In the early 2000s, when we were envisioning with my colleagues in HR the most important competencies for the new millennium, digital affinity was high on the list. But what we certainly did not anticipate was what form the demand for digital readiness would take in the knowledge base of leaders and HR alike by 2022, as headhunting in the early years of the new millennium was still largely an analogue activity in the online space just then taking its shape.
Today’s leaders have “textbook” digital readiness if they understand the complex challenges and are prepared to take ownership of and provide direction for digital transformation. They lead by example, using agility and flexibility to drive the company towards digitally supported success (Oxford Leadership). But what competencies does a good “digital leader” actually need?
Technology skills and openness toward them are high on the list. For example, big data, cloud computing, AI, e-commerce, digital communication or digital technology-based economy and society, to mention just a few keywords, have been at the centre of attention in recent years.
But “soft”, personal and social skills also play important roles in the toolboxes of leaders in the digital age. Deloitte has highlighted 8 key critical knowledge elements:
Fortunately, we can see great examples of digital leaders in Hungary, especially at the Hungarian subsidiaries of global companies where the local leadership can get support and help from the parent company that has already undergone the process of digital transformation. For example, at one of our clients, the global head of procurement works from Hungary, but his team members represent the company in different parts of the world. Here, even without the changes brought about by COVID-19, only a fully remote, digitised operation can bring success.
However, in 2021, Hungary was only ranked 23rd on the basis of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), which is a measure of digital maturity in the European Union, so there are also plenty of counterexamples.
There is growing openness to remote working but even with a presumed full-fledged technological readiness the fact that some leaders still feel that they can manage effectively and efficiently only if they meet their team members face-to-face continues to be an obstacle. This is usually due to the current focus of the leadership role. As a people manager, in a leadership role responsible for the individual personal development of employees, team coherence and motivation, it is indeed difficult to find technological solutions that can completely replace face-to-face interaction, but hybrid solutions do exist. At the same time, in a delegating managerial role, functioning as a professional leader, remote working is highly adaptable and applicable, as the operational model imposed by the pandemic has provided many excellent examples.
HR plays a central role in finding digital leaders. There is no question that the service providers supporting HR must also go digital, and indeed make the transition ahead of customer demand. This is a challenge JobGroup has faced before.
This is how we can assess and support the corporate side in finding leaders with the right digital skills. We take into account the company’s current level of digital maturity and match the profile of the leader sought. In a highly digitalised company, a leader with less strong digital skills will not feel at home. By contrast, in a company still ahead of digital transformation, a leader who is used to a markedly digital environment and digital operational processes will only feel comfortable and successful if he or she is motivated to participate in the real transformation of the company, and this also is supported by management.
JobGroup has been operating with 100% digital business compliance for years, while retaining the valuable competencies built on the bases of knowledge and experience of the profession. The effective headhunting activity of the experts of Prime by JobGroup is based on the technological methodologies provided by digitalisation but can also break away from these and effectively apply “classic” analogue methods.
Let us look behind the scenes of headhunting in the digital world!
The innovations of the online world have brought headhunters and recruiters ever closer together, at least in the public mind, due to the digitalisation of sourcing and database techniques. However, while recruiters move almost exclusively in the digital space because of the “speed factor” inherent in this line of work, the expectations concerning headhunters are much higher. The complexity and sophistication of their searches requires them to step outside the digital world.
It is a mistake to think that everyone is visible and accessible on the world wide web today. The value of a headhunter is inherent in the fact that they can also find someone who is not on LinkedIn, uses Facebook anonymously, and has blocked their visibility in all online databases. For example, in rural areas, which are developing at an increasing pace – and therefore also show a high demand for managers with digital skills – online presence is not necessarily characteristic. This is where analogue headhunting techniques such as making cold calls, visiting events and tapping into a wide network of contacts come into play. These broaden the scope of who a headhunter can reach compared to a recruiter using only digital techniques.
The digital space also offers the opportunity for headhunters to emerge from the mystical fog that surrounds them and to become visible. This online visibility is also served by our newly launched primebyjobgroup.hu website. The website, showcasing JobGroup’s values, combines innovation and technological freshness with a classic approach – which is exactly what the headhunting profession and business sector need facing the challenges of the 21st century.
The rise of online tools has also led to the digitalisation of certain aspects of headhunting:
In headhunting, digitalisation allows us to save a lot of manual work, which can then be spent on the really challenging tasks, such as building human relationships and finding the “hiding” professionals. This is the part of a headhunter’s job that digital tools cannot replace, only make it easier.
At the stage when the client also gets involved into the selection process, their internal customs determine the extent to which the selection can continue digitally. This depends fundamentally on the internal corporate culture that is established and maintained. Some of our clients, typically global corporations, only meet new employees in person on the first day of employment – until then all contact is in the online space only. However, this is not typical in case of executive searches in Hungary. At least half of the 3 to 5 rounds of the executive search process take place in person, as “chemistry” – that is, the harmonious relationship between the company and the executive candidate, which can be best assessed in the course of a personal meeting – is central to the selection process.
One of the biggest advantages of working with headhunters who use digital tools effectively is the reduced time-to-hire. Whereas earlier it used to require 5-6 weeks to introduce a new executive, today a company can meet candidates in 3-4 weeks. We believe that in the future, the fastest headhunting service in the Hungarian labour market can be reduced to 2-3 weeks, taking into account the combination of analogue and digital solutions. It is not possible to implement a faster process, which is due to the lack of openness of the candidates – the interest of the typically passive candidates needs to be raised and their motivation to switch must be assessed, which is a time-consuming process. We must always remember that at the end of the day, there are people on both the employees’ and employers’ sides.
The evolution of digitalisation offers several positive, forward-looking and innovative solutions which – if used wisely – will clearly increase operational efficiency. However, we cannot sacrifice on the altar of digitalisation the time-tested analogue tools that, for the time being, complement our online capabilities. At Prime by JobGroup, we believe that the secret to long-term sustainable success lies in the combination of digital and personal elements.
Anyone who has been working as a leader or in the area of human resource management for some time will be used to seeing new abbreviations for competences popping up from time to time. In addition to professional knowledge, personal skills and competencies, which are measurable or less pragmatically measurable (in any case, certainly not by way of mathematical formula) are of paramount importance in filling management positions.
Executive Search is a well needed HR service that provide highly skilled professionals from mid-levels to C-level. Specialized agencies are conducting executive search and supporting their clients when they are in need of great leaders and executives.