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A huge swathe of sectors—including banking, financial services and insurance, retail, IT, e-commerce, pharma, renewable segment logistics, artificial intelligence, manufacturing and fast-moving consumer goods—are seeing a hiring surge. File photo Reuters
A huge swathe of sectors—including banking, financial services and insurance, retail, IT, e-commerce, pharma, renewable segment logistics, artificial intelligence, manufacturing and fast-moving consumer goods—are seeing a hiring surge. File photo Reuters

Firms restart hiring for leadership roles

  • Companies are looking to fill leadership positions, encouraged by an improving economic environment and business sentiment

C-suite hiring, which had halved following the coronavirus outbreak, is staging a comeback. Companies are looking to fill leadership positions, encouraged by an improving economic environment and business sentiment.

Head hunters say the market for leadership searches has reached more than 80% of last year’s level as companies expect the economy to improve. Salary packages, however, will take some more time to return to pre-covid levels. “More sectors have picked up pace and companies are bullish about the (fiscal) fourth quarter. So hiring plans are back on track. We are seeing a surge in C-suite hiring and we expect the numbers to increase," said Jyoti Bowen Nath, managing partner, Claricent Partners, a recruitment consultant.

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C-suite refers to leadership roles such as chief executive officers, chief financial officers (CFO) and chief operating officers (COO). Companies had suspended hiring plans, filling only critical roles —even if the hire failed to meet all the criterion —in the initial months of the pandemic.

“Some of our partners who had put hiring on freeze have finally dispensed with it. In our business, we can see the impact, and it’s definitely gone back. Everyone is expecting the fourth quarter to be good," said Amit Agarwal, managing partner, regional specialization leader, CFO practice, Stanton Chase, an executive search firm.

A huge swathe of sectors—including banking, financial services and insurance, retail, IT, e-commerce, pharma, renewable segment logistics, artificial intelligence, manufacturing and fast-moving consumer goods—are seeing a hiring surge. “Companies, private equity firms are looking for growth-oriented CEOs and CFOs. A lot of research and development leaders like chief scientific officers are in high demand specially by companies involved in the environmental sector, chemicals, pharmaceutical, automotive industry, etc.," said R. Suresh, managing director, Insist, an executive search firm.

Expat hiring is also returning to normalcy, albeit slowly. According to head hunters, Indian executives working abroad have been keen on returning. But with parts of the US and Europe still under lockdown, candidates have been on-boarded virtually.

Over the past few months, Suresh says, companies have also opened up to the idea of recruiting CEOs and CXOs in their late 50s and early 60s. “Earlier, companies were not open to this and would say people in their 50s are close to retirement and more interested in building a golden nest than a company. But that has changed now," added Suresh.

Salaries, however, have not kept pace as firms are still in a cash-saving mode. The few hikes that have taken place are conservative, and these are expected to increase post-April to 15%. Packages nevertheless are inching up with firms offering retention payment and more stock options. “Boards understand that taking advantage of the situation and saving some money in salaries can be detrimental to long-term growth. An unhappy CXO hire can have far-reaching impacts," said Agarwal of Stanton Chase.

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