One of the most important and critical assessment recruiters have to carry out in their job is about the candidates’ soft-skills. Whilst this is undeniably important at any time of a career, we know that these skills are shaped and developed throughout life and career, and become increasingly important as one climbs up the career ladder and holds senior positions.
The critical assessment of soft-skills
As executive search specialists, we are used to having those long, thorough and repeated conversations during which we aim to understand individuals’ background, story, motivation, knowledge, judgement and character. It is standard practice to use numerous tools and online personality tests and assessment, backed up with AI for some. They are more or less tailored to the role people are applying for, and can sometime be confusing and restrictive, putting people into boxes and standardised frames. At Virdis, we use a general online tool that we find flexible enough to decrypt candidates’ preferences at work, as we believe that soft-skills can’t be easily tested. There is no right or wrong profiles, it is about finding the one fitting with a particular environment, for a specific mission.Our job is to get an accurate understanding of our client’s environment, culture and values to identify the right profiles that will fill these needs and operate within a particular context. There is no “fit to all” candidates however, and diversity has reached its peak for a few years now. No one will argue that we need diversity. A “diverse slate of candidates” is often a clients’ requirement, all the more now that the law imposes, in many countries, a certain percentage of diverse gender and background to provide equal professional opportunities to all. We believe however that diversity is not only about gender and origin. A broad range of characters and intellect is indeed essential within an organisation to provide a diversity of perspectives, sensitivity and insight among leaders and teams.
What personality traits for the future “normal”
Today the evolution of sought-after personality skills is undeniable.A recent survey carried out by Virdis, revealed that these trying times have been an opportunity for many to learn about themselves, a time for self-reflection and introspection. Priorities of employees are changing, with more focus on work-life balance and seeking security and no compromise on purpose and values. Though notably, nearly half of our survey respondents agreed that they will have to become more adaptable and embrace change. Adaptable to a probable increase of remote working, certainly, but not only. Organisations and their management teams need to draw on and learn from this global crisis, and, despite the horrifying consequences for too many, turn it into an opportunity to get ready. Ready for a different future. The past months have been indicative of a changing landscape in which companies will have to navigate an increasingly more complex future. We will need to hire future-proof profiles.
Change has already happenedand change gives you a chance to demonstrate your character and capabilities. In this time of crisis, entrepreneurship and leadership skills, including leading effectively from a distance, are becoming prominent and indispensable. Companies, large and small, need profiles able to move, mould and operate in any operating business model, whether remote, hybrid or co-located. Applicants have to be compatible with and complement internal teams’ personalities and expertise and to share a same passion, purpose and objectives with the hiring teams. The recent events have brought a sharper light on how different soft skills will play a key role in organisation’s success in the future “normal”, post-pandemic. Companies have had to reduce their headcounts, shut down sites, redistribute priorities and tasks, whenever possible and needed. For the best capitalised organisations, and when operations were not interrupted, it was often necessary to reshuffle teams and adjust work modalities. This often meant for the employees to work longer hours and juggle with their family lives and home-schooling added complexity imposed by the Covid-19 lockdown.
A change of trend for top executive roles
At the top of organisations, one needs technical and general management capabilities. Over the past decade, young biotechs, start-ups, and their investors, have often positioned their founders as their CEO or C-Suite members, reassured by their scientific knowledge and credibility when presenting the new drugs or concept developed. Though we can feel the pulse changing. Numerous conversations with high-key profiles through years of searches and executives’ placements, taught us that nothing will ever replace confident commercial-minded personalities when it comes to designing and driving strategies successfully. Efficient management teams and leaders need to know how to sell (ideas, products, companies), think long term market access and business growth; they need to think “strategy”, and ensure their company is attractive both in terms of business and people.
Portrait of future-proof Leaders
Passion, grit, resilience, self-drive, communication skills, hyper-flexibility and an adaptable commercial-mind is the key for the next generation of Leaders. Nothing new to the world of entrepreneurs and decision-makers? Maybe the realisation that these traits have become a striking differentiatorin people’s ability to drive organisations through unforeseeable circumstances and hurdles. Technical insight and expertise are no longer sufficient. The ability to convince, influence, convey messages at all levels and across multiple diverse sets of external stakeholders is a skill in itself and should not come second in the selection process. This will have to combine with an ability to remain focused and resourceful in fast-changing and disrupted times and environments, at much broader levels. Whilst we already had to spot and recruit these profiles before, the extreme circumstances imposed by the Covid-19 will confirm that organisations and individuals equipped with such traits will have survived and grown.
Capacity and mindset to engage and manage teams remotely, support, guide them and provide clarity to their work will be critical. Though, a new level of request for emotional intelligence and people-interest will kick in. Empathy, genuine attention to people, to their mental and physical wellbeing is becoming an expectation of active and passive candidates and a necessity for companies to remain operational. Organisations will need to prepare for this new reality, to raise their employer branding in emphasising on the “psychological complexity”management capabilities of their teams, to bring the best out of their people, and attract and retain talent.
As said above, many different minds and personalities produce much better results. At Virdis, we will always be big advocates of diversity of thoughts and this will not change. However, now is the time when we need to start focusing more on employees’ ability to embrace the novelty of our timesand train and develop the ones who function differently. More than ever, our job as executive search experts will be to identify natural leaders and adequate characters to answer a specific need, though with sharper attention put on those who will have risen up and shone during the sanitary crisis and the ones showing potential to do so. It will be for the companies to provide support, learning and development to employees who will need to adjust and develop these skills, though self-learning will certainly play a big part in people’s ability to adapt at individual levels as well.
I recently read this beautiful statement (my apologies if I can’t give credit to the author): “Seize the opportunity, refocus, recentre and learn, so we emerge better and stronger as people.”At Virdis, hiring for future-proof profiles is part of our mission and commitmentto embrace the change at our level too. Adaptability is a choice only you can make; however hard the circumstances are. Let’s do it together.