Anshuman Das has two decades of experience in the search and selection and technology industry. He started his professional journey with Careernet after a short stint at Infosys. A strong networker by nature, Anshuman set up Careernet’s executive search practice and has also been instrumental in making the company a leading talent solutions provider in the country.
Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work culture in organisations around the world has been rapidly altering. The paradigm shift in employment practices has brought enormous changes in the way organisations operate.
While it did not take the pandemic to make businesses realise that recruiting permanent talent was more expensive than hiring temporary CXOs, it has definitely expedited the shift across industries. Companies were already practising various asset-light models, but the adoption became far more prominent during the global crisis. The percentage of companies that used interim CXOs has shot up in recent times, and the practice has since been more widely accepted. It would be safe to say that the pandemic has set the tone for the broad adoption of the asset-light model.
This evolution is not an isolated transformation. Many trends that were less common before have now become mainstream. Homestays, for example, were once a less popular option since people preferred to stay in hotels. However, with most employees working remotely, workations, staycations and reverse migration have emerged, thereby shifting the preference from hotels to homestays. While companies were recruiting remotely before the pandemic, it has become the norm today. Interviewing as a service existed before the pandemic. However, in today’s competitive market, companies are thinning out their in-house talent acquisition teams, and instead choosing to outsource the process.
Similarly, temporary CXO hiring was in existence before the pandemic, but the following factors have contributed to the upward demand for temporary CXO hiring.
- Unprecedented demand for talent: Due to the high demand for talent created by the growing number of startups, recruiting permanent CXOs has become an expensive proposition. Furthermore, talent with demonstrated expertise is in short supply. The temporary CXO model is gaining traction, with companies looking for specialists’ who can assess a task swiftly, expertly, and, most significantly, at a cheaper cost. Organisations across industries such as IT/ITeS, Fintech, EdTech and Construction are increasingly preferring to hire temporary CXO instead of a full time resource.
- Shorter and steeper growth curves: Today’s startups have shorter and steeper growth curves, resulting in continually changing skill requirements. Previously, it typically took ten years for a startup to become a billion-dollar firm. But today, organisations are able to reach the milestone in less than a year. Companies require CXOs with distinct competences at each stage of growth due to the dynamic growth pace. People cannot grow at an exponential rate, however organisations can, thereby necessitating frequent and shorter re-hire/engagement periods for CXOs. Hiring full-time CXOs is not a feasible option in such a situation, as organisations would have to change CXOs every six to seven months based on their evolving needs.
- Increased access to talent: The remote work paradigm, which has been the standard in the last 18 months or so, has opened up access to talent all over the world. For example, an Indian startup in need of expertise can employ a CFO from Poland for six months. Temporary CXOs are super-specialists who are also ideal for transition jobs (for example, if a CEO unexpectedly resigns and someone needs to fill in for a few months) or leading a change agenda.
- The evolution of remote work: People have become accustomed to a new method of working. Companies have a clear understanding of their requirements and the anticipated results. Remote working has matured as a model, and organisations now have a clearer understanding of the purpose of the CXO hiring and the outcomes expected of them. The give-and-take perimeter is well-defined, making temporary hiring appealing to both businesses and CXOs.
People have gotten quite comfortable with remote work, which has resulted in development of mutual trust between employers and employees. Digital working has established a lot of confidence in carrying out everything from mergers and acquisitions to deal appraisals and recruiting. This has contributed toward normalising the trend of companies hiring temporary CXOs, and with good reason.
It is a cost-effective, flat model that emphasises reliability, talent supply, dynamism, and trustworthiness. While permanent CXOs are the organisation’s competency enhancers, temporary CXOs can bring in best practices from outside the firm and upskill the company’s current personnel. The executive benefits from freedom, financial stability, and a wide range of opportunities, making it a win-win situation for both organisations and CXOs. However, the peripheral nature of engagement with a temporary CXO is more successful for tactical execution.