During this summer period, a friend of mine, looking for a new senior role, was telling me that he was having a hard time with recruiters.
“My hard skills and expertise are all fine, but now that I have levelled up, you guys are all asking me about my social and environmental actions.
What is going on?”
That took me a bit off guard as I have not had this focus in my interviews. So I asked around a bit, and yes... it is a trend. When searching for your next leadership role, you should be prepared to answer questions about your perspective and efforts in the social and environmental realms.
What is going on is that Greta Thunberg is turning the tables
Greta Thunberg, this sixteen year old, Swedish-born, climate activist, has focussed world attention on the impact climate change will have on the generation that are right now school-aged children. Politicians in European countries are responding to Greta’s speeches (of which there have been several) with praise and even admissions of guilt at their inaction.
The business world is now reacting too
Navigating stories from the press, I am seeing a slow but certain shift in corporate culture toward greater social and environmental responsibility. In fact, the U.S. Business Roundtable (BR), a gathering of the world’s most powerful CEO’s, just last week published a significantly revised statement of purpose for their membership.
The new BR statement of purpose includes specific language about “investing in employees,” “dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers,” “supporting the communities in which we work,” and “generating long-term value for our shareholders.”
Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), Tim Cook (Apple), and many others - even Jamie Dimon, the beleaguered JP Morgan Chase CEO who suffered deep criticism during the 2008 financial crisis, are all on board with the new BR statement.
Blablabla you may say :) It all sounds too good to be true. But consider the role the “BR” plays...
The Business Roundtable is not an advertising campaign. This is a soft compact of high level corporate leaders. Their statement of purpose is a message to big shareholders and legislators about their intended modus operandi. And the statement has barely changed in several decades - until now.
Corporate culture is shifting. This is why recruiter interviews feel a bit different
If the most powerful leaders of corporations in the West are telling us that shareholder value is now sharing the stage with holistic corporate responsibility, how is the profile of the new executive changing? I can now confidently share with you that recruiters are looking for socially and environmentally-aware candidates. What does this mean for you?
Here a few thoughts for your consideration:
Performance is still important, but may be secondary to cultural fit and demonstrated ethical leadership
I recently placed an executive with a company who selected him from the two finalists I presented because his records of responsibility and strong reputation with the employees of his former company were more important than the measurably higher performance of his co-finalist.
Diversity matters more than ever
As governing boards themselves are becoming more diverse, they are seeking to place leaders that are reflective of the full diversity of the countries in which they do business. I would not call it affirmative action just yet from what I can see in our pipeline, but candidates with backgrounds that may give them a different perspective when solving perennial business problems are seen as an asset.
The vision conversation has opened up
When you make it to the final round and you are asked to share your vision for what the group/department/company could look like in five years, employee well-being and community impact (social and environmental) should be in your pitch.
It delights me to consider the impact of these changes. It seems that the next generation of corporate leaders will not only be working in parallel to grow the financial success of their businesses, but the door is now opening for a new kind of leader; one who ensures the long term success of the company they lead while co-constructing a healthy house for the employees who will work to make it happen.
At last, I got back to my friend who was complaining about us recruiters. I gave him a tip. I suggested that when he practices for his next final stage interview, if he imagines Greta Thunberg is one of the decision makers on the other side of the table; he will have a better chance of success!