What’s Keeping Me Up at Night

10/03/2011 02.32 EST

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I feel the need to temper the optimism of my mid-year report on executive employment, with a post more fraught with the anxiety that any professional in the talent acquisition industry might be feeling in a global economy that appears to be teetering on the brink of, if not collapse, then a prolonged period of stagnation.  As all prognosticators do, let me get the defense of my earlier predictions out of the way.   First, I hedged on Greece and Greece came through in a big way in terms of throwing Europe into economic consternation.  Second, the debt ceiling debacle accomplished something that I really did not think possible in my lifetime; it shook global confidence in the full faith and credit of the United States of America.  I’d like to thank our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle for that little present.  Which leads me to this question: If two U.S. political parties can’t agree on fiscal policy, how can 17 sovereign states begrudgingly connected by a common currency do it?   So, given the uncertainty produced by the events of the last quarter, what keeps this talent acquisition professional up at night?   Executive hiring will slow to a crawl.  While we are finishing up a very strong third quarter, our industry is a lagging indicator and it’s completely plausible to think that hiring among the senior management ranks might fall off a cliff à la Q4 2008. The Phillies will somehow find...

A Mid-Year Report on Executive Employment: What We Are Seeing

06/29/2011 03.11 EST

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According to most of the national press, the Great Recession of 2008 has been followed by the Great Jobless Recovery of 2011. No one seems to know when we can expect job growth significant enough to make a major dent in the current unemployment numbers, but most all agree that it will be a while before we see the unemployment rate dip to pre-recession levels. If you’re up for a particularly sobering read, check out McKinsey’s thoughts on the topic. However, based on our experience through 2011, all the news isn’t necessarily gloomy. We’ve seen an uptick in search activity from the beginning of 2010 through to the midpoint of this year and our numbers are by no means unique. The Association for Executive Search Consultants (AESC) saw a dramatic increase in search activity in 2010, reporting a 28.5 percent increase from 2009. Obviously, that’s coming off one of the worst years in this industry’s history but still ranks 2010 as executive search’s third best year… ever. AESC’s reports from the First Quarter of this year were equally promising. As to our particular experience, SSG’s search activity is up over 50 percent in the first six months of 2011 vs. the same period last year. Here are some encouraging signs we have observed over the past six months: An increased level of competition for talent – The candidates we are pursuing for our clients are telling us that calls from executive recruiters and potential employers are up...

Replacing Executives When They Leave…

05/17/2011 10.54 EST

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Where are the reinforcements? I was looking at some data this week about searches performed in our firm over the past five years.  What I saw supported something we have been seeing in the retained executive search business since the start of the Great Recession. Five years ago, about 80% of our search assignments were initiated to replace executives who had left their jobs for some reason.  It might be retirement, relocation, promotion.  Some were lured away for better jobs in different companies.  But whatever the reason, the job was open and the company needed to fill it.  Some years, 90% of our assignments were to fill vacated jobs. Last year, 60% of our work was done to fill a vacant role, while 40% was for newly created positions.  So far this year the trend is continuing, with assignments for new roles outpacing replacement roles. So what does it mean? During the recession, many companies froze their hiring, people did not retire and “stars” were not answering recruiter’s calls.  When a job did open up, the company often divvied up the position’s responsibilities between other executives or let the number two person take over or just made due.  Whatever the strategy, the result was the same – fewer people were doing more work.  Still, with all the depressing economic news, no one was about to complain.  Employers didn’t have to tell people “You’re lucky to have a job”.  Employees were saying that to themselves. Now we are...