How HR Can Help Build the Organization of the Future  

The pandemic underscores the urgency for a more dynamic talent and work model. According to a new report by McKinsey & Company, HR leaders can help by focusing on identity, agility, and scalability. We asked search consultants to weigh in, including Sabine Steiner of Talentor International, Amy Dolan of Daversa Partners, Steve Kohn of Affinity Executive Search, Elisa Sheftic of Right Executive Search, Katie Chevis of Savannah Group, Tracy McMillian of Broadview Talent Partners, Jeff Herzog of FFC, Juan Gaitan of Talento Human Capital Management, Michele Hoyt of AMN Healthcare, Brad Newpoff of MalinHughes, Holly Pena of Pena Search, Larry Shoemaker of Cornerstone International Group, as well as Dianne Kenney and Shawn Hartman of Academic Search.

November 18, 2021 – The pandemic has created profound and immediate changes to how societies operate and how individuals interact and work. McKinsey & Company recently spoke with 350 HR leaders about the role of uncertainty in their function. They said that over the next two years they wanted to prioritize initiatives that strengthen their organizations’ ability to drive change in leadership, culture, and employee experience. In a just-released report, McKinsey & Company consolidated those discussions to offer new ways that CHROs can continue to meet the moment by rethinking processes in three fundamental areas: identity, agility and scalability.

So how does HR fit in the big picture? What is your company’s core reason for being? And where can you have a unique, positive impact on society? Now more than ever, you need good answers to those questions—purpose is not a choice but a necessity, according to the McKinsey report. CHROs play a vital role in making sure the organization is living its purpose and values, said the management consulting firm. HR can articulate and role-model desired individual mindsets and behaviors linked to purpose by identifying “moments that matter” in the company’s culture and translating purpose into a set of leadership and employee norms and behaviors.

According to McKinsey, HR can also ensure that clear changes are made to recruitment and capability-building processes by determining the characteristics of a “purpose driven” employee and embedding these attributes within recruitment, development and succession planning. “HR can also incorporate purpose-driven metrics into compensation and performance decisions,” the report said. “Companies across industries have embarked on these metrics lately.”

Think About Talent Deeply

Organizations that can reallocate talent in step with their strategic plans are more than twice as likely to outperform their peers, said the report. “To link talent to value, the best talent should be shifted into critical value-driving roles,” the study said. “That means moving away from a traditional approach, in which critical roles and talent are interchangeable and based on hierarchy. Getting the best people into the most important roles requires a disciplined look at where the organization really creates value and how top talent contributes. To enable this shift, HR should manage talent rigorously by building an analytics capability to mine data to hire, develop, and retain the best employees. HR business partners, who articulate these staffing needs to the executive management team, should consider themselves internal service providers that ensure high returns on human-capital investments. For example, to engage business leaders in a regular review of talent, they can develop semiautomated data dashboards that track the most important metrics for critical roles.”

Looking Ahead: How Transformation Happens

According to the McKinsey report, as the organization of the future takes shape, HR will be the driving force for many initiatives: mapping talent to value; making the workforce more flexible; prioritizing strategic workforce planning, performance management and reskilling; building an HR platform; and developing an HR tech ecosystem. “For other initiatives, HR can help C-suite leaders push forward on establishing and radiating purpose, improving employee experience, driving leadership and culture, and simplifying the organization,” the report said. “Given the magnitude of the task and the broad portfolio of value-creating HR initiatives, prioritization is critical.”

In 2020, HR leaders attending a McKinsey virtual conference indicated that over the next two years, they wanted to prioritize initiatives that strengthen agility and identity. That included 27 percent who said that they would focus on responding with agility and 25 percent who prioritized driving leadership, culture and employee experience. Next came mapping talent to value and establishing and radiating purpose, each at 13 percent.

