible issues that may impact their candidacy and be prepared to respond with integrity.

Issues may be aligned to business interests, personal commitments that would preclude participation in certain sectors, and even health concerns relevant to their ability to fulfil the requirements of the position.

Importantly, we encourage candidates to consider declaration to be part of ethical full disclosure, and not assume the interviewer will ask such specific questions as a health issue or choice that may make it impossible for a candidate to fulfil business obligations. 

Parmi Natesan, CEO of the Institute of Directors in South Africa (IoDSA), was recently quoted as highlighting Volume 1 of the second Zondo Report (Zondo 2), which graphically shows how important it is to appoint a CEO who has the right qualities and, consequently, the board’s respect.

She asserts that “CEO appointments should be the prerogative of the board in terms of governance best practice”.

This has long underpinned the core of Signium Africa and governance, ethics and trust at every level of business will continue to grow in importance.

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