Will the question of age become redundant in tomorrow's executive search? 

The old adage that age is just a number is playing out in the C-suite. The corporate environment is evolving in unprecedented ways, and many S&P 500 companies have added younger directors to their boards to respond to new business needs. With D&I topping many corporate agendas, it’s becoming clear that a lack of age diversity can hold a company back. Not surprisingly, forward-thinking organisations are dispensing with the traditional approach, where talent would typically enter executive level at around the age of 50.

With Millennials dominating the workforce and many of them now kicking 40, bold sectors like tech and healthcare & life sciences are spearheading the trend and hiring executives from 35 onwards, laying the ground for a thorough shake-up[1] of the C-suite. They’re bringing in talented young professionals, looking beyond their own industry, supporting them in building high-potential networks and investing in coaching programmes. Why?

KEY TAKEAWAYS: 
 
As business continues to be unusual, forward-thinking companies are looking beyond the years candidates have chalked up, and considering the capacity of younger leaders to inject vital energy, vision and understanding into their C-suite and beyond. While age may progressively cease to be a factor in hiring tomorrow’s leaders, companies can partner with experienced recruitment partners to ensure that younger talent is equally or more equipped to steer a company towards a brighter, more meaningful and more competitive future.
  • Tomorrow’s executives will be a “perfect fit” with a company’s values, cultures and objectives, regardless of their age.
  • Smart companies consider strategy, synergy and succession planning above years of experience. Bringing in younger executives – including those from other industries – can shake up the C-suite (and the whole organisation), build competitive advantage and boost attraction and retention of talent.
  • Recruiters can support aspiring executives by finding them the right positions, supporting them in networking, and providing coaching and soft skills training.

Download full PDF 8 Executive Trends 2022


Mind the gap

In many sectors, the skills talent gap has rippled across and beyond the board, with new positions for executives opening up in record numbers in some markets. In Australia,[1] more new positions for executives were created in the first half of June 2021 than in 2017, far exceeding the number for the first six months of 2020.

While not all companies are racing to fill the board with younger candidates, strategically hiring Millennial leaders to meet the different needs and demands in the markets, and to communicate meaningfully with next generation customers and colleagues, is set to become the newer normal, as Ainara Ormazábal, Executive Director Mexico, explains:

Many companies are aware of the need for age-diversification in their C-suites to better connect to younger generations. Some are already bringing in younger executives with specific tech knowledge or scientific experience. I see this shift playing out across many more sectors in the next five years."

Ainara Ormazábal, Executive Director Mexico 

To hire... or not to hire a young executive? 

Younger executives are often well versed in digital transformation, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability. These highly valued competences can complement or contrast with older counterparts’ skillsets, especially when it comes to talent attraction and retention.

Millennials often bring technical fluency and innovativeness to the table. Companies like Alibaba are constantly looking for “talented young executives to take on more responsibility”. Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce giant, is convinced that the next generation of Alibaba people are “better equipped” to run the internet ecosystem.

Today, more than ever, younger executives tend to be driven by purpose.[1] They want to work for (and lead) ethical companies, and their empathy and understanding often crystallises in a focus on socially and environmentally conscious actions, and versatility towards changing expectations of the workplace. 

The definition of making a difference in a company is different to how it was before the pandemic. I recently placed a CFO who was born in the 80s. This generation tends to be entrepreneurial, courageous and accustomed to moving jobs. They've experienced different business models, which gives them a variety of tools."   

Raphael Asseo, Partner Switzerland

What a young executive may have yet to learn in terms of lived experience – such as keeping a company afloat throughout a financial crisis – is often counterbalanced by next generation skills and savvy[2] that can invigorate an organisation. This includes relentless passion and positivity, an ability to understand and connect with younger consumers, fast learning, a tendency to challenge assumptions and a one-way ticket to a succession plan. After all, who doesn’t want to position their company to be relevant and successful in 10, 20 or 30 years?

Download full PDF 8 Executive Trends 2022


Trust, but verify

Millennials are currently the largest segment in the workplace.[1] By 2025, 75% of the global workforce is expected to be made up of this generation, including leaders. Bringing a young executive into a company requires planning, preparation and monitoring.

“The executive table isn’t the casino table, and trust is the common denominator when selecting a younger candidate to join the board,” says Raphael.

It boils down to balance: compensating a lack of seniority and experience with the support of more seasoned colleagues who can offer training. Companies can connect younger execs with mentors outside of the boardroom, and support them in developing their network. If an organisation can spot and support potential synergies, the results can be exponential, infusing positive change throughout the C-suite and across the company. 

Companies that might not yet feel ready to take the plunge and still equate executive hires with their years of experience can explore partnerships and initiatives that bridge the generation gap and bring them the best of both worlds, as Ormazábal explains: “At Page Executive, we’re becoming a partner for young, aspiring executives, and helping those at senior leadership level to hone their soft skills so they become ready for their next step.”

Preparing Milennials for executive leadership

Priming younger executives to lead an organisation proudly, boldly and decisively requires investment. This forward-thinking, self-demanding generation requires nurturing to thrive. With their gusto, global vision and contacts to guide them, companies can bring out the best in the next generation of leaders without ruffling more mature feathers. In addition to training, mentoring and shadowing, a wealth of tools and techniques exist to ease integration and enhance inter-generational communication.

For companies who aren’t ready to appoint a young leader, shadow boards[1] invite employees to form a second board with its own agenda to work with senior executives on strategic initiatives. They help younger team members feel part of a company’s mission and direction, while simultaneously injecting a breath of fresh air into board decisions. Appointing non-executive directors is another positive and inclusive move Asseo feels is well worth cultivating. “In Switzerland, I’ve seen an appetite among young talent for non-executive director roles, and that’s usually a career choice. They feel they have a lot to bring to the table on a strategic level.”

 
KEY TAKEAWAYS: 
 
As business continues to be unusual, forward-thinking companies are looking beyond the years candidates have chalked up, and considering the capacity of younger leaders to inject vital energy, vision and understanding into their C-suite and beyond. While age may progressively cease to be a factor in hiring tomorrow’s leaders, companies can partner with experienced recruitment partners to ensure that younger talent is equally or more equipped to steer a company towards a brighter, more meaningful and more competitive future.
  • Tomorrow’s executives will be a “perfect fit” with a company’s values, cultures and objectives, regardless of their age.
  • Smart companies consider strategy, synergy and succession planning above years of experience. Bringing in younger executives – including those from other industries – can shake up the C-suite (and the whole organisation), build competitive advantage and boost attraction and retention of talent.
  • Recruiters can support aspiring executives by finding them the right positions, supporting them in networking, and providing coaching and soft skills training.

      Summary

      Will the question of age become redundant in tomorrow's executive search?

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