Trends in Executive Search

By J. James O’Malley, Former Andersen National Director of Experience Recruiting, Jim is a Managing Director and leads the executive search practice for Felix Global.

Just like many industries across the globe, Executive Search has seen a major shift in the work landscape, and firms are evolving accordingly. Technology, employee expectations, and social influences are some of the major driving forces behind these transformations, and companies are relying on search firms to support their efforts to act as leaders and meet the ever-changing demands of the market.

Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI):

Many companies are now emphasizing the importance of DEI in their executive search efforts. While leaders genuinely value and embrace diversity and equity, they often find it challenging to achieve meaningful inclusion within their organizations. In fact, 65% of respondents to a 2021 analytical study from Harvard Business Review reported that DEI is a high strategic priority while 67% of respondents also reported that their organization is only somewhat successful at implementing it, at best. Transitioning from well-intentioned principles to well-executed practices can prove quite difficult due to barriers such as implicit bias, lack of resources, and a general resistance to change. Addressing these challenges requires commitment, persistence, humility, and adaptability. Executive search firms are responding to this growing, and vital, need by supporting their clients in new ways.

While search partners can support DEI initiatives in traditional ways such as broadening their search pools and ensuring inclusive hiring processes, we can have an even greater impact by partnering with our clients to learn and adopt stronger, more intentional practices. This involves first assessing and understanding the organization’s DEI needs and goals by evaluating current efforts and developing a plan to address areas of improvement. Then training and education can be implemented related to unconscious bias and best practices for building and maintaining inclusive teams. Measuring progress is also crucial to success, and executive search teams can support tracking metrics, evaluating effectiveness, and providing feedback to our clients about their DEI program’s strengths and weaknesses.

Data-Driven Hiring:

Employers are under increasingly greater pressure to quickly fill roles with the right talent. According to a Deloitte analysis, most organizations are not well-equipped to identify areas of improvement and effective solutions regarding their recruiting practices. Data analytics and artificial intelligence can help them and their executive search partners solve this problem. Depending on the needs of the company, large volumes of data from various stages of the hiring process can be analyzed to efficiently make more objective, informed decisions about which candidates are best fit for the company. Data can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the hiring process and ensure that the organization is meeting specific hiring goals.

Some tools we use to support data-driven recruitment include applicant tracking systems, assessments, and predictive analytics. Applicant tracking systems automate many of the administrative tasks involved in the hiring process, streamlining steps like job posting, resume

screening, interview scheduling, and communication which leads to a higher time-to-fill rate and a more positive candidate experience. Various assessment tools can be used in the candidate evaluation process to determine behavioral, cognitive, and job-specific abilities that objectively shed light on potential job performance. When used in conjunction with other methods such as interviews and reference checks, these tools are highly effective in selecting candidates for positions at all levels of the organization. Predictive analytics can be used to combine a variety of assessment tools. It uses machine learning algorithms to analyze data from multiple sources like resumes, assessments, social media, and past performance data to determine a candidate’s fit for a particular role. This is an effective way to reduce implicit bias in hiring decisions but must also be used carefully so the best candidates are, in fact, identified and hired.

Executive Coaching:

Coaching is becoming more popular to help newly hired executives succeed in their roles. This involves providing support and guidance to leaders as they navigate the challenges of their new positions, including developing competencies, expanding their network, and navigating a new culture. Because their roles require so much of their time and energy, setting time aside for coaching allows them to set goals and reflect on their progress with intention. Depending on the needs of the individual and their employer, executives can benefit from coaching in a variety of ways to reach their full potential in their company and their community.

Executive coaching often focuses on developing leadership skills such as communication, planning, and decision-making which are closely related to improving productivity and the ability to manage others. Adjusting to a new role and workplace culture have emotional and psychological impacts that require the development of new strategies and approaches to work. While executive coaching typically involves leadership development and performance improvement, it is important to note that it also allows the individual to concentrate on their own personal development so they can feel more effective and satisfied in their work and life.

Importance of Assessing Culture:

Culture is defined as shared values that drive behavior. It is so powerful that Peter Drucker wrote, “culture eats strategy and vision for breakfast.” As executive recruiters, job number one is getting the right person hired. So why do so many companies, candidates, and recruiters fail in getting the right person in the right seat at the right company? We don’t spend enough time on culture!

Culture really matters, and in an environment where demand outstrips supply for many jobs, culture exerts an increasingly enormous impact on your ability to hire and retain people. But most companies are inadequate at building authentically engaging cultures. The evidence is everywhere. In a recent Forbes article, Deloitte shares research showing that culture, engagement, and employee retention are now the top talent challenges facing business leaders. The same article also cites data from Gallup showing that that 51% of us are

disengaged at work while 17.5% are actively disengaged. Companies can address their cultural shortcomings in a lot of ways, but it requires an overall commitment to authenticity – from everyone.

Companies can begin by openly sharing their values and living by them. Every workplace has positive and negative aspects, yet corporate culture is often aspirational rather than a reflection of current reality. Employers must stop speaking about their cultural aspirations when hiring, so as not to confuse the candidate and/or themselves. If you pick a large corporation and look at the way culture is described on the website’s pages devoted to HR, then ask a friend who works there what it is really like, the two descriptions will not likely match. It’s important that companies not only share the truth about their culture but also understand how others perceive it. They can monitor postings on sites such as or to understand what employees and job applicants are saying about their culture and why. While a portion of these may be generated by disgruntled employees, nonetheless, perceptions count.

We often hear executives make comments to the effect that “HR owns culture.” The truth: everyone shapes the culture of an organization, and everyone on leadership and hiring teams must walk the talk when it comes to maintaining a positive and engaging workplace. It starts at the top and, to achieve this, companies should devote time and training to ensure that hiring teams are truly assessing the job candidate’s values - rather than some other characteristics - and that those values are consistent with the values of the company. If a company decides to hire an individual whose values are not aligned with those of the company, they must be prepared to lose them. Turnover is so often grounded in cultural mismatches.

About the Authors: J. James O’Malley is a managing director and practice leader for Felix’s Executive Search business. For 30+ years, Jim has developed talent acquisition solutions to ensure that leadership talent aligns with changing business needs. Jim has served: Private Equity and their portfolio clients across all industries in addition to his background with Management Consulting firms, Architecture, Engineering, Accounting, Tax and Law firms in addition to IT, Healthcare, Operations and Supply Chain consultancies. He also helps large Commercial, Consumer and Private Banks with their hiring needs.For more information and to contact Jim at:

Jennett Douglas is a senior client services manager for Felix. Jennett brings her decade-long experience working in education and nonprofit management to serve our clients. In her work, Jennett utilizes a wealth of knowledge and experience in project management, research-based practices, human development and learning, and coaching

About Felix: Felix is a North American-based talent and organizational advisor with over 30 years of successful client engagements. Felix offers a partnership with a team of thought leaders who deliver integrated solutions for achieving excellence in talent and organizational performance. Their team encompasses content experts in the areas of Executive Search, Talent Acquisition, Talent Development & Insights, Talent & Organizational Performance, Career Transition, and a C-Suite Advisory that provides development and transition services to C-suite executives, their direct reports and board members and advisors. Felix works with numerous organizations of global reach in a variety of verticals, including financial services, healthcare, industrial/manufacturing, technology, professional services and more. Felix is headquartered in Chicago, with a Canadian headquarters in Toronto and new offices coming to Milwaukee, Dallas and Naples. Don’t wait. Think big. Go Small. For more information on our Executive Search Practice, contact us at: