It is becoming more evident that companies will not be returning to “business as usual” in the post-Covid era. Remote workplaces, the hybrid work model, more extensive use of digital tools are all becoming characteristic of this new model, but the most impactful change is this: We are not going to have enough workers to go around.

A recent paper by Emsi, a leading labor analytics company, published a paper asserting that we are in a “demographic drought”, and it is getting worse. Emsi’s data found that while the working-age population of the United States is increasing, the labor force participation is down, with a record number (11 million) of job openings. They concluded that “recovering our workforce is not about the employed vs. unemployed, it’s about the unengaged.”

While Emsi’s study focused on the labor force is clear and obvious, this situation will have a profound effect on executive recruiting as well. There is a maxim that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” A study by Talent LMS found that 74% of employees think their managers need reskilling.

Managers are hired by executives, and it is part of HR lore that, if we’re not careful, we hire a replacement rather than someone that could elevate the position. All of this taken together makes effective recruiting for the new era a critical mission.

In order to recruit, hire, and retain in this new environment, executives and managers will need to create a work environment that is engaging, inclusive, and understand what is important to people who are still attracted to working, particularly for large companies.

  • Engagement: Employee engagement describes an attitude of dedication toward the company, its vision and mission, and the role the employee plays in the company accomplishing those. Recruiters and hiring executives will need to convey their own engagement and speak authentically about the alignment of their personal vision and mission with the company’s. They will also need to convey a genuine conviction that each employee from the shop floor to the C-suite makes a real and important contribution to achieving these.
  • Inclusion: The Emsi report makes a very strong case that as participation in the work force continues to decline, immigration will take up much of the slack. In the US at least, recruiting and employing people from historically marginalized groups will also provide a previously untapped population of potentially great employees. Both of these, however, will depend on potential hires finding a workplace that is genuinely inclusive with executives and managers working proactively to create an environment of equity and belonging.
  • What is important: As we’ve noted in previous blogs, writer Daniel Pink has posited that in terms of employee engagement and satisfaction: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose:
    • AUTONOMY: Pink says “This era doesn’t call for better management. It calls for a renaissance of self-direction.” Clear tasks, self-direction with regard to time, greater decision latitude all provided the freedom that leads to increased innovation and results.
    • MASTERY: As an investment firm CEO said, “ When we leave the ‘how’ to people, they work better, faster, and more creatively as they figure out the route to get there.”
    • PURPOSE: Human beings seek purpose – they are driven to have what they do be meaningful in some larger context and to contribute.

Finding executives and managers who provide autonomy, opportunities for mastery, and a clear purpose (and training existing ones) will go a long way toward attracting and retaining the best and the brightest in the new labor market. People, particularly young people, have fled from corporate employment not because they don’t want to work, but because they are seeking these qualities in companies and not finding them. The companies who master providing this kind of work environment and communicating that through their recruiting will have a major edge in finding top talent in all spheres of the business.

Locating and recruiting these executives and managers can be a difficult process. Outsourcing the search for and vetting of candidates is likely to produce the best results. An effective recruiting partner will know how to identify the right combination of skill and experience to find the top candidates and to convey to them what is needed by the hiring company.


BrainWorks is a prominent boutique executive search firm offering a 30-year track record of successfully sourcing and placing top talent. We solve your hiring challenges by leveraging our vast network of highly skilled talent and our extensive, time-tested industry expertise. To learn more about how Brainworks can help you, contact us.