Executive Transitioning Today — 3 Realities:
- Increased candidate access and optionality
- Trust is paramount—invest the time to build it virtually!
- Advantages to faster, ‘flatter’ onboarding
The New Hiring Paradigm — 3 Adaptations:
- Non-interview ‘relational’ time must be part of the virtual process
- Unpack the candidate personally and the company operationally
- Reputation and references are more critical than ever before
Can Executives Successfully Transition During COVID? Addressing The MYTHs VS. REALITY.
During periods of seminal change, there’s comfort and camaraderie in shared experiences. This feels particularly true of today’s environment as we look for balance, fulfillment, and happiness in our personal and professional lives—now more intertwined than ever. In the spirit of fostering shared learning, authors Eamonn Tucker, Managing Partner at SPMB Executive Search, and Michael Hubbard, SVP, Customer Success, Services & Support at Smartsheet, address some of the myths and realities around hiring and transitioning during the time of COVID. Drawing from their recent collaboration, resulting in Michael’s placement at Smartsheet, Eamonn and Michael share relevant insights from both the recruiter and candidate perspective.
The world has changed and with it, organizations and individuals must also change and evolve their skill sets to adapt to the new business environment. What hasn’t changed is the NEED for executive talent to drive companies forward — this is particularly true today within the technology arena.
Many technology and innovation organizations have experienced a dramatic acceleration of growth over the course of the pandemic. Given this acceleration, business leaders must continue to hire and expand their teams, despite the unsettled and unfamiliar state of the world. This driving need also creates immense opportunity for employers looking to acquire top talent, and equally, executives considering a transition. However, there’s still uncertainty and trepidation from employers and candidates alike to hire and transition during this time — why is this and how can these fears be allayed?
In this piece, we examine three MYTHS and address the REALITIES of transitioning during COVID as we continue to work remotely, avoid non-essential travel, and juggle the new demands that working from home presents.
MYTH VS. REALITY:
Hiring and transitioning in the current environment is high-risk at the executive level. It’s prudent to sit tight and wait things out.
As WFH extends on and now feels more like the rule than the exception, many of us are experiencing a new-found crystallization of purpose. We’re evaluating what’s truly important to us; this includes — am I happy at work? If the answer is no, why wait to make a change?
- Sure, there’s an inherent level of risk associated with transitioning to a new role and new organization period. And sure, pursuing a 100% virtual transition is unfamiliar and daunting at the outset. But times have indelibly changed and in order to manage our careers going forward, we MUST continue to move forward.
- Not to mention, the window of opportunity that’s wide open for growing organizations and executive talent—willing to seize it—is unprecedented.
- So while hiring and transitioning may currently feel scarier, perhaps take a bit longer, and require us to flex or develop new skills — it may yield a more thorough, well-considered result. Ultimately, we’re coming back to some basics as people and seeking balance across our personal and professional lives…and that’s a good thing.
Michael’s Take: Our current reality has forced many of us to slow down, refocus and assess what really matters. Instead of continuing with the status quo, be open to new possibilities, raise your expectations, and find what you are truly passionate about.
As an executive recruiter, I can’t get to the right candidates and facilitate a successful hiring process in a fully virtual environment.
You absolutely can, and we have many times over (now several months into the WFH mandate), but the process does need to change slightly. As executive recruiters, it’s our job to help hiring managers and candidates successfully navigate this new and evolving process.
Here are some of the TRENDS and CHANGES we’re seeing across the hiring process.
- We’re experiencing unprecedented access to otherwise hard-to-get talent.
- With candidates now having the ability to take recruiting calls from the privacy of their homes, it’s easier than ever to get top talent on the phone.
- There’s also a new-found openness and appetite to discuss interesting opportunities, particularly among execs whose current organization may be struggling or decelerating.
- This has created a booming market for companies looking to acquire senior talent.
Interviewing & Hiring
- There are nuanced, yet crucial, moments that occur between hiring manager and candidate in the traditional, in-person interview process that are not available right now:
- Informal conversation between interviews or on a walk to the elevator
- An inherent presence (or absence) of trust and ‘compatibility’ you gain in person
- So how do we overcome these gaps in the ‘traditional’ process?
- It’s critical that hiring managers make the time and create the space for these foundational, relationship-building moments to happen virtually.
- The need to double-down on the basics is more critical now than ever before. Hiring managers and candidates must question and find new and creative ways to answer…
- How much do I trust this person?
- How much do I respect them?
- If things get worse, can I count on their leadership and ingenuity?
- As the old adage goes, “people do not leave jobs, they leave managers.” The same can be said about hiring/starting new jobs. Build the relationship!
Here are some ideas on how hiring managers and candidates can ‘bridge the virtual gap’ and get comfortable enough to close a deal…
- The candidate is invited to participate in leadership and operational meetings to get a clear picture of what she/he is walking into, and an opportunity to ask questions about the business. There’s mutual benefit to both parties…
- For the candidate, does she/he want to take on the role and associated risk/challenges?
- For the hiring organization, does the candidate ‘get it’…is she/he asking the right questions?
- The candidate shares a short presentation on ‘the non-work me’ with their direct reports — including some pictures and stories from your personal and professional journey.
- References are more CRITICAL than ever to the hiring process in terms of further establishing and validating the mutual trust and respect that’s built during the interview process. To note, this is true for both candidates and hiring managers. Expect two-way referencing! When the subconscious cues are gone your ‘reputation’ matters more than ever.
Michael’s Take: Take advantage of the ambiguity in the process but make sure to be honest on what’s working and what’s not. Virtual environments provide a great way to get to know the non-professional “you” but remember to create time to dig into the business and trust your gut to determine if it’s the right fit.
Virtual onboarding — can it work? It seems like a significant hurdle to overcome, both professionally and personally, particularly in a leadership position.
There’s no denying that virtual onboarding does not equal an ‘in-person’ onboarding process. However, turning this MYTH on its head, there are some distinct advantages to onboarding remotely, particularly at the executive level:
- It’s more efficient and faster. You get to work straight away.
- As we continue to avoid non-essential travel, there’s less need and rationale to wait for that trip to Europe to meet your London-based team.
- In fact, you avoid spending the first six months of a new job in the air and in airports, crisscrossing the country or the globe to onboard and build in-person relationships.
- This expectation has been dialed way back in some cases or eliminated altogether in others.
- Candidate location and the need to relocate is not nearly as critical. This not only opens up a broader set of potential candidates, but it also removes obstacles for candidates unable or unwilling to relocate.
- Lastly, on a personal level — unlike pre-COVID times, we’re now seeing colleagues’ homes, kids, partners & pets on a regular and ongoing basis. So while the daily chat around the water cooler is no longer a reality, it’s been replaced by other daily occurrences that help us pull back the curtain and get to know our colleagues in different, yet meaningful, ways.
Michael’s Take: Having a fully virtual team levels the playing field; everyone is moving at the same pace and there’s more of a natural tendency to say yes to new ideas since we’re living in a world of “new”.
Moving Past The Uncertainty:
Now nearly six months into the WFH mandate, there’s plenty of evidence to support that you absolutely CAN hire and you CAN transition successfully at the executive level without ever meeting a hiring manager or new colleagues in person.
However, a “can do” mindset is crucial to successfully navigating and seizing opportunities in today’s environment. The focus needs to be on what’s been gained, as opposed to what’s been lost. So while a virtual happy hour does not equal sharing an in-person beer with a colleague; it’s also not less than—it’s just different.
The bottom line — those that can move past the uncertainty, assimilate faster, and adapt their skills to navigate this landscape (organizations and candidates alike) will emerge as the ‘winners’ and innovators of this new frontier.