8 key executive talent trends, emerging practices for 2023

Angel Jones, chief executive and founder of HomecomingEX. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn
Angel Jones, chief executive and founder of HomecomingEX. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn

2023 is bringing a changed world of work. The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and the employer-employee relationship has transformed, while the Great Resignation has showed that workers aren’t afraid to quit in search of better and more flexible career opportunities.

The world of work as we knew it, shifted, accelerated and reinvented itself and the overall picture is of a completely altered business landscape.

Executive search firm HomecomingEX has just released its inaugural Virtual Brain Gain Trends Report wherein the team identified eight executive talent trends and emerging practices that they anticipate will be shaping 2023. This has been created by analysing their own talent activities across Africa, plus drawing insights from the various global talent conferences that they’ve attended this year.

“While these are the executive talent trends and emerging practices that we anticipate impacting the workplace in the coming year, the world of work is a dynamic macrocosm where even the smallest changes could lead to big shifts and subsequent trend waves,” says Angel Jones, chief executive and founder of HomecomingEX.

The eight trends and practices from the HomecomingEX Virtual Brain Gain Trends Report 2022 include:

Global scarcity of talent

While hiring optimism has returned to levels not seen since the start of the pandemic, global talent shortages are at a 15-year-high as both hard and soft skills are more difficult to find than ever before, as per the Manpower Group Employment Outlook Survey, Q3 2021.

Another study recently conducted by Everest Group, found that 86% of global organisations believe that talent shortages are a key barrier to achieving business outcomes. In South Africa, 46% of employers are having difficulty filling jobs. This is a massive increase from just 34% in 2019.

More than half, 52% to be exact, of African youth between 18 and 24 are likely to consider emigrating in the next three years. This is according to the 2022 Africa Youth Survey by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, released earlier this year. Economic strife, insecurity, corruption, political intolerance, unreliable internet connection, and poor levels of education were cited as reasons behind the desire of African youth to relocate to Europe or the US.

The power shift

We have seen a shift from “the person must fit the job” to “the job must fit the person,” and employees are no longer at the mercy of their employer.

For now, the future of work appears to be in the hands of the workers, and as the balance of power shifts, employees opt for flexibility and values.

Today’s generation from the social or digital revolution doesn’t care about survival like their grandparents, nor do they need to upgrade their standard of living as their parents took care of that. The only thing they care about is quality of life.

With this power shift, we have seen some companies now paying shortlisted candidates to do a final round job interview. While many companies may be in no rush to follow suit, the concept of paid interviews is certainly one that resonates with many. The jury is out on this.

The A3 age of work

As the work-from-home lifestyle became the norm, going back to the office soon became a deal-breaker. According to Zapier’s 2022 Future of Work Report, 61% of professionals would quit their current job for a fully remote opportunity.

People are now working Anytime – whenever it suits their schedule; Anyplace – in a variety of employment relationships; and Anywhere – in locations around the globe, regardless of where the employer is based. Like all revolutions, the A3 Age of Work opens up tremendous opportunities and allows companies to engage talent anywhere in the world.

Increasingly , countries are now also offering digital nomad visas to foreigners to attract remote workers to stay and work for a period and bolster local economies.

Endless remote possibilities

Remote work is still on the rise and flexibility to work either remotely or hybrid, was the third-ranked motivation for seeking another job after compensation and career opportunities, findings by McKinsey indicated.

HomecomingEX has seen the largest demand for remote fractional work in technology, consumer goods and fintech.  For remote hourly work we’re seeing the highest appetite in private equity and venture capital, manufacturing and engineering, consulting and financial services.

Over and above this, we’ve seen a spate of surveys listing many different industries best suited for remote working.  Statistica lists software an IT, finance, media and communications, public admin, entertainment, travel and retail.

Fortune  lists construction, customer services, digital marketing as fast-growing industries best suited to remote working.  Wishup includes pharmacology, legal, banking and finance, health and wellness and medical science in their top-ten list. Elsewhere we see cybersecurity, education, human resources, marketing, architecture, strategy, legal and social service gaining significant traction.

The rise of the portfolio career

The concept of a “career for life” has fallen out of fashion, and there is an increased desire for variety, flexibility, and autonomy.

A portfolio career is one that is made up of lots of different roles and not reliant on a single source of income. It’s a combination of different ones that make up the equivalent of a full time career. Candidates are their own boss, working with multiple clients, and the work could be large or small projects, part time work, interim management, or board-level roles.

Executives with diverse careers are likely to have a greater range of skills and a wider pool of professional contacts they can call on to get a specific job done. A portfolio worker also offers their clients breadth and depth of experience that are not often found in someone operating in a single job.

The dawn of the fractional executive

A fractional executive is hired by a company to fill an executive role for a “fraction” of the time and at a fraction of the cost of full-time work.

Fractional working has become part of the A3 “anywhere” Age of Work.

Some executives no longer want to work for a company; they want to work with a company and the future of work depends on this partnership mindset. This entails flatter and more networked talent models, fuelled by a more flexible, and for many, a more globally mobile workforce.

Whether it’s for a multinational, growing SMME or start-up, fractional executives are good for business. The reasons include, among other, a fresh pair of eyes; telling it like it Is, efficiency and flexibility, deep experience and cost-effectiveness.

The solution to hiring scarce talent is sharing scarce talent

A key theme at the AFSIC Investment Conference recently held in London was the idea of collaboration.

With remote fractional work becoming the norm, it is now entirely feasible that skilled expertise can be distributed between non-competing entities at the same time. Multinationals, large corporates, SMMEs and start-ups can reach their full potential by sharing the brains of top professionals who have unique experience in every kind of industry.

The virtual brain gain

The war for top talent is even more intense in emerging markets such as ours because the specific skills needed may not be available in the market.

There’s however a vast network of highly skilled African talent working around the globe whose appeal (aside from their skills, experience and potentially cheaper cost) lies in their knowledge of their country of origin, their business and people networks and the ease of their cultural acclimatisation, which result in greater effectiveness in transferring skills and strategic implementation.

With remote work now possible, the brain drain has become a virtual brain gain.

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