3 qualities you should look for when hiring for leadership and C-suite roles

Notion Executive team
The best candidate not only demonstrates “teamwork”┬ábut lives and breathes that ethos to lead your business to the next level.

  • Hiring for executive and leadership roles places immense pressure on companies and their founders.
  • The best candidates for executive roles understand the immense value of multigenerational employees.
  • They should also be willing to embrace technology, communicate strongly, and be data-driven.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

While last year was all about the transition to remote work, one of the biggest challenges of 2021 is the shift of the recruitment landscape.

As it stands, hiring for executive and leadership roles places immense pressure on companies and their founders. But it’s not about finding a quick hire to fill the role and ease the pressure. Now more than ever, executives who help steer the ship, collaborate successfully with partners, stakeholders, and staff, and can take a handle on things when business shifts are in high demand.

Read more: A 22-year-old bitcoin multimillionaire shares how he spends his money after dropping out of high school

Here are the qualities every CEO will look for when hiring for their executive team this year:

They are multigenerational

If the previous year has taught us anything, it’s certainly the value of clear and concise communication. As some leaders were conducting business from vacation homes and golf courses, much to the frustration of employees, it’s been revealing for many organizations how little their leadership can effectively rally the troops.

A leader who embraces technology, communicates strongly, and understands the value of multigenerational employees will continue to be in high demand in 2021. These exceptional leaders seek out opportunities to better communicate and will analyze how employees contribute to the new blended model of leadership. They understand and will make sure everyone is on board, from Millennials to the old guard.

While navigating interviews, take note of candidates who mention nourishing and utilizing people’s strengths, those who have introduced new automations to make things easier for their team, or those who lead with empathy especially in a pandemic. Ultimately, you’re seeking out someone who not only demonstrates “teamwork” but lives and breathes that ethos to lead your business to the next level.

They have a specialty

Gone are the days of the traditionalist. Enter the specialist. In a post-pandemic world, executives who consistently deliver on customer success, optimize team performance and enhance culture, or improve business efficiencies will be in high demand as much of the world will be in a hybrid or remote-work model. These leaders will possess a deep understanding of your company vision and the sustainability of your business, a key ingredient in future-proofing your business.

How do you know you’ve found the leader who can take your business to the next level? The candidate’s work will speak for itself. Have they been successful in navigating pandemic decisions (large or small)? Have them speak candidly about the impact they’ve had, success, or challenges throughout the pandemic.

They’re data-driven

Just as exceptional as their communication skills are, leaders who thrive off data and make analytical decisions will be at the forefront of leadership teams this year. An executive who understands metrics and data makes decisions based on facts, not instinct. This data-first mind is particularly useful for proactive planning and especially important when blended office models, a flexible arrangement of both in-office and remote work, will become increasingly popular in 2021.

Just as the pandemic required businesses to pivot and make quick business decisions for precautionary COVID-19 measures, now business leaders are making reopening plans and moves based on their employees’ and customers’ needs. Potential leaders who can identify or provide examples where they have relied on data to plan, communicate, and execute strategies, whether team or consumer-based, should be high on your list of candidates. During the interview, listen closely throughout for insight as to how they formed conclusions or made bigger decisions pre- or post-pandemic.

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Asian Americans still aren’t reaching the C-suite – and it all comes down to promotions. These 4 charts put the problem in perspective.

Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a prominent Asian American executive, but the pipeline for AAPI representation at the top has problems.

  • The “model minority” myth paints Asian Americans as overrepresented in the highest echelons of society.
  • But a closer look at employment data shows a more complicated situation.
  • Asian Americans are badly underrepresented at the executive level.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One of the most long-running and pernicious myths about Asian Americans is the “model minority” idea that the group is overrepresented in the upper echelons of American society.

But a closer look shows that there’s a big problem with the pipeline for Asian Americans moving up the corporate ladder. While there is a high level of Asian American representation in professional roles, research into career advancement across workers of various ethnicities suggests the group remains deeply underrepresented among managerial and executive positions.

For example, a 2020 analysis of the C-suites at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies by executive recruiting firm Crist Kolder Associates found that just 38 CEOs, or 5.6% of the total 682 executives in the study, identified as Asian or Indian.

That long-running gap between strong representation in the white-collar workforce and much lower numbers in the C-suite implies Asian Americans don’t have the same opportunities for promotion as their white colleagues.

Buck Gee, one of the authors of the research and an executive advisor to the Ascend Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to improving Asian American representation in the workforce, told Insider that “the problem is not representation” across all roles. “The problem is equity of promotions.”

