Key themes driving APAC senior executive leadership hiring trends - August 2020

In the May edition of Leadership Digest we set out to share some predictions on the post lock-down environment. While the ‘new normal’ remains far from certain, three months later we are starting to see a number of trends and approaches which we feel are worth highlighting.

Executive Hiring
Back in May executive hiring in the region remained muted with most non business critical hires being put on hold. In the last six weeks we have seen a noticeable increase in the number of senior leadership searches being commissioned (although less active relative to the same time period last year) as organisations focus on longer-term strategic requirements.

For many the pandemic has become a catalyst that is forcing companies, irrespective of industry sector, to invest and significantly expand digital and on-line capabilities.

Over the last quarter 60+ per cent of searches that Leathwaite has conducted in the region have been technology, innovation, transformation and digital in nature. Beyond technology and digital, a broader review of leadership capabilities – specifically within finance and legal – is underway as roles are elevated and expanded in response to changing business models, organisational changes and in acknowledgement of increasing complexity and competition in the external market.

Agility is Possible
For the most part more ‘traditional’ organisations have made great strides in adopting ‘virtual’ hiring processes and developing positive remote onboarding experiences.

While we don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that virtual ways of working will lead to more flexible and remote working practices becoming the norm in Asia, there is certainly increased debate and receptiveness among leadership teams. This includes greater openness to considering Executive Interim appointments to provide leadership for specific change initiatives; to act as a trusted and objective advisors to senior management (regulatory change, cyber security notably); and to fill short-term succession gaps. We are starting to see an increased utilisation of interim solutions on fixed-term contracts in the region.

The business case for diversifying leadership is well understood and rightly, more often than not, gender diversity is a prerequisite for any recommended short-list.

The increased focus on digitalizing platforms, products and capability is forcing companies to identify and attract leadership from different industry sectors – individuals who bring experience and skill-sets that are otherwise lacking in today’s organisation, who can challenge the status quo and who can push organisation’s beyond their comfort zone.

As leadership reflects on how existing resources are redeployed and retooled, talent acquisition strategies will reflect the need to incorporate external talent with broader capability and diversity of experience.

Ensuring Success
Attracting such talent remains competitive and the successful integration of diverse talent into more conventional cultures and organizational structures continues to vary greatly.

Similarly the extent to which leadership can establish themselves, within their new organisation and role, having onboarded remotely will vary. As a result, we would expect to see greater utilisation of

Executive Coaching as a means of supporting senior executives through critical transition periods. The business environment through the remainder of this calendar year is likely to remain challenging and uncertain. The need for organisations to continue to show flexibility and creativity in their talent acquisition strategies and their leadership development programs will be pivotal.

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