At a second conference for HR leaders, about half of the assembled CHROs said that they were focusing on reimagining the fundamentals of the organization and rethinking the operating model and ways of working in the next normal. “We see organizations making this shift. Throughout the pandemic, HR has played a central role in how companies build organizational resilience and drive value,” the McKinsey report said. “CHROs and their teams can continue on this path by connecting talent to business strategy and by implementing changes in the three core areas of identity, agility and scalability, as well as the nine imperatives that flow from them. A more flexible and responsive model will also help organizations meet coming demographic shifts and other workforce changes. Millennials are becoming the dominant group in the workforce (with Gen Z close behind), creating novel challenges for organizations to meet their needs.”

Top Search Consultants Weigh In

The prominence of the gig economy and alternate models of working will only grow, with 162 million workers in the E.U. and the U.S. working independently—70 percent of them by choice, according to a separate McKinsey report. “And the rapid spread of digital technology and automation is dramatically reshaping the global economy, with half the tasks people perform already automatable today,” McKinsey said. “These trends are not new, but they are approaching tipping points, placing organization at the top of the CEO agenda. CHROs can help leadership by transforming their own HR organizations: developing and reinforcing clear priorities; embracing new ways of working, including rapid iteration and testing with the business and seeking explicit feedback; and revamping the HR skill-set by embracing agility and digital capabilities.”

Dramatic Role Change

“The role of HR has changed dramatically since its early years,” said Sabine Steiner, COO of Talentor International. “While HR roles used to only carry out administrative work, today these specialists play a key role in a company’s success. Equal opportunities, diversity, internationalization, and digital HR are just some of the challenges facing HR management today. This means that the HR department is increasingly playing a strategic role and has a decisive influence on the success or failure of the company.”

“Top HR roles must be able to master every transformation and to take the employees with them,” Ms. Steiner said. “The practice often shows the opposite of this case: More employees have only a slight and some even no emotional connection at all when it comes to their workplace. Nevertheless, most employees believe that they have to fit new work demands, but the companies often do not offer any further training. Most employees would like their employer to provide upskilling and reskilling impulses.” What is needed is a culture of learning, she said, that also promotes individual, self-organized knowledge acquisition for all areas and career levels.

An Adapting World

“In this new remote / hybrid landscape the world has adapted to over the last 18 months, HR plays a critical role ensuring that the company’s mission and purpose is top of mind with employees and can be felt firm wide regardless of location,” said Amy Dolan, chief people officer at Daversa Partners. “The flexibility this new workforce is experiencing is unparalleled, but it is also important to ensure that teams don’t lose their connection to comradery. It is so vital for leaders to understand, on a granular level, what motivates and excites employees.”

“All HR executives have been navigating uncharted waters throughout COVID-19,” Ms. Dolan said. “One of the biggest challenges early on was adapting quickly and swiftly to virtual onboarding, training, and management – and doing so without compromising on quality, time, and connection. It is up to HR leaders to find innovative ways to ensure the same high caliber level of training and development is happening remotely and successfully. I believe the companies who embrace change and adapt fast will ultimately set their employees up for success in the long run.” But while many have thrived, she noted, many have and will continue to struggle with this new ‘normal.’ “It is our responsibility to identify this early, offer support, and ensure that all of the tools and resources are in place for employees to utilize.”

HR executives come to Daversa Partners seeking support to build out their own teams, said Ms. Dolan. “More generally speaking, they come to us so that we can help them build and hire across the VP and C-suite for their organizations. For them, talent, especially at the executive level, is crucial for their organization’s success. Be it a founder or a CHRO, we help crystallize and strategize how they should think through building their talent organizations. From org chart mapping, to narrowing in on a spec, to company or industry targets— we do it all. When you think about how a management consultant comes in and does a full 360-degree assessment of a company’s operating practices, we do the same but for talent.”

