In an interview with Business Insider, leading headhunter Jim Harmon expects companies to be looking for leaders in digital, supply chains, and human resources after the pandemic.
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While a growing list of companies have issued hiring freezes during the coronavirus pandemic, many are still working to secure C-suite leaders who could help them navigate through the "new normal."
That's according to Jim Harmon, a managing partner and headhunter at Boyden, one of the top executive-search firms worldwide. Having been a head recruiter for 22 years, Harmon has placed more than 500 executives and board members — including nearly 50 presidents and CEOs at major corporations, the company says.
Harmon told Business Insider that throughout mid-March and April, organizations were regrouping and trying to figure out their next move. About 90% of Boyden's clients halted their recruitment plans for executive leadership positions. They'd rather "slow burn" hiring initiatives — or wait until they could meet candidates with in-person interviews — than evaluate them virtually, he added.
Nevertheless, Boyden's clients started to bring their search processes for senior leaders back in mid-April.
"I think a big driver of this is that companies recognized that no crisis is forever," Harmon said. "But secondly, companies needed the time to reevaluate what a senior leadership team would need to look like in the next normal. They needed the appropriate leadership that would work in this climate."
Having worked through other global crises, Harmon thinks the COVID-19 pandemic will fuel a wave of innovation for businesses. He described the 9/11 aftermath, the financial crisis in 2008, and now the coronavirus outbreak as merely accelerating job-market trends that were already underway. Specifically, he said the pandemic fast-forwarded companies' plans to enhance digital transformation, create risk-management teams, and adjust supply chains.
Though businesses working in hospitality, aerospace, and consumer sectors will probably undergo extreme cost cutting, the headhunter shared which C-suite positions he expected hiring managers to be looking for in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are three executive titles that Harmon thinks will see a boom after the pandemic, and why they're important.
Digital transformation is more than just a buzzword in the post-pandemic workplace. In fact, companies will be looking for leaders with prominent knowledge in artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, and cybersecurity systems to help develop a digital business model during and after the crisis, Harmon said.
"There are a lot of large organizations that had laggards in digital transformations, particularly in the food and consumer space," Harmon told Business Insider. "They didn't have anyone on their team that had digital experience, and they realized very quickly that they were bleeding from a revenue standpoint."
According to a 2020 LinkedIn report of the top emerging jobs, the demand for AI specialists grew 74% over the past five years, Business Insider previously reported. Robotics engineers, data scientists, and full-stack engineers were also among the in-demand employees identified in the report. During the coronavirus pandemic, Harmon predicted that companies would need a chief digital officer, or a senior leader in charge of driving digital transformations.
McKinsey noted in 2015 that an already-high-functioning digital company may not need a CDO, but leaders who do work in such a role may be in charge of building efficiency and speed for operations, developing new revenue streams, or creating company investment plans to digitally upskill employees.
Supply-chain management is much more complicated today than it was years ago.
"There has been a retreat from the global supply chain that's been taking shape for 30 years or so previously," Harmon said. "Part of it is due to the onset of the Trump administration and the push toward populism and de-globalization. Having a plan B for supply shortages just isn't enough anymore."
It doesn't matter where your supply chain is, he added. The coronavirus pandemic has forced companies to shut down manufacturing plants across the globe and halt partnerships with suppliers. As a result, companies will need a senior leader to manage issues and plan for any supply-chain disruptions that might arise after the pandemic.
A chief supply-chain officer would be managing inventory, making sure products are being manufactured at a hyperefficient rate, and brainstorming more supply vendors to reduce the risk of a shortage.
In 2015, Harvard Business Review described human-resources leaders as being among the most underrated executive positions in the corporate world. It cited a McKinsey report that found CEOs around the world saw acquiring talent as a top challenge but at the same time considered HR as only the eighth- or ninth-most-important function in a company.
Harmon likewise said it was hard to find qualified candidates for HR-specific roles before the pandemic, and he said it was about to get even harder given the critical role HR had played during the pandemic.
"It's everything ranging from how to handle the constraints of hourly talent — particularly during a crisis — to how an organization needs to be restructured, downsized, and changed for the future," he said. "HR becomes a critical role in all this."
Chief human-resources officers would not only help build on and recruit talent, but they would also manage employees' health and well-being, productivity, and employment benefits. Harvard Business Review said a CHRO should be able to assess the chances of a company's workforce meeting business goals.
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