At the beginning of the year, we surveyed four-hundred executive search professionals to discover their challenges, priorities, and predictions for the year ahead.
Heading into 2020, respondents expressed some concern about the future of the economy but were hugely optimistic about the outlook for their own business. Challenges and priorities centered on candidates: the talent shortage was the number one challenge by a landslide, and candidate acquisition was the number one priority. Leaders nearly unanimously agreed that technological innovation was the only way forward for success.
Then everything changed. Over the course of several months, COVID-19 directly and indirectly altered the outlook of the executive search industry and the world at large.
Many are in a dramatically different situation than they were at the beginning of the year. Where does the industry stand now? What has changed and what hasn’t? How do leaders and practitioners feel about their businesses and the economy and where are they prioritizing their efforts? More than 200 global respondents shared their thoughts; here are the top findings:
The impact of COVID-19 on exec search companies has been profound and often severe, but optimism remains within the industry. While firms have struggled on the whole (81 percent have seen a drop in business performance compared to this time last year), the majority (57 percent) of respondents expect the economy to pick up this year. 30 percent have laid off employees, which is lower than the global average, not factoring in industry.
Since the start of COVID-19, firms are prioritising remote work and managing cash spend, but client relationships remain the top priority. The transition to remote work has been largely successful for exec search professionals, though there’s still room for improvement to leverage tools that allow firms to make better use of their resources. Most respondents believe the influx of remote work will have a permanent impact on the industry, with an uptick of remote jobs being the most significant long-term consequence.
What does the future hold? We’re cautiously optimistic that we are observing a gradual incline toward normalcy. As businesses reopen and look forward, we’re keeping an eye on key factors that impact industry performance and key indicators of the economy and business performance. We’ll be paying close attention and sharing the results with you.