Ever-Increasing Talent Shortage

As we’ve all seen, the world can change suddenly in ways that affects every aspect of how a business functions, said Steve Kohn, president of Affinity Executive Search. Interruptions and changes in supply chain, people being frightened of coming to the office or engaging in business travel, taxation and insurance complications of onsite workers suddenly going remote, variations in health-related mandates from place to place and so forth are making for rapidly changing situations that require sharp minds at the top of the structure who can adapt corporate practices to new realities,” he said. “Top HR execs are the people who not only help the company adapt, but also deal with local authorities and public relations.”

On top of all this, he said, there is an ever-increasing talent shortage, so talent acquisition and retention is a problem that will remain for the foreseeable future.

“Talent acquisition and retention is by far the top challenge,” said Mr. Kohn. “This is the way we do things no longer works. The old rulebook is now obsolete, and the sooner the whole team realizes this, the better.”

“An executive search firm can assist HR executives by helping them better understand what needs to be done in order to attract talent, and then, once the hiring client appears to be realistic about what it takes, plan and execute searches accordingly,” Mr. Kohn said. “Executive search firms can also assist HR executives by refusing to work with them if they are not being realistic.” The shock of that (firing the client) might cause a necessary a paradigm shift in thinking, he said.

Pivot and Change

“In this time of great change and extreme competition for talent, HR leaders must be able to articulate, more effectively than ever, the company’s value proposition – why this company, why this role – as candidates are evaluating what is meaningful work for them and how job structures meet their personal situations. Recruiting methods are moving outside the box to reach passive, selective candidates,” said Elisa Sheftic, president and managing partner of Right Executive Search (RES).

“At the same time, HR has to be actively addressing those changing structures and practices to ensure that current, loyal and long-term staff feel engaged, valued and heard. This has been difficult in a more remote and hybrid work world, with the unfortunate overlay of politicization of COVID-related health and safety issues.” HR must remain a voice of reason, she said, while the ‘next normal’ is still taking shape.

“After the initial, sudden upheaval of the pandemic, HR is still showing its ability to pivot and change, and this is likely to continue as all the downstream effects on operations, workflow and corporate culture become more fully apparent,” said Ms. Sheftic. “In company budget hierarchies, HR was not always equipped with the latest technologies – but now that’s critical. They need to be able to recruit, onboard, train, and coach virtually, and to do a lot more strategic analysis with their data beyond personnel recordkeeping. Data helps to show what’s working and what’s not, without the bias and emotion that may be swirling around them. At the same time, the basic human issues of group and individual engagement and employees’ mental well-being in a more remote world have never been more critical. Employee relations remains a focal point.”

The best executive search firms work with HR as strategic partners, not mere recruiters, Ms. Sheftic said. “Companies looking to fill senior roles should seek search firms with expertise in attracting and vetting talent in that distinct career field and expect to have in-depth and ongoing communication about the role and the qualities that make a good fit for the organization. Outlining the requisite skills and experience is just a start. To make the right hire, you’ll need to determine soft skills, leadership styles, environment, focus, pace, agility, and more,” she said.

“Sometimes the desired ‘nice to have’ attributes emerge gradually during the interview process – you didn’t realize you needed it until you didn’t see it,” she said. “A great search firm helps you recognize and refine all the details. And finally, what is the company offering? Is it staying competitive in the talent war? A good search consultant will help you promote the value proposition of the company as an employer and the benefits of the position itself – be it challenge, fulfillment, work/life balance, or growth potential – as well.”

Hyper-Accelerating Change

“In today’s world of hyper-accelerating change and uncertainty, the people function is emerging from the pandemic as an evolving space of rapidly increasing importance,” said Katie Chevis, associate partner, HR, people and culture practice at Savannah Group.

“Where it used to be the case that the competitive advantage of a business was defined by its products and services, it is increasingly recognized that people, talent and culture are critical differentiators to business success. With many organizations undergoing ground-breaking change and transformation, navigating ever-accelerating digitization, rapidly evolving customer behavior, seismic social shifts and enormous changes in traditional and potential products and services, organizations without exceptional people functions are going to quickly lose ground,” she said. “The right leadership of the people function has never been more important, nor has it had the scope to be more impactful. All organizations, no matter their sophistication or size, are acutely aware that they have to get people matters right.”

