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We invited 15 heads of executive search from across sectors to share their insights on the most pressing challenges facing executive TA functions, and how to address them.

1. Significant contextual changes

The gig economy, hybrid working and macro factors are driving substantial changes as to what skills are needed and how they should be employed. Predictive analytics can help the TA function get ahead of accelerating rates of change.

2. Business goals must drive priorities

Strategy must be anchored to the business aims, and priorities decided, as opposed to trying to do too much and not having sufficient results in the areas affecting successfully accomplishing business goals. Understanding candidate pool sizes, diversity and mobility scores supports more effective proactivity.

3. Strategic workforce planning can help power the shift: Reactive >>Proactive>>Predictive

Being able to forecast skills demands is creating competitive advantage – this requires engagement with the senior leadership team to understand operating, location and other strategies. Longer term strategic workforce planning can be less relevant when contexts are changing quickly, and the plans aren’t updated regularly.

4. Adapt the TA strategy according to ownership, structure and dynamics

Ownership structure will influence talent strategy, for example in Private Equity, cycles can be short and therefore succession planning may be out of date at the point of exit – you may need a certain type of talent to get you to exit, but is it necessarily the talent you want post deal?

5. Build pipelines of critical roles and skills

Future skills needs and priorities should be agreed with leadership teams so talent mapping and pipelining are future looking and focused on value creating skills and people. Map and build relationships with key external talent pools (particularly for rare, in demand skills) to be ready to fill business critical roles where the skills don’t exist internally.

6. Data and qualified insight enhances TA’s reputation and impact

TA needs to continue to be more visible, strategic and bought in earlier to the talent discussion – they need a seat at the table when discussing business aims and goals. TA can be a valuable business partner, especially when bringing market data and insights.

7. Technology is supporting, not doing

Workday, Talent Neuron and Savannah’s MapX were mentioned as supporting TA efforts but it was noted that at the moment the technology is the enabler not the solution.

8. DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) focus must continue

DEI must continue to be championed to ensure representation, as well as the commercial benefits, it is a key contributor to continuous improvement. Hiring managers can have fixed views on a preferred candidate(s) – this can be an opportunity for constructive discussion as to the benefits/availability of diversity for a given role. It can be helpful to ‘RAG status’ role requirements in relation to types of diversity that could be bought into certain roles.

9. EVP

Do not underestimate the power and impact of a differentiated and targeted EVP in the war for talent, especially roles where there are real skill shortages. Tailoring your EVP for specific markets can be a worthwhile investment to ensure that you maximise engagement with the required talent in all relevant markets.

10. Consider tackling skills gaps at grass roots levels

Declining numbers of some critical skills as a result of less people studying a certain subject at university requires early intervention and collaboration between business, governments and universities.

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