January 25, 2019 – What will shape the C-level talent global workspace and work environment in 2019? The question has been answered by recruiters from executive search network IMSA Search Global Partners’ in the firm’s newly released “Report on Executive Trends 2019.”
Predicting trends for C-level managers and multinational companies is always a tricky task, correlated with constant change around the world. At first glance, the economic engines for the year ahead are up and gearing for growth. But there is some major turbulence that top management should be aware of. The sense of an inevitable shift is expected to bring more and more questions about the future of C-level management, including these: How are executive search consultants going to navigate in these difficult times? How are the world’s ongoing changes going to influence top talent and global companies in 2019?
IMSA Search’s team answered these questions, and the result is a complex list of challenges in the year ahead. A number of dark clouds are on the 2019 horizon:
- The constant threat of a hard Brexit, meaning a clean break from the European Union, and further radicalization of E.U. nations.
- Probable implications of the trade war between the U.S. and China (uncertainty and its negative impact on investment).
- Unstable situation in the Ukraine.
- Italy on the verge of bankruptcy.
- Growing concern about the long-term state of the U.S. and E.U. economies.
These opportunities and threats will shape the global economy in the months ahead, resulting in seven major trends cited by IMSA Search members all over the world.
Trend No. 1: Fight or flight when the business model is changing rapidly
Change has always been a given, but nowadays we need to deal with the effects of these changes in everyday situations more than ever, the report said. And everything appears to be changing faster than in the past. “Organizations are evolving rapidly all the time,” said Marianna Carbonari, a board member of IMSA Search from Italy and CEO of Value for Talent. “The complexity of this evolution is due to ever-changing modern technology. An executive’s ability to handle ambiguous circumstances in times of highly important and delicate transformations will be of extreme importance.”
Modern companies need to adapt quickly to new scenarios and possibilities. This will affect specific companies and industries in different ways. “However, being able to change your organization so that it is fine tuned to evolving market conditions is now more important than ever,” said Martin Bo Sorensen, a member of IMSA Search from Denmark and partner at Brinch & Partners.
“We can all see this mechanism at work in real life situations,” said Jerry Chang, a board member of IMSA from China and managing director of Barons & Company. “Change and adapt. For example, companies which used to sell machines and equipment are now repositioning and promoting themselves as solution providers. Traditional manufacturers have to add e-commerce channels to maintain their competitive advantage.”
These trends require culturally aware, inclusive and digitally savvy leaders who can manage diverse teams, said Mitch Berger, an IMSA Search member in the U.S. and CEO of Howard-Sloan Search. “They will also have to be nimble and able to pivot quickly in response to sudden marketplace changes,” he said.
Trend No. 2: Mediating between generations, Millennials are heading C-level executive positions
The report pointed out that in the digital era there are three crucial imperatives: demographics, diversity and digital itself. “The right infusion of talent in these three dimensions is critical to success or failure of the organization,” said Rajaram Agrawal, an IMSA Search member from India and managing director of TalentAhead India Pvt. Ltd. “Each of these dimensions has its own challenge and its own difficulties, which must be rethought and implemented in the company’s strategy, one by one.”
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Demographics – especially the aging society – is a scientific fact. Like workplace automation, it will transform the future of work rapidly and fundamentally. “The average age of employees is rising, and thus companies are hoping to find younger managers,” said Ed Boeve, managing partner of IMSA Netherlands. “This, however, means hiring less experienced people and highlights the importance of future investment in education. Some of the companies have already reintroduced the old fashion company inbound schools, courses and training schemes; time will tell if it is a good solution.”
“The issue is escalating, as the attitude and expectations of young specialists are not equal with the ones represented by their supervisors,” said Monika Ciesielska, president of IMSA Search in Poland and managing partner of Carpenter Consulting. “Managers need to learn and introduce new ways of management, which basically means more flexibility, understanding of different views, as well as dealing with fluctuations. The new generation is ambitious and expects challenges.”
How to ease the tensions? “Building loyalty towards the employer is now based on providing challenging projects, creating a work environment filled with fascinating people, who are able to share their knowledge,” Ms. Ciesielska said. “Furthermore, employees are searching for jobs where the boss is not only charismatic and strong. They expect a partnership, in terms of understanding, listening, being open to ideas and arguments. They want to learn, develop themselves and then follow their individual path, which is not always similar to the path followed by their boss.”
Trend No. 3: Diversity flow: More C-level experts from very distinct cultures
“Introducing more diversity in the company environment will cause more dilemmas for the management,” the IMSA Search report said. “In the highly globalized world with intense migration flows, inclusion of highly talented executives from very distinct cultures will be much faster than ever before.”