“The right executive search firm is a true partner, an extension of the brand and organization that they are supporting to attract and engage with the very best possible talent,” Ms. Chevis said. “Having the right ambassador out in the market on your behalf has never been more crucial. The war for talent has never been stronger, and innovative, inspirational leaders are in high demand right across the board. A well networked and respected search firm can open doors and elevate conversations for you which you may not be able to do yourself, as they have the dialogue and trust already with these candidate pools.”

Time for Leadership Excellence

“If ever there was a time for leadership excellence, it most certainly is now,” said Tracy McMillian managing partner and CEO of Broadview Talent Partners. “The pandemic and remote workplace in which we all live and breathe presents a permanent change to how we do business. In my view, prior to the pandemic, the HR function was perceptively one of the weaker functions, and that puts many organizations behind the eight ball. HR departments do many things well, including culture, employee relations, comp and benefits, culture, and DEI. However, where many are lacking, and part of the reason we get called upon, is that their talent acquisition, talent management and succession planning functions are, in many cases, underperforming or under-resourced,” he said.

“These functions become ever more critical when you are trying to recruit and retain top talent during a pandemic, especially in a job market that has become as brutally competitive as this one currently is. This puts HR leadership in talent management and talent acquisition at its most critical juncture,” he noted.

Key challenges facing HR executives today include talent management, talent acquisition, and succession planning, according to Mr. McMillian. “The competition for talent is the toughest I’ve seen in 26 years,” he said. “Reducing regretted organizational losses is a constant battle and must remain top of mind. Having honest, transparent conversations with the best and brightest every six to 12 months is a must. They should be paired with a mentor, assessed to identify leadership and experiential gaps, and given stretch assignments to gain new experience and shore up blind spots. In addition, the candidate market is fierce. HR has to be aware of the supply and demand dynamics. This means moving quickly, acting with sincerity and being willing to offer competitive compensation and benefits.”

Obtaining the candidate of choice will require an aggressive, proactive approach, he said. “HR executives must focus on getting their boards and C-level executives to understand the importance of succession planning. This not only builds bench strength, but also helps retain top talent by helping them to achieve their highest career goals and aspirations.”

“Typically, we partner with HR to manage the candidate interview process, communicate with hiring managers and oversee search logistics,” Mr. McMillian said. “We also tend to partner with them in respect to evaluation, assessment, referencing, post-placement consultations and onboarding. We represent their eyes and ears in the marketplace. In turn, they are our eyes and ears for an organization’s culture and quirks while providing access to key hiring managers and leadership perspectives. By working together, our goal is to find the best fit for their needs, someone who will stay for three to seven years and deliver transformative results for the organization.”

Ear to the Ground

“Companies are faced with so many more complexities including COVID;  remote/hybrid work; diversity, equity and inclusion; and shortage of top talent,” said Jeff Herzog, president of FFC, the franchisor of F-O-R-T-U-N-E Personnel Consultants (FPC). “These issues make it so much more important to have qualified, engaged, up-to-date HR executives than ever before.”

“New job candidates and current employees are more concerned about the culture, flexibility, compensation and work/life balance than we have ever seen,” Mr. Herzog said. “These make for very challenging, competitive times for HR executives and hiring managers alike.”

“Good, specialized executive search firms have their ear to the ground and are constantly networking with the most qualified candidates in their market,” said Mr. Herzog. “This gives them significant insights into what the market looks like and can help HR executives prioritize and understand the landscape. Qualified executive recruiters can also provide unique employment branding opportunities, especially for lesser-known companies. It is critical that HR execs and specialized recruiters view each other as business partners, not adversaries. This way, the HR execs can pave the way for recruiters to succeed, and the recruiters will be motivated to help the best HR executives reach their goals.”