A dearth of Asian-Americans at the top of the corporate ladder

The Ascend Foundation analyzed 2018 data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Based on representative data for the entire US, its main results showed that Asian Americans made up about 13% of the professional workforce but just 6% of executive and senior officers and managers:

To help put that comparison in perspective, the Ascend authors took the ratio of the executive share divided by the professional share to make an “Executive Parity Index.” If that index is above 1, it indicates that a group is overrepresented at the executive level, relative to its share of workers in the professional pipeline; if it is less than 1, it means the group is underrepresented.

That index shows that in 2018, white Americans were overrepresented in executive positions relative to their share of the white-collar professional workforce, while non-white groups, including Asian Americans, were underrepresented:

Those disparities suggest that Asian Americans and other people of color are not moving up the corporate ladder at the same rate as white workers. The share of executives who are white outstrips the white share of professionals, indicating that white workers are more likely than people of color to ascend to the executive suite.

Silicon Valley and the financial sector are just as bad

While the above charts focus on national disparities across all industries, the EEOC data also allows for a closer look at specific industries in specific places.

An earlier Ascend Foundation analysis focused on Silicon Valley, in particular calculating a similar Executive Parity Index as above for the manufacturing and information sectors in the San Francisco and San Jose metropolitan statistical areas using EEOC data from 2007 through 2015.

That analysis showed that while Asian Americans are very well represented among rank and file Silicon Valley workers, with about 47% of the professional workforce identifying as Asian, they were similarly underrepresented at the executive level as in the national, all-industry analysis above:

The finance and insurance sector shows similar results, based on 2018 national data provided to Insider by Ascend:

It’s important to fight stereotypes to break through this racial glass ceiling

This all suggests a problem with the executive pipeline, with Asian Americans and other workers of color not being promoted to higher managerial levels as their white peers. Fortunately, there are clear steps organizations can take to improve equity.

Gee told Insider in an email that a key step to addressing the problem is for diversity and inclusion programs to “look beyond the superficial numbers and recognize that a review of diversity must separately examine three issues.”

Those issues are diversity of recruitment, or making sure that an organization is hiring a diverse array of new employees; diversity of retention, which seeks to make sure employees from underrepresented groups actually stay with a company; and diversity and equity of promotions, or making sure that representation flows up the entire corporate ladder.

He also advocates that companies use data to get a clear picture of the situation, and create “an executive sponsorship program for high-potential AAPI senior managers.”

Denise Peck, an executive advisor with the Ascend Foundation and one of the authors of the above studies, says she acted as a mentor in one such program at Cisco, when she worked there as an executive 10 years ago.

In that program, about 35 mid-level Asian managers spent six months attending lectures from industry leaders, mentoring sessions with executives like Peck, skill-building workshops, and fireside chats with company executives.

Peck said that the program was successful. She told Insider that “a high percentage of the people who went through this program were promoted to Director level within 18 months of the program, and some even left the company because they became more skilled, confident, and attractive to companies on the outside.”

A few of them became VPs at Cisco, Peck said, “and probably sooner than they would have without the program.”

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Businesses need to reassess their workplace culture and technology as workers prepare to return to the office

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There’s no question that 2020 turned the workplace on its head. The start of the pandemic led companies to reconsider everything from their office layout to how they can foster a sense of community when a majority of team members are working from home.

Tom Vecchione, Principal at architecture and interior design firm Vocon, believes the pandemic has only made the concept of the office and what it represents to employees more powerful. Of the executives he works with, Vecchione says, “What they miss the most is the level of ambition the office created for their teams and their staff. It’s very much part of the emotional, inspirational aspect of what an office gives us and your teams.”

To get back that missing spark, and to address the larger question of the office and its role overall, companies are starting to reassess their relationship with urban real estate.

What’s influencing them? “Everyone’s waiting for three factors,” Vecchione says. “What’s my peer doing, which is a very big influencer; what does science tell us we can do; and what do government agencies say we should do. This waiting game is creating uncertainty and volatility in the real estate market.”

The way Vecchione sees it, three tiers of employee engagement will emerge within the workforce: mission-critical onsite employees who must be onsite to do their jobs; hybrid employees who can split their time between onsite and offsite; and offsite workers who can effectively do their jobs without ever using the office as a permanent home. In order to gauge the demand for workspaces moving forward, Vocon is analyzing companies’ post-pandemic needs. “Executives aren’t sure why people really need to go back — if it’s for mentorship, culture, learning.” Vecchione adds that the purpose of the workspace isn’t just to facilitate the work itself, but to create knowledge, inspire culture, build a career path, and bring clients and talent “into the fold.”

