Have US CEOs defined a new blueprint for hiring senior talent?

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 27 July 2023

At Hanover, we work across both the US and Europe, and there is a remarkable difference right now in approach that CEOs on either side of the pond have to hiring top-tier talent.


While both regions are experiencing an economic downturn, US CEOs I’ve spoken to are bullish in their approach to hiring. They’re saying that they want to find the best talent right now, because individuals who can manage business during downturns are those who’ll be more effective when business picks up. We’re experiencing high levels of initiative across all functions from sales and tech to finance - and we’re not alone. According to Forbes, 46% of HR leaders say recruiting is their top priority this year, and leadership development is also a top priority.


In Europe, we’re seeing a much more cautious approach. Hiring is slowing down, and this runs the risk of losing out on talent while also sending the wrong message internally - telling employees you’re not going to grow means the good people you have will start to look for opportunities with other companies. But most CEOs seem to want to wait and see what happens in the market. 


In my opinion that’s risky, because if you can demonstrate to the market that you’re growing during a downturn, you’re much more likely to be attractive to high-performing candidates. These types of individuals want to join a business that’s growth-focussed, has more energy and is proactive rather than reactive. Additionally, this is happening across sectors and in functions that aren’t limited by product knowledge, such as Sales, Tech and CEO level, where there are transferable skills and the talent pool is wider. That results in losing talent both to competitors and those outside your industry.


Hanover’s strength is seeing these two sides of the same coin and being able to advise CEOs and HR leaders in different markets of best practice, different ideas and the successful approaches to hiring we’ve seen. 


In any industry, successful organisations understand that their strength lies in their people. Top-tier talent is not only the engine driving innovation and growth, but also the steering wheel guiding strategic direction, particularly at the senior level. Those businesses that fall into the trap of reactive hiring - filling roles as they become vacant, often under time pressure - simply aren't as effective as a proactive hiring strategy, which can provide a competitive edge even in challenging times.

Harnessing proactive hiring for senior leadership positions

Contrary to what might seem instinctual, periods of economic uncertainty can be opportune times to adopt a forward-thinking, strategic approach to recruitment. Being proactive in your hiring practices means you're not merely filling immediate vacancies, but constantly seeking potential leaders who can drive your business forward.

Building and nurturing a talent pipeline

The cornerstone of proactive hiring is the creation of a robust talent pipeline, identifying potential candidates well in advance of any vacancies and cultivating relationships with them over time. The goal is to consistently monitor the talent market, identifying individuals whose skills, experiences and values align with your organisation's mission and culture.


That means you need to identify, in advance, a pool of talent that you can approach when you’re ready to push the search button. Having this pipeline gives you an advantage over competitors who might also be looking, and means you don’t need to worry that you won’t get the best talent in the market.


Developing a talent pipeline is not a one-off task, but an ongoing commitment requiring regular attention. You need to be engaging with potential candidates at industry events, conferences and on professional online platforms - or through an executive search firm, of course. 


Keep in mind, the people you meet may not be looking for a new opportunity at the moment, but circumstances change. By maintaining these relationships, your organisation will be at the forefront of their minds when they're ready to make a career move.

Leverage downtime to refine your talent strategy

Economic downtimes, when hiring activity typically slows, can be viewed as an opportunity to refine your talent strategy. Use this time to review and update role descriptions, ensuring they reflect both the current needs and future direction of your business. Develop a clear picture of what leadership qualities are essential to your organisation’s success. This clarity will enable you to more effectively identify potential candidates who embody these qualities.


Simultaneously, you might want to reevaluate your employer brand. A strong, authentic employer brand is instrumental in attracting top-tier talent. Communicate your company culture, values and commitment to employee growth through your website, social platforms and job postings. Ensuring this message is consistent and clear will help draw in candidates who align with your organisation's ethos and vision.

Take some time to focus on succession planning

Succession planning is a key element of proactive hiring that often gets overlooked, particularly during a market downturn. 


Take the time as an opportunity to evaluate your existing team's skills and potential, and invest in their development. By doing so, you're not only nurturing the next generation of leadership, but also showing your team that you value their growth and progression. 


A comprehensive succession plan ensures that even in times of sudden change or crisis, your organisation will have the leadership in place to navigate challenges and seize opportunities.

If you’re thinking of hiring but have concerns about the current market and want to have a conversation, contact me directly to use my experience from the market and explore how I can help.

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