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We have already seen symptoms of this problem, but in 2019 it will appear with new strength. “Usually these executives have different business and personal values, as well as different ways of doing business,” said Iván Venegas, from IMSA Chile. “This trend will highlight the know-how of headhunting experts related to the ways of doing business, leadership styles and team building approach in the countries or the regions where these executives are from.”
Trend No. 4: Digital: Companies need CEOs capable of dealing with the digital challenges
AI, drones, robots, Big Data, machine learning – navigating through this new, full of hi-tech stuff reality, may be challenging. Not everyone will come out of this task unscathed. “The importance of diversity and demographics is well understood nowadays,” said Mr. Agrawal. “But in 2019 the Digital Talent (DigiTAL) will foresee priorities and adapt digital technologies to meet challenges and opportunities. Digital transformation is not an option. It is an imperative. Moreover, it is completely independent of a company’s size.”
“A fundamental requirement for a leader today is the ability to act and interact in a digital world quickly and flexibly,” said Ms. Carbonari. “The fundamental qualities of our future leaders are: cognitive agility, agility in responding to challenges, social agility and behavioral agility.”
Furthermore, DigiTAL will face a new type of dangers in everyday duties. “The number of cybersecurity threats is rising. Everyone is a target, regardless of the size or type of company,” said Mr. Berger. “If you’re running a business that generates income, you have something of value for cyber attackers.”
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The IMSA report said that digital talent leaders “should be aware of this threat and act properly when the danger comes. Finding this specific type of people, who can combine all set of skills necessary to achieve success in this new demanding digital reality might be the most difficult task for headhunters in 2019.”
Trend No. 5: Remote work: Digital nomads and gig economy are actually a management challenge
Will remote work dominate the future? Skyrocketing gig economy phenomenon and a rising number of people choosing the lifestyle of digital nomads prove that remote work is more than a seasonal whim. “Remote work is now on the top of the list of requirements of many-wanted, but hard-to-gain specialists,” said Ms. Ciesielska. “And we are not talking about having a home office one day per week here.”
“Functional and not-hierarchical organization models depending on virtual teams are going to have a great impact on management skills requirements for C-suite as well as middle management team members,” said Axel Erk, IMSA member from Germany.
“Being a digital nomad is becoming an essential management skill, especially in consumer/service oriented sectors,” said Brigitta Fûri, from IMSA Hungary. “Executives without digital understanding or transformational skills will not be competitive enough.”
Trend No. 6: Gender equality: More women in C-Level and top executive positions
The social movement triggered by #MeToo and Time’s Up stressed the importance of gender equality solutions across all of the corporate levels. The changes, however, have yet to be radical enough. The report asked whether more women will enter the C-level executive positions in 2019, as some events may suggest.
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Several initiatives based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations regarding gender equality have been recently initiated. “This will definitely change the business environment,” said Thierry Goder, an IMSA board member from Mauritius and CEO of Alentaris Co Ltd. “Talented women will be given more opportunities in C-level roles or as board members based on their competencies and the added value that they are able to bring. And the stake is high. Women generally receive lower wages than men, and the gender pay gap extends all over the world. Furthermore, women are still very poorly represented in board members or directors position.”
“Women were represented in only around seven to nine percent of the boards of directors of the top 50 companies in Mauritius,” Mr. Goder said. “The same applies to almost every country in Africa, Europe, to the business centers like London, New York or Shanghai – across the globe. Even though women are present in middle-management positions, they are still struggling to make their way into the boardroom.”
“Gender diversity and equality in the workplace have been high on the agenda with organizations urged to adapt practices that promote equal opportunities for women,” said Patrick Van Lijsebetten, IMSA Belgium and CEO of Rialto Recruitment.
Trend No. 7: Inbound Recruiting and employer branding: Fight for the future top talents all over the social media
The report said that companies need better skilled and more professional management then they once did, and that this means that attention is no longer focused on the company but on the candidate “There has been a fundamental shift of the market, which has transformed into a candidate’s market,” said Mr. Boeve. “Employers know that already, but do not react on it properly.”
In a more and more competitive environment, companies are introducing a strategy called “Inbound Recruiting.” The IMSA report explained that this strategy assumes “proactive, constant attracting, converting and engaging future top managers, for example with the policies of openness, storytelling and activities on social media platforms and professional services. Now every company needs to be concerned about its image in social media as well.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media