There’s more to the workspace of the future than socially-distanced desks, sound barriers, and outdoor meeting rooms, and many employees find their job performance suffers when they lack access to a communal office. According to a 2020 survey conducted by enterprise platform Smartsheet in conjunction with 451 Research, 82% of workers feel less productive at work since going remote.

As companies start to consider the slow or staggered transition back to the office environment, they’re also thinking about something else: technology, and the key role it plays in the culture of collaboration.

“What I find fascinating is that we’ve all owned this technology and never really operated in this way,” says Anna Griffin, Chief Marketing Officer of Smartsheet. “(Companies) know that we’re going into a hybrid world, and they’re going into the new year in build mode.”

Smartsheet is seeing “a lot of enthusiasm for working this way,” along with signs of recovery and greater investments in technology, Griffin says. All of this signals that leaders are on board with modifying their business strategies.

Traditionally, changes like these have come straight from the top. Insider’s Human Impact of Business Transformation study, a project designed to gauge perspectives on business transformation as they relate to brand purpose, mental resilience, and more, shows that among 68% of respondents, it’s the leadership teams that drive such efforts.

But this model may not last. Employees are taking a larger role in the technology they use, and the workplace experience overall. Instead of the old approach, where management implements processes and expects teams to follow suit by using the tools they provide, Griffin is seeing employees driving these decisions. “The way you work, and the way people are able to participate more, is truly becoming democratized. And so there’s this shift in power. You’re doing something collectively together,” she says.

Ricardo Vargas, former Executive Director of Brightline Initiative, a coalition designed to help companies bridge the gap between strategy and execution, is seeing a similar trend as businesses prioritize employee satisfaction. The companies that succeed at transforming their business, Vargas says, also ensure their leaders are just as immersed in the company culture as their teams.

“In the more traditional organizations, the leadership lives in a castle on the top floor that nobody gets access to. You don’t talk to them.” Rather, Vargas says, leadership should be approachable and accessible, wherever they are.

Organizations now face an opportunity. The pandemic has highlighted weak spots in corporate culture, and leaders are starting to address those proactively. “We need to learn how to lead in permanent disruption because we are living in a permanent state of transformation,” Vargas says.

When it comes to designing the new workplace, Vecchione believes the physical work environment will never go away. Its purpose, however, may well be reinvented. Employees will one day find themselves in shared spaces again — and when they do, they’re likely to discover that a change was long overdue.

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GameStop just made its third hire from Amazon as the game retailer continues poaching new executives from the tech giant

gamestop store ps5
  • GameStop is reshaping its executive suite around former Amazon leaders.
  • The company’s latest hire is Elliott Wilke, who will serve as chief growth officer at GameStop.
  • Chewy cofounder and former CEO Ryan Cohen is leading a committee overseeing the changes at GameStop.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Yet another former Amazon leader is joining GameStop’s rapidly changing C-suite: Elliott Wilke will serve as the company’s new chief growth officer starting in April.

Wilke, who oversaw a variety of initiatives at Amazon, joins former Amazon fulfillment director Jenna Owens (COO) and former Amazon Web Services engineering lead Matt Francis (CTO) on GameStop’s executive team.

The executive shakeup at the ailing video game retailer comes amid a company-wide “transformation” overseen by board member and activist investor Ryan Cohen.

After taking a 12.9% stake last year through his investment firm RC Ventures, Cohen has made major changes at GameStop. First, he oversaw a string of C-suite departures and hirings. Then, he was appointed leader of a new committee overseeing a company-wide “transformation.”

That transformation has led to major changes in the company’s executive suite and its board.

CEO George Sherman is the only remaining board member from before Cohen got involved with the company. Jim Bell, the company’s CFO, is said to have been pushed to resign by the company’s board. Soon after, CCO Frank Hamlin resigned.

Similarly, the board has seen major changes – Cohen and two of his former colleagues from Chewy, the company he cofounded and ran, occupy three of the board’s five seats.

Ryan Cohen - Chewy
Ryan Cohen.

Alongside the hiring of Wilke, GameStop announced two additional hires from Cohen’s former company: The former Chewy VPs of merchandising, Tom Petersen, and marketing, Andrea Wolfe, are joining GameStop in similar roles.

Cohen himself has kept quiet across the last several months, but he’s taken to Twitter to share GIFs and images. His most recent tweet is a GIF from the movie “Ted,” of the titular character smoking a bong. On the most recent GameStop earnings call, Cohen did not appear.

Representatives for Cohen did not respond to requests for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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