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The Future of Search: 5 Talent Access Trends & Predictions

November 9, 2021 ──── MRINetwork
Digital Transition, Employer Branding, Employment Trends, Executive Search, Leadership, Professional Development

The Future of Search: 5 Talent Access Trends & Predictions

The Future of Search: 5 Talent Access Trends & Predictions
Few could have predicted the turbulence of the past two years. COVID took the world by storm, exasperating factors that resulted in the She-cession, Great Resignation, and global remote workforce. Now, with a talent market that’s hotter than ever, many are wondering what comes next. Polling industry leaders within the Network, we uncovered five common themes. Read on for expert viewpoints, as well as tips to help strengthen your business and recruiting approach.

1. Talent Shortages Will Persist

Safety concerns, a desire for flexibility, burnout, and a new perspective on the fragility of life have many rethinking their careers and workplaces. As Michael Bitar, Partner and SVP Sales of Protis Global, says, “The talent shortage gap is not going away any time soon. The talent access industry is on fire right now.”

Dave Dart, Executive Recruiter and Partner at Morisey Dart, points to several factors driving talent shortages. Specializing in executive searches for construction, manufacturing, managed IT services, and global sourcing, Dart says many issues stem from expectations shaped over the past year and a half, as well as growing skills gaps.

“As industries continue to find balance between working from anywhere and rebuilding office cultures, there will continue to be a tug from the talent pool to continue the freedoms and flexibilities provided by partial lockdowns, as well as an abundance of fear in re-entering workplace norms. That tug exacerbates the skills gap where collaboration ties to mentorship. As we continue to see the separation of the workforce, the natural identification of tomorrow’s leaders can be stagnated.”

2. Remote Work Is Here to Stay

After so much time working remotely, many are finding it difficult to head back into the workplace. As Stacy Stevens, Chief Executive Officer/Banking and Finance Division Leader at Park Avenue Group, says, “Working remotely has entirely changed the employment landscape, with more and more people making moves if their employer requires them to come back into the office full time.”

Stevens believes a blended approach will be essential going forward, to accommodate different work styles and preferences. “New, innovative ways are needed to address opposing perspectives, and compete in the war for talent. Feelings of isolation have many people seeking a return to the office, while others still prefer to work from home. As long as results are there, we’ll see more organizations allowing employees the freedom to control where and when they work.”

Indeed, data shows remote work is top-of-mind for organizations around the globe. A recent IBM study surveying 3,000 CEOs across 26 industries and nearly 50 countries notes that “remote work will be a permanent fixture as part of a hybrid workforce that blends in-person employees with virtual colleagues.” New blended work environments are changing the workplace as we know it, demanding new approaches and an increased emphasis on meeting employees’ needs.

3. Culture, Health, & Wellness Are Critical

The same IBM report notes that 77 percent of outperforming company CEOs plan to prioritize employee well-being, even if it affects near-term profitability. Emily Phair, Vice President, Commercial at MRINetwork, says that the massive demand for flexible workplaces is putting downward pressure on companies to deliver the best offer possible — one that goes far beyond monetary value. 

“Health and wellness should be top-of-mind as companies assess the health of their organizations,” Phair says. “A fundamental ‘test’ of culture is to look through the lens of its people. Career-seekers are going to weigh companies’ worth based on their independent needs, now more than ever. ‘What’s in it for me?’ is a question that candidates are asking.”

Protis Global’s Bitar is seeing this shift in the industries that he serves. “Money is being utilized as incentives to get talent to interview or accept offers,” he says. “This is short-term thinking to drive short-term results.” In Bitar’s experience, purpose, mission, and culture are critical in attracting — and retaining — the best people. He goes on to illustrate, “The companies that have not focused on culture have seen their turnover rates increase 100 to 150 percent. They have gone from seven to 11 percent annually to 18 to 22 percent.”

4. The Game Has Changed for Talent Access

Fierce competition and the challenges of reaching top talent in today’s crowded marketplace have elevated the value of recruiters and talent access firms. As organizations acknowledge the value of great employees, they’re also recognizing the critical business value of exceptional search partners.

