It seems like 2014 has shot by in a blur. The executive search industry moves fast, and for us this year seems to have moved particularly quickly. Yet, here we are with the calendar year drawing to a close. Well, what better time could there to pause and look back at some of the major trends and challenges that clients (and us headhunters) have witnessed and undergone in that time?
Here is my guide to the major themes of 2014 for headhunters and their clients:
a) Digital – an increasing number of firms have been crying out for Digital Directors/Head of Digital in the last 12 months. These individuals are expected to to manage/develop digital platforms (websites, mobile and apps), as well as lead and implement the digital strategy. Increasingly this has meant managing change programmes so their new employers aren’t just doing digital, but thinking digital too.
b) Audience/User research – over the last year we have seen an underscoring of the importance of user research, particularly now for roles we have placed in the product management process. Publishing businesses and firms who provide information used to be based on an ethos of ‘build it, and they will come’. In the present market, extensive qualitative and quantitative research is expected before firms even start to put together a business or product plan.
c) Product development and testing – rather than going through numerous development cycles, the last year has shown us that firms are now happier to build products quickly (based on their research), launch a beta version and, in the words of one senior candidate, ‘test the hell out of it’ to optimise the product. As a result, the kinds of people they need have to be flexible, be able to think on their feet, and not get too precious when everything is in the air and changes are being made left, right and centre.
d) Commercial – the business information community in the last year seems to have reaffirmed its love for individuals who can sell to clients in a consultative manner. Rather than taking a suite of products out to sell, increasingly our clients are looking for those people who can get under the skin of their clients, understand their pain points, and help provide solutions to these issues with the goods and services they can supply. It’s a long-term relationship game now, like never before.
e) Content – In the last year media companies – both traditional newspaper businesses and new pure-play internet upstarts – have been falling over themselves to provide their own spin on the Buzzfeed model of content presentation; it will hardly have escaped your notice that pesky ‘listicles’ seem to be everywhere now (they also seem to have become my preferred form of blog post!). Why are they so popular? Well, if you’re a bit cynical you might say it’s because advertisers increasingly want to take inventory on publisher’s sites for native ads and content marketing, and changing the editorial to this format helps it blend in, Or it could just be that people prefer digesting content in this format, so it’s the smart choice to provide editorial in this way.
Anyway, that’s enough from me. With Festive Cheer from everyone at Martin Tripp Associates, I wish you a very Merry Christmas…