April 12, 2022 – ON Partners consultants recently offered its annual observations and insights on the executive jobs they expect to be in demand as the year unfolds across various market sectors. The search firm’s recruiters have examined the technology, consumer, and supply chain sectors — pointing out that the critical importance of customer experience, the supply chain crisis, and ongoing digital transformation efforts are among the key factors expected to drive executive hiring. Following are the top positions that ON Partners consultants anticipate will be in high demand for the remainder of 2022 as companies work to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and continue to move into recovery mode. Among them: board directors, chief financial officers, chief marketing officers, chief product officers, operating partners, heads of customer experience, sales operations & planning leaders, heads of AI, global supply chain leaders, and logistics heads.
Bringing together the right executive leadership team to unlock a brand’s potential has never been more critical, especially as the demand for leadership talent increases in 2022, according to the ON Partners report. Assembling a board team with the right mix of experience and perspectives has arguably never been more important to the success of an organization.
“Diversity continues to be a high priority for boards,” the report said. “As more professional retained searches occur vs. personal network board hires, the onboarding process and time to be fully open and trusted is lengthened. This has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, where the personal time to build rapport and deepen relationships has been diminished.”
The ON Partners report also notes that fewer restrictions currently exist around “CEO or big P&L experience only may apply.” Formal board skill assessments are increasingly common as well, which results in targeting functional leaders in high demand such as sitting chiefs of marketing, digital, or security, the firm said. “In privately-held growth companies, VCs and founders are landing independent directors earlier, post-round B or C, not just in time for the S1 filing.”
Chief Financial Officer
New opportunities have emerged through the pandemic. The versatile CFO who truly understands the business and is an approachable business partner can drive operational excellence and sometimes accelerated strategic investments that are game-changing, according to ON Partners. “At the same time, the discipline and cadence around corporate reporting, resource allocation, and cash and financial enablement will continue to be essential,” the report said. “COVID-19 has exposed the massive gap between companies with strong finance leaders and those that have waited to build a proper set of controls.”
ON Partners also pointed out that as businesses shift to a more distributed model, it has opened up resource pools in other lower-cost geographies. The CFOs and leaders who have invested in other, non-traditional markets will have an advantage given their unique perspective on the continued evolution of a corporate workforce.
Chief Marketing Officer
ON experienced an 80 percent increase in engagements for marketing-related executive roles last year, mainly in response to companies coming out of 2020 with an increased spend on brand, customer acquisition, and growth strategies across B2C and B2B organizations.
ON Partners recently placed David Greenberg as the new chief marketing officer for Conversica, a provider of conversational AI solutions for enterprise revenue teams. Consultant Aaron Clark led the assignment. “We’re addressing a real need with applied AI,” said Jim Kaskade, CEO of Conversica. “I am thrilled for David to join our executive team roundtable. His experience in marketing leadership with practically every high-growth success in the Pacific Northwest will prove vital and contribute greatly to Conversica’s success in 2022. I need a powerhouse marketeer to guide Conversica to market growth and dominance in a time of explosive competition. I couldn’t be more excited to begin the year adding David’s energy and expertise.”
“The marketing demand is expected to continue this year as companies quickly invest in more advanced digital transformation and automation strategies across their marketing, communication and customer experience teams,” ON Partners said. “Over the last few years, companies have had to adjust their marketing approach to respond to the evolving customer expectations of brand transparency and personalization in their messaging strategies.”
Chief Product Officer
With growth and PE firms deploying capital at record-setting rates, the need for key executives to lead these companies is vital – and product and digital leadership roles are at the top of the list going into 2022. Last year, ON Partners experienced 86 percent growth in executive search engagements in this functional area. Many businesses are broadening the scope of responsibility for these leaders to improve agility and responsiveness in this rapidly changing environment.
While the operating partner role is typically a step before retirement given the level of experience needed, operating partners are working harder now than ever before, balancing the role of coach with being deep in the weeds of three or four companies in a hyper-competitive environment, according to the report. “With PE firms flush with cash and competing with SPACs for a limited number of deals, the operating partner role has arguably never been more important – and demanding,” the study said. “This is causing big increases in deal sizes, so having an operating partner who knows the ins and outs of a business provides a significant differentiator. Given the competition and high valuations, this is putting more pressure to maximize current portfolio companies/valuations, which makes the operating partner role even more in demand.”
SVP of Customer Experience
“With consumers expecting products on the shelf when they want it and delivery in two to three days if not sooner, retailers that are poised to win are those focused on delivering on an outstanding customer experience from dream and shop to delivery,” ON Partners said. “A comprehensive effort across marketing, sales, product and customer service will ensure customers know what to expect. From shop early favorite customer messages via email to delivery times being clearly communicated in the checkout path for an online purchase, winning retailers will find multiple touchpoints for communication along the customer journey.”
SVP of Sales Operations and Planning
The emphasis on sales operations continues to grow into a much broader and strategic role, and some companies are now referring to these jobs as “go to market operations” and/or “sales productivity.” While this has traditionally been the responsibility of finance, this role is now becoming more of a business partner to the chief revenue officer, moving from revenue measurement to setting up the metrics, better sales compensation systems, and being one of the key drivers in predicting revenue on a quarterly/yearly basis. In addition, to differentiate themselves, PE firms are increasingly hiring specialists such as sales leaders, sales ops leaders and CTOs, focusing more on the operational aspects of running portfolio companies.
SVP of AI
The big question that continues to grow across the playbook of an organization and is especially higher in demand is what can be automated and how we can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace, augment and accelerate human decision making to more quickly serve customers. ON Partners even saw companies add AI/ML talent to their board, showing that this is a strategic imperative going forward. Adding these skills to the supply chain functional team has become paramount across many ON Partners clients.
Head of Global Supply Chain
This year has been intense in the supply chain talent space, as companies are reeling to recover from pandemic shutdowns and post-pandemic demand spikes. ON Partners notes that the evolution of the digital supply chain was already in progress, but the pandemic forced companies to move there more quickly. “The pandemic has exposed weak leaders and many organizations are now focused on replacing those weak links. Leaders who are poised for success in the current environment can run toward a fire and face ambiguity with energy, optimism, and inspiration,” the firm said. “They must be functional experts who have built careers on relationships; ideally, they have worked abroad and understand how Asian-based manufacturers work. They are familiar with current supply chain issues there and can anticipate future challenges ahead. There is also intense demand for executives experienced in technology advances in planning and product allocation, as well as strategic approach to flexible manufacturing capacity, container management, and transportation management.”
Head of Logistics
Because ON is now seeing just how much relationships really matter in supply chain, there is also high demand for executive-level transportation executives and heads of logistics who know air, carriers, ocean and parcel, and have deep relationships with all of those players. “When COVID hit, one Fortune 10 client that had been beating up its suppliers for the past 10 years lost a key supplier that gave its business to another company with which they had a strong positive relationship,” the firm said.
With a primary focus on technology, consumer, industrial, and the life science sectors, ON Partners recruits C-level and board talent for public and private companies, as well as venture capital and private equity firms. Founded in 2006, the firm’s consultants work from offices in Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Dallas; Menlo Park, CA; Minneapolis. MN; San Francisco; and New York. ON Partners is one of the fastest growing search firms and this year is ranked as one of the Top 20 recruiting platforms in the nation by Hunt Scanlon Media.
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Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media