Holly Scott, Vice President and Partner at The Mullings Group, offers her viewpoint on the changing status of recruiters: “The evolution of the search and recruiting industry has created an awareness and acceptance that the success of every business starts with a foundation of good people. We are no longer snipers for hire, we are long-term partners who can see their organization from a bigger perspective, inside the marketplace as a whole.”

After more than two decades as an executive search consultant for the medical device industry, Scott says the industry has evolved. In order to succeed, search firms need to develop deep expertise and understanding as subject matter experts.

“We are no longer in the business of ‘finding’ talent,” Scott says. “The ‘find’ is not the hard part. Capturing the attention, engagement, and influence towards action is now the magic of executive search. This takes a holistic approach to the project and to the client. The top producers in search will no longer be headhunters exclusively. They are trusted consultants with the company’s success in clear focus.”

Bitar agrees that recruiting is no longer transactional. “It is easy to pick up job orders and make placements. It is not easy to make the right matches. Slow down, listen, ask questions. Ensure there are functional and cultural fits for both parties. Understand how to determine cultural fit. Ask tough questions and listen. Be brave enough not to do the deal and explain why.”

Phair emphasizes both sides of the hiring equation need to be understood to ensure success. “The individual needs of the candidate are equally important to understand and effectively translate across the negotiation table to ensure they align with the culture, priorities, and strategic initiatives of the organization.” Phair notes. “Those who are able to act as a true conduit to both sides will thrive in this highly competitive environment.”

Soaring demand for recruiters has search firms broadening their gaze as they seek out new associates. As Jessica Torres, Vice President of Marketing at MRI, points out, the current demand for recruiters is nearly seven times what it was in 2020, and three times as great as pre-pandemic times. To meet client and candidate needs, search firms are looking at adjacent skill sets and relying on training to close talent gaps.

5. New Strategies Are Needed to Engage Rising Generations

The workforce is shifting, and new marketing strategies are needed to attract rising generations. Gen Z and Millennials now make up nearly half (46%) of the full-time U.S. workforce, according to Gallup. These generations also lead the latest quitting spree.

The Deloitte Global Millennial and Gen Z Survey found that Millennials and Gen Zs are choosing the type of organizations they’re willing to work for based on personal ethics. They’re seeking out flexibility/adaptability, creativity, and tech savviness. Organizations that showcase these traits will win the talent war.

“Without an effective employer brand, companies will miss out on top talent,” Torres says. “The way we recruit and retain employees has changed — and so has the candidate experience. Social media and Glassdoor make it easier than ever before for a prospective candidate to do their due diligence on your organization before they interview. The shift in our workforce has put even more importance on being proactive and intentional with architecting your employer value proposition and culture, as well as communicating your North Star.”  

Park Avenue Group’s Stacy Stevens says the days of smiling and dialing are over. “You cannot reach people in sufficient numbers that way. Social media needs to be an expertise acquired and consistently utilized as a required skill set.”

Harvey Bass, CEO/President of Stascom Technologies, emphasizes the importance of making clear exactly what you do. In today’s crowded marketplace, you only have seconds to connect with clients and candidates. Bass recommends a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate website, supplemented with increased daily marketing strategies that engage prospects multiple times.

Dave Dart suggests leading from a position that others can relate to. “Be purpose driven,” he says. “Understand your ‘why,’ and be sure that your clients, candidates, employees, and general marketplace know where you stand. If they can’t see and hear you, they will not get to know you. Don’t be afraid to let people hear your values and then live them. Set the stage now.”

Todd Keller, Managing Partner of Management Recruiters of Lancaster, says it’s important to plan change now, as the market will eventually cool off. “The new digital recruiting world has not been embraced by everyone, but we are all being dragged into the arena, screaming and kicking. It’s all about the adapt-and-change rule of business. Like manufacturing, continuous improvement is needed. We are doing things now that we would have never accepted or even considered 19 months ago.”

The Next Era of Search

After a rollercoaster of ups and downs, it’s impossible to say what the future will hold. But looking forward to next year and beyond, it’s important to embrace challenges and trends, and seek out new opportunities. Contact us to discuss your concerns for the future of your search firm, and learn how we can help.

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