How to Meet the Talent Challenges of a Changing Digital Landscape

Mergers and acquisitions, ‘FAANG’ companies and a slew of disruptive models are changing how people around the world consume news and information. Finding talent with diverse skills for these rising businesses calls for innovative thinking, say Carrie and Ted Pryor of Greenwich Harbor Partners. Let’s take a look at some fertile ground for recruiting!

August 15, 2018 – Every day we see examples of how the media, technology and digital industries are changing the way we live and work. Whether it is cloud storage for our photos, playlists for our music, friends who are “cutting the cord,” or retail chains going out of business, the world is changing rapidly.

The implications for recruiting senior executives are clear, but not necessarily easy to fulfill, say Carrie and Ted Pryor, the wife-husband team who run Greenwich Harbor Partners, a senior-level executive recruitment firm for the media and technology sector. Companies must find innovative, agile, entrepreneurial executives who are technically savvy, can envision new ways of doing business, drive execution and build at scale.

Consider mergers and acquisitions, said the Pryors. Fewer people today are reading newspapers, watching linear TV or listening to the radio, and the advertising dollars are following. As companies seek to boost their market presence and improve their clout with consumers and advertisers, efforts to form bigger and broader entities are booming. Disney and Comcast, for example, were recently competing to buy 21st Century Fox TV and studio assets. Discovery Communications bought Scripps Networks Interactive. Viacom is proposing to merge with CBS. The list goes on and on.

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“For recruiters, turmoil means opportunity, but many of these mergers are consolidations where there are duplicate positions and the hiring of senior executives is often ‘on hold’ until things settle,” said Ms. Pryor, who is the Greenwich, Conn-based firm’s managing partner. “Second, several of these consolidations reflect changing advertising models with dollars shifting from traditional to digital spending and a related change in required skills. Companies will start by trying to shift existing resources, but are often forced to go outside to find digital ad sales or subscription sales experts, particularly with experience operating at the new post-merger scale.”

FAANG Companies

Mr. Pryor, who is managing director of the firm, points to the sudden dominance of what are known as the “FAANG” companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google). In just a short period, these businesses have become enormous competitive threats in multiple industries. “In media and advertising, these five are successfully pulling viewers away from traditional media to online offerings,” said Mr. Pryor. “Advertising models are being up-ended as enormous amounts of money are being spent targeting subscribers for their TVs, phones or tablets, where one-to-one targeting and customer acquisition is the focus rather than brand awareness.”

Staying Relevant In the Digital Workforce

In this brand new episode of ‘Working Digital,’ we explore the latest developments in recruiting digital leaders with our host Andrew Mitchell. This time around we are joined by Ted Pryor, managing director and Carrie Pryor, managing partner of Greenwich Harbor Partners. According to these digital recruitment specialists, companies need to find innovative, agile, entrepreneurial executives who are technically savvy and that can envision new ways of doing business. Listen now!

While the FAANG companies are growing quickly, they have huge internal recruiting functions focused in large part on bringing in armies of engineers, product managers, sales, operations and customer service people required to support the growth. “Internal recruiters will often reach up to cover senior executive recruiting needs,” said Mr. Pryor. “Senior executives are also often obtained through acquisitions. For example, industry veterans speculate that Walmart’s acquisition of was largely based upon its desire to acquire the senior management team,” he noted. Senior executive recruiting assignments for these organizations are primarily board-visible positions, comprised of specialized industry hires, experts in customer acquisition or subscription marketing and retention, or people with strong client and agency relationships who can open doors for the digital pitch.

Carrie and Ted Pryor are respected authorities in the field. Ms. Pryor has over 20 years of senior executive search experience. She brings a seasoned presence in digital media, entertainment and private equity along with a pioneering spirit having worked in the internet space since the early ‘90’s. Ms. Pryor’s experience acts as a bridge between technology, telecom and media clients. Mr. Pryor focuses on senior-level assignments in technology and business services. In executive recruiting, he has focused on customer-facing positions that can drive growth including marketing, sales and customer service.