Positioning for Success

“The workplace and employee conditions require a leader who will position your organization for success,” said Juan Gaitan, founder and chief experience officer at Talento Human Capital Management. “More jobs and employer choices than ever requires work that companies didn’t think of before. Employer brand, total rewards, remote work, and career development all require a serious fine tune. Underlying culture and fabric of a company that needs work further complicates. Having a balanced leader who can plan and organize these areas is hard.”

Some key challenges facing HR executives today are managers who are unreasonable regarding working conditions, according to Mr. Gaitan. “Climbing compensation ranges that make retention and recruiting challenging,” he said. “Landscape of jobs and offerings from other employers. Inflation is here and it’s real — adapt or struggle. Limited investments in developing talent due to shift in pay and benefits expenses. In addition, new mindsets of workers and how they want to be treated, scheduled, paid and rewarded.”

Managing the Shift

“We’ve seen unprecedented changes in the healthcare landscape over the past 21 months, impacting healthcare organizations across the continuum,” said Michele Hoyt, vice president at AMN Healthcare. “One constant is the need for the right talent to help manage this shifting environment. CHROs are critical to helping their organizations manage this new landscape, where recruitment and retention have never been more challenging. From identifying and finding the right talent, to ensuring that benefits and wellness initiatives are supporting employees amidst high burnout and turnover, HR leaders are pivotal to organizational success. Diversity, equity and inclusion is another area where CHROs play an important role, from ensuring a diverse candidate pipeline to investing in key training and initiatives across the organization. More than ever, CHROs are being relied on for strategy and direction.”

“The obvious and most significant challenge is that there is a major employee shortage across all levels of healthcare, driven by burnout, early retirement and people deciding to leave the field altogether,” Ms. Hoyt said. “This creates an extremely difficult and competitive talent landscape from nursing to physicians and up to the C-suite. In addition to the direct costs of losing key talent, HR executives are faced with myriad indirect costs as well, particularly with transition at the leadership level.  About 30 percent of respondents in AMN Healthcare leadership surveys have named the CFO and COO as the executives most likely to leave in the CEO’s wake, and even below the C-suite, leadership turnover can prompt adjacent management departures. Turnover can also drive disruption to strategic momentum, significant lost revenue in physician and clinical departures and intangible effects of dissatisfaction and tension across an organization. All this is to say, that CHROs have an uphill battle and need to leverage new strategies and resources to succeed in such a competitive environment.”

“The most effective executive search firms serve as strategic partners with HR leadership, understanding organizational initiatives, strategic imperatives and talent needs,” said Ms. Hoyt. “Not only does this give organizations access to an extensive network of talent, but it allows the search firm to deliver the right fit for the organization. Given the changing landscape, finding talent that complements the organization and can drive forward key initiatives gives these hospitals a leg up on the competition. Furthermore, organizations like AMN Healthcare can provide insight and talent to meet needs across the spectrum, from nursing through the C-suite.”

True Partners

Top human capital positions are becoming more mission critical to the success of an organization,” said Brad Newpoff, co-founder and president of MalinHughes. “This is the only C-suite position that is a true partner to every other C-suite position. Top HR leaders recognize that every company and every industry is going through a transformation in order to stay relevant. There is no right or wrong way to approach this but there is a critical need to do something in order to remain relevant. This is not a problem but a huge opportunity. Most companies have this very unique and special opportunity to reinvent themselves and how they relate to both their customers and employees. HR leaders will be at the core of this transformation,” he said. “They will be required to be the visionaries, strategic advisors and executors of new concepts and ideas that. Most importantly, he/she will be helping to maintain or recreate new company cultures that will send their employers on a new business trajectory.”

