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The C-Suite Dilemma: Delivering Talent in an Age of Accelerated Transformation

At Herbert Mines Associates we are privileged to work with top retail and consumer companies helping to deliver innovative C-Suite talent solutions.Given our unique positioning as strategic thought partners to our clients, we have witnessed an unprecedented amount of change within the consumer and retail industry first-hand.  We observe that today’s consumer-facing companies deal with constant disruption including convergence of channels, digital disintermediation, new technological advances and an information/content overload, to name a few. Yet what makes today’s climate particularly challenging is that the speed of change is accelerating. CEOs are facing opposing forces- there is bifurcation between the speed needed to make radical change and the realistic expectations of strategic,thoughtful decision-making.  

As CEOs strive to stay ahead of the competition, they are faced with the need to continually evaluate their company’s strategy. In an age of radical transformation, leaders now face a new era of talent dilemmas.  Evolution of strategic direction means an evolution of corporate structure, particularly as the convergence of channels means a convergence of roles and responsibilities. As functional lines blur,we help organizations create new roles/titles for blended responsibilities(e.g. Chief Customer Officer, a role that expresses itself differently from company to company but typically represents Merchandising, Marketing, and E-Commerce).  While this helps create unified decision making across channels, it can often raise other questions particularly relative to succession planning (for example, the ‘Merchant Prince’ is no longer the de-facto successor within a retail organization). This disruption has accelerated C-Suite turnover as evidenced by the retail industry having one of the highest rates. We conduct an ongoing analysis of CEO transitions in US-based, public retail companies of $500 million+ and in the past five years there have been over 111 CEO transitions across 77 companies. 

Despite this unique environment, we have observed several key success factors to delivering talent in an age of accelerated transformation.

When hiring talent, top leaders:

1. EMBRACE THE UNKNOWN:  To find innovative talent, many companies are looking outside their own industry for solutions.  Over the past five years, we found 55% of our C-Suite candidates were from outside of retail, representing a broad reach into digital & technology,beauty, health & wellness, restaurant, hospitality & leisure and consumer products and services.  Embracing the unknown means recognizing that expertise often comes from other industries.  For example, hospitality companies are often much more innovative in creating compelling customer experiences.  

2. CREATE CLARITY:  Leaders who articulate precisely what they want a role/function to do, what the value-add is for the role and prioritize the ‘must-haves’ versus ‘nice-to-haves’ not only create cohesion among a C-Suite but also help make expedited decision making regarding talent needs.  Today’s climate requires CEOs to have conviction, vision and clear communication amidst changes in strategy and structure.

3. HIRE FOR COMPETENCIES: Today’s dynamic landscape and converging functional roles require companies to recruit for “soft skill” competencies and aptitude, versus just functional and/or proven expertise.  In any consumer-facing company, today’s leaders must have strategic acumen and raw intellect PLUS EQ.  The “old school” functional silos do not work anymore. Leaders must embrace the “we” versus “me” mentality and have the ability to build relationships, influence and collaborate more than ever before. Thriving in disruption requires executives who are agile and embrace change.  Additionally, executives must strive for innovation and be “digitally fluent” in the technology age regardless of functional expertise.

While we are faced with unprecedented change and talent dilemmas, at Herbert Mines Associates we continue to evolve our practice while remaining true to our founding values of excellence in client service,transparency, quality, and results.  We differentiate ourselves with our innovative talent solutions through a high-touch, personalized experience where process, structure, discipline and metrics hold us accountable for finding exceptional talent.

We are grateful to be a key partner during such a dynamic time in the industry.

Best Regards,

Hal Reiter, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

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