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Fertile Ground for Recruiting

Eighteen years into the 21st century, the Pryors emphasize, disruptive models are burgeoning: Airbnb is changing the way many people travel and providing overnight accommodations. Uber provides car service covering neighborhoods that never had traditional taxi service. Autonomous cars will become available soon by subscription through Ford, Volvo, Tesla or Google. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos each have space launch programs that could dramatically lower the cost of delivering satellites into space. Other examples abound. “All these efforts are creating new business opportunities no-one ever thought before and is fertile ground for recruiting, once the companies get big enough,” said Ms. Pryor.

Creating Content

“There have been a lot of recruiting assignments with these blossoming disruptive models either to upgrade leadership and to bring in critical functional skills to support growth,” she said. “Very early stage companies often hire through their networks or through the VCs, but as the company grows, it is imperative to leverage outside recruiters to bring in seasoned people who have experience with scale, deep knowledge of the target industry or a critical network. Large legacy companies have been increasingly successful attracting strong digital leadership to help them compete, but this work must be done by specialized outside recruiters.”

Consider the changing nature of the entertainment. A rapidly growing number of people are watching virtually all their video content and reading all their news and entertainment from their laptops, phones and tablets, and big companies are spending billions on fresh, exclusive content to attract these viewers. Companies that were strictly distribution focused, such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Amazon are now creating world class, unique content to attract viewers.

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Executive recruiters, for their part, have been busy helping companies find the talent to create compelling content, drive customer acquisition and build new viewing platforms. “Any time industries are pivoting and going into areas that are not core competency, it is critical to get outside recruiters who are expert in the functions, can understand the need, and find the right executives,” said Mr. Pryor.

Another key area is the growth of cloud-based subscription services. The ability to rent software services, rather than buy hardware and software packages, is leading to a remarkable change in sales, service and delivery. As companies and individuals get more comfortable with carrying their data in the Cloud, vendors are growing rapidly and large companies are scrambling to adjust.

Integrated Customer Engagement

“Executive recruiters have been heavily involved in helping companies find the right leaders as the revenue models shift to subscription-based models,” said Ms. Pryor. “Call center-style managers usually don’t have the skills required. Required skills include customer acquisition, sales, consulting, data and analytics. Artificial Intelligence is becoming a critical tool. The right talent might have only 60 percent of the needed skills and be coming from a very different industry and specialized outside recruiters are critical to find, assess and filter the talent.”

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The ultimate goal for companies in this new day is integrated customer engagement, said the Pryors. Every company is being forced to consider whether their customers have a seamless end-to-end journey. Because companies like Amazon, eBay and Apple provide an excellent end-to-end experience, customers compare that experience to everything else and if company falls fall short, the customer will be disappointed. “For example, Amazon’s 24- to 48-hour delivery promise sets the standard for retailers and ecommerce companies,” said Mr. Pryor. “The goal is a friction-free experience from first inspiration to the on-line contact and through to the in-store experience.  Ideally the customer is recognized and remembered all along the way, their preferences known, and loyalty rewards paid.”

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This high standard is easier for start-up companies who can plan their CRM systems to manage this from the start, he added. It is much harder to large companies with legacy systems, divisions which were acquired and hard silos for marketing, sales and customer service. “Overcoming these silos involves a huge investment in technology and support at the highest level of the corporation,” said Mr. Pryor. “But the holy grail is integrated customer engagement across all customer touchpoints and the payoff can be huge in adoption, retention, loyalty, revenues, upselling and profits.”

Casting a Wide Net

“Finding the people who can walk the line between business and engineering and are able to connect the silos has been a big area for executive recruiters,” he said. “Placements often are engineers who moved to the business side. Others are business people who have stayed close to engineers and learned the vocabulary. These ‘bilingual’ executives are scarce and it takes a good recruiter to find and assess them.”

Senior executives going into almost any company today are expected to have diverse skills, said Mr. Pryor. These including being innovative and agile as well as entrepreneurial. They should have large company discipline, tech savvy, the ability to see ‘white space’ and the ability to disrupt existing corporate structures. They must also be an industry expert, customer-centric and service oriented, able to operate at scale and able to recruit and motivate a world class team.

“These people exist but realistically clients need cast their net wide and consider people from other industries or related functions who may only meet 60 percent of the criteria,” said Mr. Pryor. “Our favorite candidate profile is an individual who has worked in both an entrepreneurial growth environment as well as a large company environment and has skills for both. Finding these ‘high impact’ candidates is a challenge but may well be critical to a company’s survival.”

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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

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