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Leadership Search Trends

Lisa Davie

At my home nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Northern Colorado, it’s been a long winter with record high snowfalls and record low temperatures. With snow piled shoulder high along the sidewalks and overhead on the town streets, it’s been hard to imagine a time when winter ends. Recently, though, there’s been a small and steady shift. The sun coming out, temperatures reaching 40 degrees, and daylight lasting a bit longer each evening. There’s starting to be a change as we slowly approach the spring.

We’re beginning to see hints of a similar thaw in the market. During the end of 2022, it felt like things couldn’t get much darker, but slowly, surely, we’re starting to see signs of easing up, of moving forward. Ziprecruiter recently published findings that 79% of laid off tech workers are finding a new role within three months of starting their job search. There are also bright spots like Zapier leveraging their team’s talents in other parts of the business, and growing research on the negative impacts of layoffs, which hopefully, will lead to fewer layoffs in the future.

At GBD, we are particularly encouraged to see the demand for leadership searches pick up. We are grateful to be working with a number of innovative companies who are growing their teams and seeking dynamic People, Talent, and Product Leaders. From these searches, we’ve noticed a few trends:

  • Downturns cultivate innovation. We know the Great Recession of 2008-’09 propelled  companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Netflix. We’re starting to see similar successes emerge not only in specific companies, but also in entire industries. AI is certainly having its moment, while Climate and Healthcare are making advances that felt impossible only a few years ago. We are grateful to be working with ML tools company, Weights and Biases, on their VP, People role and the Climate Leadership Initiative on their Director, People role. If you are interested in either role or know someone who is, please let us know.
  • Innovation is also happening within roles. One of our favorite parts of the job is working with companies to help them determine the scope of the role and the candidate experiences/characteristics required to succeed in the role. We’re really energized to hear how companies are innovating roles within their organization, particularly in People and Talent leadership. Founders and executives are truly looking for dynamic and strategic thought partners that will help impact the entire companies, not just their functions. Founders are seeking leaders who bring a lot of “ANDs” - People leaders who can lead the People team AND help operationalize the culture AND develop the IT organization. Talent leaders who can fill immediate, open roles AND define and execute a long term talent strategy. Product leaders who can build a great product AND ensure they are representing a diverse set of customer viewpoints. The expansion of roles creates opportunities for candidates to stretch their skills, as well as opportunities for company wide innovation as functions benefit from new perspectives.
  • Talent Density is a hot topic that varies widely. Whenever a leader mentions talent density, we first ask them to define what the term means to them. We’ve yet to hear the same definition twice. To some companies, it means finding the one person who is the best person in the world to do that particular job. To others, it means creating a rigorous system of goals, feedback, and measurement so employees understand the expectations and thrive to exceed them. For those hiring new members, we encourage you to really think about what talent density means for your organization and how you nurture it. And for those seeking a new role, ask questions about the company’s philosophy. Views on talent density help shape the culture of an organization, so you’ll want to find one whose values align with yours.
  • Technology is part of the future. For those of us old enough to remember the dot com crash of the early 2000s and the Great Recession, we’ve seen this movie before. For those of you experiencing your first downturn, fear not. As we’ve seen in past downturns, technology falls hard and fast. And while some naysayers are quick to forecast its ultimate demise, we are confident technology has earned an enduring place in our future. While technology may never escape the boom and bust cycles, it will continue to evolve to meet the needs (and desires) of our world. And to do that, it will need incredible humans.

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