The Trends and Changing Market for C-Level Executives

As we continue to navigate the post-pandemic world, the C-level and senior leadership job market is experiencing significant change and new trends. ON Partners, one of the fastest growing search firms this year, has released a new report that outlines some of the changes they have witnessed in the C-suite.

May 16, 2023 – Today, companies are looking for leaders who are not only capable of driving growth but also have the skills to navigate the changing business landscape. The C-level job market is likely to continue to evolve rapidly in response to changes in the economy, technology, and society. The leaders who are most successful in this environment will be those who are adaptable, innovative, and able to anticipate and respond to emerging trends and challenges, according to a new report from ON Partners. “One of the most significant trends in the C-level job market is the increasing demand for executives who are skilled in digital transformation,” said the study. “With the pandemic accelerating the adoption of digital technologies, companies are looking for leaders who can leverage these technologies to improve customer experiences, streamline operations, and create new revenue streams.”

“Companies should be investing in roles that support transformation and forward thinking into 2023,” said Lynda Robey, partner at ON Partners. “We’ve learned from other market dips that companies that didn’t simply brace for the changes but actually leaned into transformation during changes came out winners. Readiness for what may come as well as the knowledge that the organization will be stronger for it coming out of any macro impact should be the focus.”

The ON Partners report also notes that another trend in the senior leadership job market is the emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). “Companies are recognizing that diversity in leadership leads to better business outcomes and are actively seeking out candidates from underrepresented groups,” the firm said. “Additionally, companies are investing in DEI training and initiatives to create more inclusive workplaces.”

“The market for diverse talent has become very competitive over the past several years, particularly across IT leadership roles,” said Nina McMaster, partner at ON Partners. “We’re committed to partnering closely with our clients to continue their diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. It is so important for some organizations that I think we will see a shift in mindset where we focus on candidates with transferable skills and core competencies for roles in order to help increase diversity, as opposed to focusing on ‘been there, done that’ types of leaders.”

The pandemic has also accelerated the trend toward remote work, and many companies are now looking for executives who have experience leading remote teams, according to the ON Partners report. “Leaders who can manage remote workforces effectively and maintain team cohesion are in high demand,” the study said. “In addition to these trends, we are also seeing changes in the hiring process for C-level and senior leadership roles. Companies are increasingly using data and analytics to inform their hiring decisions, with a focus on identifying candidates with the right skills and experience.”

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One trend that is likely to continue is the increasing demand for leaders who can navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing business landscape, says ON Partners. The pace of technological change and globalization is accelerating, and businesses are looking for leaders who can anticipate and respond to these challenges.

Related: Recruiting Firms Leverage Technology to Fuel Growth

“In addition, sustainability and social responsibility are becoming increasingly important considerations for businesses,” the study said. “Companies are looking for leaders who can drive sustainable growth and address social and environmental challenges.”

“Companies are no longer focused on simply making money,” said Heidi Hoffman, partner at ON. “Of course, they want to make money, but underlying their actions is a growing attention to values and global impact. How a company’s leadership approaches and strategizes around these topics indicates their level of responsibility and accountability to the greater ecosystem. ESG and social justice are significant topics of conversation in the supply-chain world.”

Finally, the gig economy is growing, and more workers are choosing to work on a freelance or contract basis. The ON report notes that this trend is likely to continue, and companies may need to adjust their leadership models to accommodate a more flexible workforce. “Overall, the C-level and senior leadership job market is evolving rapidly,” the study said. “Companies are looking for leaders who can navigate the complex challenges of the post-pandemic world and drive growth in the digital age. If you are looking to advance your career in this market, it is essential to stay up-to-date with these trends and position yourself as a candidate who can help companies meet these new challenges head-on.”

The Evolution of C-level Executive Roles Post-Pandemic

There’s no question that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and sustainability concerns have become a major force in the corporate world, and the current level of demand for leaders experienced in ESG is unprecedented. According to investment research firm Morningstar, funds with an ESG focus attracted more than $51 billion in net new funds in 2020 and another roughly $70 billion last year.

“Despite the growing pains around ESG and finding leaders who are experienced in the space, it is widely acknowledged that it is here to stay and that its core principles are good for business,” the ON report said.

A recent Thomson Reuters article notes that: “ESG issues are quickly emerging as cross-disciplinary areas of responsibility of C-level leaders. In fact, chief sustainability officers, chief legal officers , and CFOs see the most expansion within their corporate functions as the growth of ESG duties begins to impact these roles.”

“We’re seeing ESG leaders coming from all different areas,” said Joe Olson, partner at ON. “I’ve recently seen ESG executives come from VP of internal audit, corporate treasurer, VP of investor relations general counsel, VP quality, and VP of supply chain roles. The common theme is that these executives are strong business partners who can execute ‘non-revenue’ projects across an entire organization. These are challenging roles and it’s a natural opportunity for senior leaders who enjoys the internal operations of a business and are passionate about sustainability to come in and really influence the future course of global commerce.”

“A Google search of the company around their values and what they are doing and saying – or not – is important to candidates,” said Sean Cantarella, partner at ON. “People care a lot about the club they are joining. How a business markets themselves on social issues will be indicative of the talent they will be able to obtain.”

Related: Executive Recruiters Pull Off Another Remarkable Year, Remain Bullish for 2023

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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