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For many, COVID-19 is finally starting to feel like it’s the rearview mirror, but the effects of the pandemic will impact life and business for years to come.
One of the biggest question marks for companies is how more than a year of remote work, uncertainty, and financial instability will affect employment and hiring practices—especially when it comes to hiring leadership. After all, many business leaders faced unprecedented pressure to provide stability and hope during a time of collective trauma, and the pandemic only reinforced the importance of having strong figures at your company that can set an example.
When you’re looking to hire a new leader to join your team, then, you want to find someone who can understand all the trials and tribulations you went through over the past year. They need to fully grasp what your clientele is handling right now and dive into the process quickly. I’ve connected with business leaders and entrepreneurs about what they look for when hiring new leaders. Here’s what five executives are keeping top of mind when hiring these employees:
1. Take a clarity break before hiring: Kelly Knight, integrator and president of EOS Worldwide
As companies emerge from the survival mode of the pandemic, it’s important to prevent a rushed mindset—especially when hiring leaders who will have significant impacts on the future direction of the company. Kelly Knight, integrator and president of EOS Worldwide, a company that offers tools for entrepreneurs, suggests taking a clarity break to reflect on the leader you want and the leader your company needs.
Instead of focusing on the candidates right away, let your company’s core values and overall vision dictate the role. “Paint a very detailed picture of what this person will bring to the table and what success would look like,” Knight says. “That will frame how you take the job offering to the world and who it will attract.” Knight even suggests committing to slowing down the hiring process to remain reflective and allow time to find the right person with the right skills.
2. Look for more than just fit: Kathryn Clubb, head of change and transformation at BTS
Of course, many companies still feel pressure to be agile. Companies will need to make many course corrections in the near- and long-term future as the fallout from the pandemic continues to influence consumer (and employee) preferences. That’s why Kathryn Clubb, head of change and transformation at consulting firm BTS, recommends keeping an open mind about who might be the right candidate.
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“Seek adjacent experience and style; don’t seek ‘fit,’” Clubb says. In a time of change, your company will need to innovate, and the new leader should ideally be a source of clever ideas and new perspectives. Clubb explains: “You need someone who understands your context well enough to contribute quickly, but is distant enough to provide new ideas, views of the customer, and a perspective on what ‘great’ could look like.” Clubb suggests weighing what candidates have accomplished and how they have accomplished it. This will provide insights into how the candidate might drive change—and results—at your company.
3. Use assessments for a deeper understanding of candidates: Dr. Dan Harrison, CEO and founder of Harrison Assessments
If hiring leaders is about more than getting the right skill sets in a candidate, how can you measure other important qualities such as attitudes and behaviors? Dr. Dan Harrison, CEO and founder of Harrison Assessments, says: “It is more important than ever to invest in cutting-edge assessment technology that will enable you to hire and develop successful leaders.” The assessments for leadership candidates should measure job-specific behavioral abilities rather than individual characteristics. Usually, the behavioral tendencies endemic in strong leaders come in pairs. For example, the strongest leaders are ones who listen and are open to others’ viewpoints while maintaining the ability to make independent conclusions.
When it comes to behavioral assessments and hiring, Harrison says it’s also important to apply the assessments to yourself and your existing leadership. Identify your own abilities, temperament, and management style. That way, you can understand where your team is strong and where a new hire might best complement those tendencies or fill in necessary gaps.
4. Consider what candidates want, too: Alison Gutterman, CEO, president, and owner of Jelmar
According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, more than 40% of workers are considering leaving their jobs in the next year. The stress of the pandemic—as well as the freedom and greater work-life balance of remote work—has led to many employees developing different expectations of employers, and they don’t want to compromise on those values.
Alison Gutterman, the CEO, president, and owner of Jelmar, a long-standing company that makes cleaning products, says what candidates want is also important to consider. “Listen to the candidates about what they are looking for in a company regarding work-life balance and company culture,” she says. “People’s expectations of employers are different today than 18 months ago, from before the pandemic.” By listening to candidates, you can use the hiring process as an opportunity to reevaluate your company’s approach to employee engagement and satisfaction.
5. Harness the power of turnover: Bryan Adams, founder and CEO of Ph.Creative
Despite best efforts, turnover will be inevitable. Bryan Adams, founder and CEO of brand communications agency Ph.Creative, points out that companies will never be able to eliminate or control retention. “It’s OK for people to leave—even great people,” he says. By embracing turnover and using it to your advantage, your company can grow more resilient, and your company culture can become something more attractive to employees: a culture that focuses on professional development and coaching. “It provides an incredible opportunity to accelerate diversity efforts and create a strong meritocracy for top performers,” Adams explains.
In fact, if your employees have good experiences with your company, they become a de facto recruiting force. “If leaders leave more capable than when they joined, if they leave to work for larger and more recognized brands, and if they look back on their time in your organization fondly or are grateful for the foundation of later success, you have the opportunity to capitalize on that significantly,” Adams says. Given the simple power of building your company’s reputation among high-quality talent pools, it’s worth it to nurture your alumni network.
After so much change, companies will rely on leaders to provide stability and meet employee expectations more than ever. Hiring leaders can help shape the direction your company will take, deciding whether it grows more resilient or falls flat. With these tips from experts and business leaders, you can hire the people who will help steer your company in the right direction.