How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected C-Suite Hiring Practices?
The COVID-19 pandemic caused massive disruptions across all areas of society, including the workplace. Even executive recruiting was not immune to the pandemic’s worst effects. With the pandemic seemingly winding down, recruiting for the C-suite has undergone some important changes. These changes will have an impact on the makeup of C-suites across the business world for some time to come.
Effects of the Pandemic on the C-Suite Hiring Process
COVID-19 shut down much of the business world for the better part of 2020. Even when businesses could continue operations, many employees worked remotely to reduce the spread of the virus. Everyone, including the C-suite, had to get used to remote meetings and rely more on electronic communications. When it came to hiring, candidates couldn’t be interviewed in person and were unable to travel to see their potential place of employment.
An interesting effect of the pandemic was the trend of workers voluntarily leaving their current positions before having a new position lined up. This trend occurred at all levels of employment and created a record number of open positions to fill. The pool of highly qualified candidates would be expected to be large, then, with many options for any open slots. However, the expected hirer’s market has not emerged. The exact opposite has occurred, with firms having difficulty filling positions that pre-pandemic would have been quickly occupied. It seems that many people are electing to be pickier about where they work, and they don’t seem to be in a great hurry to take their next job if it isn’t exactly what they want.
Related to this is a trend that began before the pandemic hit: company culture. Prospective employees, especially younger ones, are placing a much larger premium on a company’s culture than ever before. They are looking for firms that share their values and outlook and operate in ways that they feel comfortable about. In the case of the C-suite, people with this attitude may not find an exact match, but if not, they are looking for the opportunity to shape the company’s culture to their personal preferences.
A Shift in Hiring Priorities in the C-Suite
The forced shift to remote and hybrid workplaces has continued even as the pandemic wanes. The workplace of the future is looking less and less like the traditional office setup every day. Hybrid employment situations are becoming more common, and firms frequently conduct considerable business with employees working at least part-time from their homes. This development has affected the hiring process, as companies are looking for candidates who are more comfortable with the latest technologies, especially communications technology. New C-suite hires are going to have to be not only conversant with doing business via Internet, email, etc., but also be very effective in doing so.
The data-driven approach has permeated many sectors of society to a great extent during this century. It can be seen in the wholesale adoption of analytics in sports, as teams sift through massive amounts of information to get an edge on their competitors. Businesses are relying increasingly on the analysis of data to drive their critical decisions, and consequently, the C-suite applicant must be familiar with this approach.
The traditional road to the C-suite has changed, as well. Previously, most new C-suite hires had a degree from a top institution and had come up through the ranks over several years. The pandemic-fueled opening of so many C-suite positions has rendered that pattern obsolete. There just aren’t enough potential candidates that have those particular qualifications right now.
Additionally, the elevation of diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) officer to the C-suite level in many companies provides a challenge to the old way of hiring. DEI officers do not need an advanced degree from a top school and years of climbing the corporate ladder to do their jobs effectively. In fact, these factors may even be counterproductive to the position. DEI candidates are more valued for their life experiences and knowledge than for formal education.
The rapid pace of growth in today’s business world keeps accelerating. This is due to the continuing trend of quick technological advancements. The pandemic forced firms to embrace technology faster than they might otherwise. Fast-growing companies need top-level C-suite officers, and they need them quickly. This goes against the typical snail’s pace of the C-suite hiring process. A company that takes too much time to decide on a C-suite hire may fall behind its competitors in the race for the best new talent.