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

In our August edition of Leadership Digest we highlighted renewed momentum in senior hiring across enablement, transformation and control leadership positions in response to long-term strategic changes including incorporation of emerging technology, digitalisation & innovation as well as regulatory change & resiliency requirements. This remains true as the end of year approaches and is expected to continue into the first quarter of 2021.

In earlier editions of Leadership Digest we have commented on the great strides that many organisations have made in adopting virtual hiring processes and delivering virtual onboarding programmes. Ten months into the global pandemic in Asia, there is an increased acknowledgment of the challenges that those who have transitioned into new roles (either hired externally or promoted internally), are facing when it comes to ‘hitting the ground running’ and seamlessly integrating into the new organisation.

Hitting the ground running…or not…
Irrespective of the enthusiasm and confidence of newly appointed leaders and the comprehensiveness of virtual onboarding programs, the ability for new leaders to fully observe and assimilate into a new culture and quickly establish key internal relationships, is significantly hampered by a reduced number of meaningful (and constant) in-person touchpoints during their initial six months in the role.

Where this is being most keenly felt is in the disconnect between the organisational expectation of an individual’s ability to influence key stakeholders and effectively lead change management and transformation mandates within their first 12 months and what they are realistically able to achieve. This is something that internal appointments (primarily those who have relocated into region to take up leadership positions) as much as external appointees, are raising as a challenge, regardless of length of service within and understanding of the wider company culture.

Leaders taking up new appointments during this period of time will need to be resilient, patient and tenacious in collaborating while the organisation at large will need to be understanding that the timeframe to integrate, assimilate and be impactful is going to be longer than may have previously been anticipated. There is after all a fine line between being realistic and giving up.

Closing the gap between expectation and reality
With an increasing awareness of the potential challenges that remote working practices are placing on new leadership appointments, we have noted a greater scrutiny and assessment of candidate’s cultural compatibility, track record of quickly establishing themselves within organisations and comfort level with both complexity and ambiguity though interview processes.

To support new leadership appointments and to pre-empt and narrow the potential gap between expectation and reality, we are also seeing an increased focus on formal, informal and reverse mentoring programmes and an increased appetite for the utilisation of Executive Coaching programmes. For organisations who already demonstrate a strong cultural leaning towards innovation and evolution, we would expect them to be able to embrace the inevitable changes required to successfully integrate new leadership at this time.

However, in more traditional organisations who thrive on a strong cultural imperative which has been embedded over many years and remained consistent over time, it remains to be seen how successful they will be at pivoting themselves to embrace positive change or whether it will simply prove too difficult for incoming leaders to succeed and endure over the longer term.

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