Adapting to Today’s Evolving Search Market

Celeste Whatley currently serves as CEO of TRANSEARCH International, a global search firm with representation in all of the major economic capitals, with about 60 offices in over 40 countries. It was founded in 1982 and today completes more than 1,500 senior executive search assignments a year. TRANSEARCH’s global client base is in the financial services, technology, consumer and retail, life sciences, and industrial and resources sectors. Ms. Whatley joined the firm 22 years ago. Aided by her business mindset and ability to see the bigger picture, she is responsible for all business and strategic initiatives within the company, as well as driving the firm’s growth and development towards long-term success. Ms. Whatley recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss what she is currently seeing within the executive search industry and how TRANSEARCH has adjusted to the market conditions.

April 10, 2024 – Celeste, give us a sense for how 2023 went for the firm and how it is doing today.

In 2023, our firm navigated the challenges of the market with resilience, maintaining our revenue levels in comparison to 2022. Our commitment to adapt and innovate has been the cornerstone of our success, ensuring that we remain well-positioned to meet the evolving needs of our clients and the market at large. Looking forward into 2024, we are embracing an optimistic growth mindset, underpinned by our significant investments in digital solutions and leadership consulting capabilities. By integrating unique digital technologies with comprehensive leadership consulting services, we aim to deliver unparalleled value to our clients, driving both their success and ours.

What roles are you seeing most in demand?

In 2023, various executive roles were in high demand, reflecting shifts in business priorities, technological advancements, and economic challenges. Key executive positions that saw surging demand including chief revenue officer, chief financial officer as well as operating partners. Especially in private equity, there was a trend towards hiring experienced executives capable of driving results and managing companies through economic uncertainty. The chief information officer, chief technology officer, and CISO positions have also been in demand. Moreover, specific C-suite titles identified as in-demand included the chief experience officer (CXO), whose role is critical in shaping brand experience and engagement; the CTO, focusing on future technologies for business improvements; and the CHRO, concentrating on talent acquisition, retention, and development of remote and hybrid work policies. Legal and compliance roles like the chief legal officer or chief counsel, and the chief compliance officer, were also highlighted for their importance in navigating legalities and risk management. Additionally, the role of chief growth officer emerged as crucial due to its focus on customer engagement and brand value in a challenging economic landscape. These roles underline a broader trend towards agility, digital transformation, financial prudence, and customer-centric strategies in executive leadership.

What are the biggest changes in search sector you’ve seen in recent years?

The executive search sector has seen several key changes recently, including the integration of digital technologies like artificial intelligence to improve the search process, a stronger emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and a broader evaluation of candidates that includes soft skills and cultural fit. There is also a growing focus on sustainability, a shift towards providing consultative services beyond mere recruitment, changes in workplace dynamics such as remote work, and a push for more transparency and client involvement in the search process.

How have they impacted the way in which you work with your clients?

TRANSEARCH has adapted our approach to better align with client needs and market demands. This includes a greater reliance on technology, particularly AI and analytics, to streamline searches and improve candidate matching. We have also placed a heightened focus on diversity and inclusion, ensuring our candidate pools reflect a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives. This shift has necessitated deeper engagement with clients to align on diversity goals and a more holistic evaluation of candidates that goes beyond traditional metrics to include soft skills and cultural fit.

What further adjustments have you had to make?

Furthermore, our role has expanded to include more consultative services, such as advising on organizational culture and attraction and retention. The rise of remote work has also prompted us to adjust our evaluation methods to better assess candidates’ capabilities in managing distributed teams. To meet clients’ demands for greater transparency and involvement in the search process, we have implemented more transparent practices and effective communication strategies.

What are candidates generally looking for in new positions today?

Candidates today are looking for more than just a paycheck when considering new positions. They greatly value work-life balance and better personal well-being. Opportunities to do work that aligns with their strengths and interests are also crucial, as is greater job stability and security (fit with role). Candidates seek organizations that are diverse and inclusive. These preferences underscore a desire for meaningful work, personal growth, and a supportive work environment.

How has TRANSEARCH adapted to this?

We provide our clients with a distinct consulting service named “Why Do You Stay?” This service helps identify the factors that attract talent to their business, gives insights into the actual working conditions, and calculates a retention health score. Through this service, we uncover that beyond the lure of higher compensation, employees value flexible work arrangements like remote work, opportunities for career advancement, and may consider leaving due to fears of unemployment or due to poor management and company culture. Interestingly, seeking new challenges and a more diverse or inclusive work environment also emerged as significant factors. These factors highlight how a conducive work environment, opportunities for career advancement, and the alignment of job roles with individuals’ personal beliefs and lifestyle choices serve as key attractions for job candidates.

“The executive search sector has seen several key changes recently, including the integration of digital technologies like artificial intelligence to improve the search process, a stronger emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and a broader evaluation of candidates that includes soft skills and cultural fit.”

Are there any trends that you’ve been noticing that we’ll be seeing in the next year?

We anticipate significant changes in workplace practices and values. We’re seeing a shift towards adopting four-day workweeks, a stronger focus on resolving employee conflicts, and making diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) part of the daily organizational culture. Furthermore, artificial intelligence is creating new job opportunities and requiring fresh skill sets, highlighting a workplace evolution towards more flexibility, inclusiveness, and the ability to adapt.

TRANSEARCH recently expanded into Turkey, is the organization looking to expand into new regions in 2024?

We were delighted to expand into Turkey. Having a presence in Turkey again is a significant milestone for us as Turkey is a regional power with a geopolitically significant strategic location. Murat Öztürk’s leadership and expertise will undoubtedly contribute to our continued success in the region. With 15 years in executive search, Mr. Öztürk has specialized in senior leadership appointments across various sectors, including consumer goods, technology, business & professional services, life sciences, and industrial. Looking ahead, TRANSEARCH is focusing on bolstering our presence in the U.S. and the U.K. in the upcoming year. Additionally, we are eyeing expansion into new territories in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. This strategic move aims to widen our global footprint and enhance our international consulting capabilities.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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