Executive talent war intensifies

by 08 Jun 2007

GLOBALISATION AND the increasing mobility of senior executives internationally is having a profound effect on the Asia-Pacific market for executive talent, according to a global executive search body.

The shortage of executive talent is also being exacerbated by a skills shortage at the very senior end of the employment market.

“The stakes are higher in the war for executive talent,” said Peter Felix, president of the New York-based Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

“Not only must companies face the growing skills shortage generally across all job levels, but they must also commit to finding the best senior executives. These search and hiring decisions are critical to the future of the individual company, and industry as a whole.”

The single biggest issue impacting companies around the world is how to attract talent in a shrinking market. As baby boomers retire and generations X and Y move up the ladder, the pool of available talent will shrink with a smaller population, he said.

“Australia is facing a demographic shift caused by retirement of baby boomers and a smaller successive generation. The resulting war for talent is being exacerbated by new, very strong, demand for experienced management from emerging markets like China, India, Russia, and Central Europe.”

Speaking at the worldwide association’s biannual Asia-Pacific council meeting in Sydney, Felix also said the costs, dislocation, stress and overall harm to an organisation can be substantial if a top management appointment fails. Equally, a great appointment can produce stellar results and, at the most senior levels, directly influence a public company’s share price, he said.

Ultimately, Felix said well-prepared companies would lure the best talent and leave the rest for the competition, and a simple kneejerk approach to executive recruitment may not be adequate in the years ahead.

“We have already seen mobility rates for executives soar to almost insane levels as both corporations and individuals strive for the ideal appointment or career move,” he said.

“In such conditions HR needs to reflect on the nature of their organisation's recruitment proposition, how well it competes and how strategic its recruitment plan is.”

On-boarding, management development and flexible working will be necessary in helping executives to succeed and be satisfied in their jobs and future career development, Felix said.

“One area being studied is how workplace flexibility impacts upon company ROI. Flexibility will grow as a hallmark of how companies need to function and it is currently in the fledgling stage.”

Search firms and clients therefore need to build more strategic relationships within which these longer-term issues can be addressed.

“Both sides are players in the war for talent –strategic alliances between them can benefit both sides. Changing the dynamics of the relationship from tactical hiring to strategic talent consulting can reap rewards and help resolve some of these major issues which will affect the long-term health of organisations.”

Companies in need of senior talent therefore need to ask what they can do to make their work environment more hospitable to women, diverse candidates as well as older and retired talent.

“Going forward, companies will need to be more creative as good and top performers will have a growing number of options. It cannot just be a matter of paying people more,” Felix said.

For example, he said some companies were taking action by creating programs to bring back those who had left.


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