The new type of know-how for executive search

As Fisher Leadership’s General Manager, I am one of a senior advisory team of IMD International Search Group executives who meet every year to help maintain the Group’s leading edge in international best practice. Founded in 1972, the IMD International Search Group is a Top 20 global search organisation that brings together 21 locally-based executive search firms operating in major markets and business centres throughout the world. It provides Group members with instant access to a world-class executive talent pool and each year enables more than 2,000 senior-level international searches per annum for clients worldwide.

Apart from providing an extraordinary network of global executive talent and leading search professionals, the IMD International Search Group also provides the forum for its members to share insights, monitor global trends and collaborate around developing international best practice principles and guidelines to address emerging challenges.

This year’s IMD Group conference was held during May in Vienna. One key area of focus for the conference was the impact of digital technology and, in particular, how artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to change the nature of work and the skills required by senior executives. This discussion also addressed the likely direct impact of digital tools and AI innovations for executive search and a number of emerging platforms in this space were identified.

The good news for the executive search industry is that we are unlikely to be replaced by AI any time soon. While AI and digital automation is expected to have a major impact on recruitment practices for middle level and technical staff, the complex cultural and personal insights required to successfully fill challenging and unique senior roles will always require personal engagement and human judgement.

The key new challenge for executive search in a digitally driven, AI equipped world is to define and assess new types of know-how and social skills required to manage digitally connected, automated and project-based teams.

This connects with another global trend in the executive search space, which is the strong growth in demand for advisory services, such as leadership assessment and coaching. Growing demand for executive up-skilling is in part a response to digital disruption, with increasing client focus on assessing leadership skills and know-how required to deal with increasing geographical fragmentation of work teams, outcome-focussed agile management structures and the integration of social networks into team management practices.

For Fisher Leadership, these discussions have affirmed our focus on positive leadership, ‘soft’ psychological skills and insights about personal aspirations as critical aspects of executive search and skills development. As AI begins to minimise time required for repetitive and basic tasks, the opportunity is to shift the emphasis more onto these critical drivers of leadership success. Our move to integrate leadership advisory services to become more integral to our long term client partnerships is also very much ‘on trend’. We would welcome the opportunity to share our insights about international trends and best practices in more detail.

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