The search goes on

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Headlines about mass redundancies, insolvencies, and furloughed employees continue to fill our news feeds as the economy struggles to rebound. Since the pandemic started, 59% of CEOs implemented a hiring freeze or deferred new hiring according to Fortune. But what has this meant for 360leaders Executive Search, and how has it impacted our client base?  

When the pandemic hit, many employers across the globe immediately stopped hiring, one of a series of immediate measures available to them, as they tried to understand how the virus would impact them. Early on, the World Bank predicted that we were about to face the worst global recession since WW2 and economists predicted a recession twice as deep as the 2008 financial crisis.  

Since then we have seen the US economy shrink by 32.9% in its second quarter, one of the largest declines on record. And in the UK, in April alone, we saw GDP fall by 20.4%, and it was projected that we’re on track for the biggest decline in 100 years. The pandemic has already claimed many companies and judging by the empty cities and deserted commercial centers that we’re seeing today, we should expect the demise of many more. But whilst the virus has been disastrous for many businesses, others have skyrocketed.  

Many of the technology sectors that we support have seen profits increase, and that is likely to continue post-pandemic. Obvious areas include the plethora of digital products designed to support businesses and individuals working from home. But it is not just the enablers of remote work. Cybersecurity, e-learning and consumer services from media to food delivery have all experienced an enormous surge in demand.  

You do not need to look far to see who has found themselves on the right side of the virus. Zoom’s last quarter results were just in, and they’re up 355% to $663.5 million. The subsequent jump in stock price added another $5.2bn to founder Eric Yuan’s net worth. Jeff Bezos’ wealth has increased by more than $36.2 billion (£29bn) since the pandemics start. But aside from the headlines about tech royalty, there are other signs worth considering. Funding increased by 940% for UK cybersecurity start-ups since the beginning of lockdown. And new funds have raised $5bn from January to June. That’s almost as much the whole amount raised in 2019 ($5.4bn).  

We are witnessing a massive acceleration in digital transformation across the board, and it’s touching every industry. Entire sectors have been decimated whilst others have been turned on their head, which in some cases, has levelled the playing field for the nimble challenger brands at the expense of incumbents. And all this is happening in parallel to changes in daily operating models and the shift to remote or flexible working arrangements.  

Hiring during the pandemic – client trends and specialist services  

As businesses adapt to support and imbed remote working into their operating models, so too have their talent needs to support it. Despite blanket hiring freezes at the beginning of the pandemic and reports of hiring slowing down, net IT employment has risen by 203,000 positions according to CompTIA in the USA. This points to the technology industry faring better in the overall economy.  

At the beginning of the pandemic, 360leaders estimated that a third of our existing clients would fare well in this changing economy. However, given what we now know has been happening in different industries, we expect that number to be far higher. Experienced executives remain in high demand, and if a company needed a CTO, CIO or CEO going into the pandemic, they would likely need them more than ever now.  

“As a specialist tech-focused Executive Search firm, we have been able to support clients throughout the year with their evolving needs. All of our efforts in the first four months of the pandemic were focused on supporting clients as they rapidly designed and iterated new operating models.” Martin Falch, CEO and Co-founder of 360Leaders commented.  

“2020 has been a challenging year for most populations, and precisely how challenging for many was largely defined, at least for a time, by whether you had any outside space, or if you are a parent homeschooling children, or if a loved one had caught this horrible disease. But all things have not been equal in tech. We have seen sectors like travel go to zero, while other markets have seen explosive growth. Thankfully, we’ve found that clients relied on our support and council as experienced headhunters more than ever.”  

How has Executive Search changed?  

Headhunting changed immensely within these last six months insofar as we have not been able to meet or interview in person. We maintained our offices throughout, creating a safe and sanitized environment exclusively for clients who wished to conduct face to face meetings as and when policy allowed it.  

The most significant changes to our processes were designed to help clients get comfortable making C-Suite hires when they had not been able meet in person. And of course, the same applies to the candidate experience the other way. Much more time was needed to be spent online in both formal and less formal settings. This meant more live workshops or whiteboard sessions with a broader selection of the leadership teams to forge closer connections.  

We also doubled the amount of referencing we take up, both formal and backchannel. Interestingly clients embraced the reverse reference, where prospect hires were put in touch with employees at different levels of the organisation. This meant they could get a better sense of the culture of the business or in the case of direct reports, find out what kind of management style the hiring manager has.  

Whilst we had been using software assessment tools pre-COVID-19, competency, personality and values-based assessment tools were employed to support decision making. Some of the advantages of utilising these tools include the removal of unconscious bias and an overreliance on ‘gut’ feeling. This supportive approach has ensured that qualitative communication remains at the heart of our business, both on and offline. We’ve also been able to support our clients beyond the process of hiring, by offering a broader range of onboarding and talent development services to ensure that new executive hires begin on the right footing.  

As we look to Q4, we maintain committed to supporting our community, clients and candidates alike, however we can. These remain unsettling times for many and we encourage those in need of any advice or support to contact us. We will continue to help technology’s biggest brands, investors and start-ups to find the talent they need to succeed in this market; as well as offering exceptional coaching and onboarding to make the process of enrolment as smooth as possible.  

For information and advice on hiring during the pandemic, please contact Martin at martin@360leaders.com  

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