What Senior Leaders Need to Ask Themselves in 2023

There’s no better time than the new year for employers everywhere to think about how best to meet the challenges of the months ahead. In a new report, Grace Blue Partnership offers insights into finding, keeping, and developing talent in these days of economic uncertainty, a stubborn virus, and change.

January 5, 2023 – It’s the beginning of a new year and new possibilities. The global leadership team at Grace Blue Partnership has created a list of thought-provoking questions as well as some advice for leaders of all teams looking to retain, acquire, and develop their people in the year ahead and achieve business success.

The executive search firm started by addressing how to best build your team culture and enhance your employer brand. “The energy of togetherness and teamwork is something which people have realized cannot be recreated through a screen,” said Juliet Timms, a founder of Grace Blue. “Although we have started to come back together, building a strong culture and loyalty from your staff, and building a strong employee brand experience becomes ever more important to differentiate and elevate the experience beyond just financial remuneration. I urge every leader to build an environment where people can be their best.”

“Pay attention to your employer brand – as this is what will ultimately differentiate those who have the edge when attracting transformational talent,” said Sarah Skinner, CEO, EMEA.

“In Asia, as the quarantine and travel requirements loosen up in China with signs of wider re-engagement with the rest of the world – international companies will still look to China for growth in the APAC region,” said Helen Duffy, CEO and partner, APAC. “There will be significant challenges in encouraging the best local and international talent to stay, or bring them back if they have left the market. It has been hugely traumatic, so organizations need to go above and beyond to invest in, and support their people, in all aspects of their lives.” 

How will you develop as a leader this year?

 “Authentic leadership will become even more key in tough times, whilst COVID was a huge test for leaders a new generation of leaders will enter a downturn for which they were mid-level managers in 2008,” said Jay Haines, a founder of Grace Blue. “They will need support on how to manage through a downturn; communication will be key in an empathetic manner and authenticity will be important here – not everyone has to agree with you, but they deserve to understand the ‘what, why, why now, what this means for me’ during change management.”

“It’s going to be a bumpy year and many leaders are steeling themselves for that,” said Ms. Duffy. “Keep calm and be decisive about the things that matter. Manage the numbers as it might not be the bumper year and influence the things you can in the best way you can. Much of it might be beyond your control.” 

Where will the new talent that you need in your business come from?

“Employers are going to need to be broader, and braver, in thinking about talent,” said Erin Mastel, director. “The employers who will win are the ones who have a very wide aperture when considering the kind of talent they need for their roles. Step-up candidates, high-potential candidates, those with unexpected backgrounds. Very prescriptive approaches to talent are a thing of the past.”

Executive Hiring Predictions for 2023
With market uncertainty on the minds of senior executives as we move into the new year, ON Partners recently asked its consultants to offer predictions and insights about the executive jobs they expect to be in demand in 2023. The past few years have seen one of the most volatile business environments in memory. Political, social, economic, health, and regulatory factors combined to form the perfect storm, creating a turbulent path for boards and those in the C-suite to navigate. According to ON consultants, embracing transformation in an uncertain landscape, continued digital transformation efforts, and building strong financial organizations are among the key factors expected to drive executive hiring in the coming year.

“If we are to increase diversity in the industry, and if employers want truly to disrupt, differentiate, and gain an advantage, the key will be thinking about talent differently,” she said. “It’s not about finding the right person to fit the role as written in its current state; it’s about finding someone who can successfully rewrite the role with the future in mind.” 

“Despite the uncertainty, there is the opportunity to be brave and innovate,” said Ms. Duffy. “This will lead to the chance to make lateral hires from outside your sector and create supportive landing spaces to set external industry talent up for success and gain competitive advantage.”

How are you going to lead through this next phase of digital transformation?

“We are seeing an increasing number of clients turn to smaller, more distributed partners who can drive the strategy and innovation they need,” said Mr. Haines. “We are also seeing new model firms like BeenThereDoneThat take advantage of distributed talent networks to get the right people on the right project for the right time. Faster, better, cheaper (or more efficient) will be key – the days of long-winded PowerPoint decks and strategy are gone.”  