“Most of the most progressive companies realize that the timing is now to reinvent and transform,” said Mr. Newpoff. “Human resources leaders will be managing more responsibilities than ever before as they help their company’s take advantage of this new business environment. In addition, understanding that flexibility is a new compensation and that the ability to work remotely or spend more time with family or to pursue outside interests is a currency that they can invest in to recruit and retain top talent.”

“Executive search firms need to transform as well,” Mr. Newpoff said. “In order to continue to add value to our clients and specifically Human Resource leadership we first must understand the challenges that they are facing as well as being prepared to offer solutions above and beyond talent acquisition to help HR tackle these challenges. The value of our services will be more about creating and building long-term, value-added solutions, rather than just filling open positions. We must be innovative and help our HR partners stay ahead of industry trends so that they can remain competitive and build value for their organizations. Search firms must also wear multiple hats.  We can no longer be just a staffing solution. But we need to be prepared with strategic insights on how to build a world class organization as well as having the right resources to assist our clients in accomplishing that.”

Critical Partner

“The pandemic brought never imagined disruptions to lives and to business, and the HR function is one that will play a crucial, strategic role in navigating the people side of the equation as organizations move forward,” said Holly Pena, founder and principal at Pena Search. “Indeed, the people element has been highlighted like never before and, as a result, so too has the HR function. There is no question but that HR is a critical partner in organizational leadership and that HR will be at the forefront of designing the post-pandemic business models.

“HR will have to ensure the deployment of processes and technologies that facilitate working arrangements that before the pandemic were not as widely accepted,” Ms. Pena said. “Such efforts include how to onboard, support, train, develop and evaluate remote workers. In addition to supporting a broader variety of workers – remote, on site, temporary or contract, and full-time — HR will have to attract, develop and retain the variety of contributors with creative and attractive workforce engagement and experience programs. HR will also be the primary facilitators in assessing existing human resources in light of future human capital needs of the organization and how to meet those needs either with retraining or hiring to meet those needs.”

HR executives today face several key challenges due to pandemic changes and after-shocks plus the fast-paced and continuously evolving business environment of today, according to Ms. Pena. “The primary challenges facing HR today revolve around talent,” she said. “Assessing the performance of the existing workforce and in light of future needs is highly important but challenging given the more complex organizational structures, as is facilitating the management of and communication with workers across the organization. Identifying and recruiting new talent to meet existing or future needs is highly challenging in the tight labor market of today, as are efforts to identify and recruit a diverse workforce. And, finally, workforce retention is a key challenge and one for which laser focus on the employee experience is critical.”

“Placing an ad on a job board is not going to attract good candidates that are in high demand and that are very actively recruited,” Ms. Pena said. “Those individuals have choices, and those choices are coming to them. The value search consultants add to their client’s recruiting efforts is the ability to focus intently in finding prospective candidates that are the ideal profile for the role, and proactively reach out to them making a compelling case for them to explore the position, recognizing that those prospective candidates have other options and opportunities. An HR executive doesn’t have the time to do that for every position, in addition to all her/his other responsibilities as chief people officer of an organization.”

Leading the Voyage

“The commitment to changing culture has to come from the CEO, and the entire senior leadership team; the CHRO with the right skills and experience can effectively lead this voyage,” said Larry Shoemaker, president of Cornerstone International Group. “The first requirement for successful senior HR leaders is to be a true business partner, one immersed in the business and the people within. This provides the opportunity to influence the organization’s future by including the employee perspective in changes. To be effective in most roles today, individuals need to have a combination of curiosity, innovation, empathy, and agility. The CHRO must establish a commitment to identify, develop, and retain individuals who have these characteristics, or recruit those who do, and gain buy-in from everyone within the organization.”

“Change is the challenge facing HR executives today, just as it is having a tremendous impact on everyone else in the organization,” Mr. Shoemaker said. “However, it appears senior HR leaders have more challenges, and opportunities, than many other senior executives. Forward thinking organizations recognize they cannot succeed without leaving the past behind. Much of that change is people centered, and HR will take the lead in strategizing, defining, identifying, supporting, and leading these endeavors.  Employees of the future will have characteristics that are different from employees of the past.  Identifying what these are, and helping the organization engrain these into their culture, will be an important part of HR’s role.”

