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Lelia Lim

Executive Search – The Challenges in a VUCA World in Asia

We live and work in a world that’s in a state of constant change. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) are the new norm. Companies across Asia must constantly manage and overcome ongoing disruptions that occur not just in their industries but across the globe, impacting international economics and politics – Covid and now the tragic war in Ukraine are testaments to this.

Leaders in Asia-Pacific cannot avoid the impact of VUCA inherent in today’s business environment. Clear strategies and agile leadership are essential to navigating the choppy waters and still achieving organisational goals. This also relates to executive search, where companies need to ensure they hire the best leadership talent for the organisation; leaders with the skills necessary to embrace and manage disruption and lead transitional change now and in the unforeseen future across the region.

Be Aware of the Volatility in the Job Market

The job market is constantly changing with jobs created and destroyed faster than ever before. The skills required for specific positions are also changing rapidly. Companies must be aware of these changes and stay up to date on the latest trends across Asia. This will help them better match candidates with the right jobs and identify potential opportunities.

Be Prepared for Uncertainty in the Business World

The business world and economic landscape in Asia is continually shifting. For example, countries like China are forecasting slower growth in 2022, potentially affecting job creation; and companies are perpetually being acquired, merged, or restructured, leading to immense uncertainty.

Merger and acquisition activity in APAC has been highly active in the past year, with countries like South Korea facing a record-breaking year. This is expected to continue in Southeast Asia as the region rebounds to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, thanks to both a surge in digital transformation and

divesting themselves from past burdensome regulations.

With so much change happening across Asia, it’s hard to know what tomorrow will bring. Therefore, leaders today need to be prepared for anything and everything, able to plan and adapt on the fly when things take an unexpected turn. One of the best ways to prepare for uncertainty is to build a strong leadership team through effective executive search; leaders committed to the success of the business able to think and make decisions quickly.

Deal with Complexity in the Workplace

Globalisation, technology, and the growing pace of change are making the workplace increasingly more complex. As a result, leaders must be able to cope with ambiguity and uncertainty and make decisions in the face of conflicting demands in our VUCA world. Companies across Asia must understand the changing nature of work and the skills leaders need to thrive in such a complex environment. Executive search plays a vital role in recruiting such leaders who can deal with this complexity and provide advice on developing leadership talent within an organisation.

Be Aware of the Ambiguity in the Recruitment Process

An organisation’s success depends on having strong leadership at its helm. But with the executive search process fraught with uncertainty, it can be challenging. With organisations constantly evolving and changing the business landscape, the requirements of a new leader persistently shift – there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Executive recruitment requires a flexible approach to successfully recruit the best leaders.

With the VUCA environment fast becoming the new normal in Asia and worldwide, leading management colleges are even adapting their programmes and syllabuses to appropriately train students to be VUCA ready. For example, in India, top schools like the Asian Business School (ABS), include content teaching students about the demands of our VUCA world.

The Executive Search Process in a VUCA world

When heading into any search process, a clear vision and strategy are critical to identify the type of leader needed to achieve an organisation’s future goals. With so much volatility, leaders must have the capabilities to adapt quickly and proactively make decisions. For example, in 2021, companies were forced to cut costs, optimise operations, and streamline personnel to increase operational flexibility and protect profitability. Now, with Covid becoming an endemic, Asian countries can re-think and rebound with high vaccination rates, steady growth, and a strong consumer base.

Implementing a solid plan ensures a company remains on track even in turbulent times. However, having a great strategy is not enough. Leaders also need to be aware of the changes happening within their industry and how those shifts might impact the search process. For example, if a technological shift is expected to occur, companies need to ensure that their new leader is comfortable with and understands those technologies. The last thing any organisation wants is for their leadership team is to be unable to keep up with the latest trends and developments in their field.

While there are certainly challenges involved in executive search in a VUCA world, companies in Asia can overcome them by being aware of what they are and having a plan to address them. Organisations will be well-positioned to identify and hire the right leaders they need to succeed by taking these steps.

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