“Technology leaders should have a seat on the executive board and the knowledge of how to maximize your first party data will be incredibly important,” said Ms. Skinner.

“Clients know that they will need first party data, dynamic content, and technology at the core of their business model to win,” said Ms. Timms. “They will need to use first-party data to deliver dynamic content to their target audiences and so will require talent that really understands how to do this.”

What actions are you going to take on sustainability and EDI?

“This year’s challenge isn’t just about how to navigate an economic recession in the short term but also how we do so in the longer run to save our environment,” said Ian Priest, global chairman. “The world needs quick and clever decisions on both fronts and not to see them as a zero sum game. Our world of advertising and marketing needs to play its part not only in reducing our emissions but also to communicate the benefits to the world at large.” 

“Equity, diversity, and inclusion will take more of a center stage in Asia,” said Ms. Duffy. “And it is the responsibility of every organization to do their own work on themselves, to start to unlock the value across all three elements of E,D&I. Mobility needs to come back now borders are open – both within organizations and bringing in new talent. Excitingly, we have started to see our clients look globally again from markets such as Singapore and Australia for the best talent in the world.”

 For leaders in agencies, what talent issues should be on my agenda?

 “From a talent perspective in the agency world, the challenge for leaders is to ensure that advertising is still an industry young people want to join,” said Natalie Napier, U.K. managing partner. “If it can’t compete with other industries from a salary perspective then it has to offer other things. Part of this is employee well-being, work-life balance, and opportunities for progression and experience but it is also quite simply about it being a fun place to be and a world where creatively minded folk can thrive.”

“The challenge is that talent on the agency-side is increasingly desiring brand-side roles,” said Debra Sercy, U.S. managing partner. “At the same time, creative salaries will continue to level or stagnate – the trend we’ve seen for the past two years will become more prevalent. However, on the flip side, technology literacy in traditional agencies can improve as more tech-brand talent may look to move back into agencies.” 

“The priority will be to build in more talent that can truly understand a client’s business and strategically guide them,” said Ms. Timms.

Related: Retaining Your Employees During the Great Resignation

“It appears that online advertising at the big tech firms is flatlining,” said Ms. Skinner. “CX through MarTech is a growth engine for agencies, provided they secure the talent to compete against consultancies.” 

For leaders in consumer brands, what talent issues should be on my agenda?

“2023 will bring more of what we have seen in the last quarter of 2022 – cost of living biting, recession kicking in,” said Linzi Cameron, managing partner. “Brands will need talent that can really nail value as consumers will be asking what is the minimum I can spend and can I get the same for less? Shopper behavior will continue to evolve with consumers seeking out ever more personal experiences. History has shown that brands that pivot their business models will survive (e.g., Blockbuster died, Netflix boomed). The new economy business models will continue to thrive, and consumer brands need leadership talent who can bring about that transformation.” 

“The economic pressure will mean that CMOs will be making budget cuts in 2023,” said Ms. Timms. “Brands will therefore need to be more creative and rely on the very best creative talent to deliver sales and growth.”

“Brands will continue to build creative resources in-house to cut non-working dollars spent with agencies,” said Ms. Sercy. “The question to answer is how best to attract and build the right talent to deliver this requirement.”

For leaders in sports, media, and entertainment organizations, what talent issues should be on my agenda?

“Strategic, pioneering, and inclusive leadership will be essential this year, with digital content and storytelling integral to any strategy for sports and entertainment brands that l need to continue to put the consumer at the very heart of everything they do,” said Tim Palmer, managing partner – sports, media, and entertainment. “The role of data and insight will be pushed further into the foreground to develop and evolve consumer products, all essential for revenue growth.”

“Media platforms are going to need to work a lot harder and think outside the box to retain media dollars, particularly if you’re not the newest kid on the block,” said Ms. Duffy. “This could be interesting as the industry doubles down on innovation with the ability to attract the very best talent to disrupt their own practices. Talent which was once keen to join a tech platform may now be more circumspect and will scrutinize the organizations more deeply in terms of the support they will get.”

Related: Hiring Top Talent in Unprecedented Times

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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