“Executive search firms must become talent advisors to meet the needs of their clients. Delivering candidates is the tip of the iceberg, and while critically important, attracting the right candidates is the result of a well thought out process that has effective execution,” Mr. Shoemaker said. “This process begins with understanding what the successful candidate will contribute to the role, and what characteristics, as well as knowledge and experience, individuals must have to be qualified. Search firms can work closely with organizations to help describe the ideal candidate, offering insight based on their knowledge of the industry and their insight into candidates. Many of us consider this the most important part of the search process.”

Open Communications

“Open communications during the search process, sharing knowledge gained from research and discussions with sources and potential candidates, adds great value,” Mr. Shoemaker said. “Search firms can help HR executives stay agile. There may be instances where refining the role is appropriate if the market is suggesting fine tuning will attract stronger candidates. At the same time, the search consultant can partner with the HR executive to ensure the original goals for the role are respected. This only works when there is strong trust between the search consultant and the HR executive.”

Understanding Culture

“Top HR executives are critically important to any organizational success, especially colleges and universities, because they understand the institution’s culture, lead HR teams with significant ability to help the organization achieve equity and inclusion objectives, and know what total compensation package is necessary to attract and retain top performers,” said Dianne Kenney, senior consultant and senior executive coach at Academic Search.

“Following months of mandated campus shutdowns, the world of work is forever changed, but colleges and universities remain unique outliers. Many employees not only proved that they work effectively remotely but also that they are more productive,” she said. “However, in higher education, much of the experience is on campus. Top HR executives understand the fast-paced changes in today’s labor market and what cultural shifts will be necessary to remain competitive, and how to balance this with the needs of community on a campus.”

“Given the fast-paced changes in today’s labor market, hiring and retaining a highly skilled and diverse workforce is a top challenge,” Shawn M. Hartman, VP and COO of Academic Search. “To achieve this, HR executives in all but the most well-funded organizations are continuously challenged to allocate finite resources, particularly among the recruiting/staffing, benefits, and compensation sections of their departments. This is especially true on the college or university campus. Many campus HR leaders struggle to find resources to help ensure that the institution’s managers are equipped to afford all employees the opportunity to learn and grow.”

“Establishing and maintaining the right mix of internal and external recruiting resources to sustain effective hiring, regularly benchmarking benefits and compensation and adjusting where necessary to remain market-competitive and providing employees with learning and promotional opportunities will remain key challenges for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Along with these challenges, HR executives must endeavor to keep senior leadership updated on labor market trends and nimble enough to pivot institutional focus and resources quickly in ways that both support existing employees and keep the organization attractive to recruits.”

“One way executive search firms can assist HR executives is to conduct searches that the internal HR department does not have the resources or expertise to provide,” said Mr. Hartman. “In today’s labor market, most employers want to hire from diverse candidate pools and as quickly as possible. Executive search firms are able to build diverse candidate pools because of their vast candidate networks. And, they rely on their experience recruiting at multiple institutions to guide organizations through effective and efficient hiring processes. The relationship between the search consultant and HR executive is critical during the search process. The search consultant wants to make sure that the HR executive has all necessary information from the mechanics of the search and the HR executive serves as an invaluable resource to the search consultant in regard to the institutional culture of hiring and the individual campus policies and procedures.”

“In addition, search firms that provide executive coaching have a unique way of providing additional support directly to HR executives,” said Ms. Kenney. “Especially in the early years of any new appointee, the HR executive (and the organization as a result!) can realize benefits that have an enduring impact by focusing coaching sessions on issues such as relationship building, learning about self, and aspirational goals.”

Related: Major Paradigm Shifts Coming Out of the Coronavirus Crisis 

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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