NGS Global Senior and Managing Partners

December 2021

Four Trends That Will Shape Talent Acquisition in 2022

There are four trends that will highly influence how effective companies are at being able to find, attract and secure exceptional talent throughout 2022. Read on for how your organization can stay ahead of the rest.

The past 12 months has seen a massive increase in vacancy and hiring rates (and a corresponding decline in unemployment rates in Europe, the US and many parts of Asia) as organizations recalibrate, restructure and rebuild after considerable COVID-related and supply chain economic upheaval. As a result, the job market for candidates is white hot and extremely competitive at the moment. This is particularly the case for executives, as some companies are grappling with fundamental changes to their business structure and models, and the value of strategic agility is at a premium. 

Companies who want to hire the best talent will need to be aware of the most important characteristics of the talent acquisition market throughout 2022. In speaking with our global group of 38 partners, NGS Global sees four broad trends that will dictate the landscape across the next 12 months:

1. Critical demand for certain roles

2. Remote work tussle intensifying

3. Visibility around sustainability required

4. Executive search process increasingly digitized.


1. Critical demand for certain roles

2022 is going to feature a considerable executive talent shortage in many areas. The global economic recovery will continue (albeit with increased levels of debt in most countries), there will be at least a partial realignment of supply chains that are not so China-reliant, and the future will feature increased growth and investment diversification from the private equity sector. These are all factors that will place a premium on top talent throughout the next 12 months. Roles that will be in particular demand include:

- cybersecurity and data protection executives

- a wide range of tech transformation, data analytics and digital marketing roles 

- an increase in financial leadership (CFOs, Chief Accounting Officers, etc.)

- sustainability and environmental responsibility leaders

- CHROs (particularly because of the pandemic, the remit of many CHROs in the last 12 months has evolved so they have a bigger voice at the executive table, and they are increasingly becoming imperatively critical leaders with regards to issues around health and safety, COVID regulations, and remote working standards and policies).

“Companies will no longer be able to rely on their brand or the opportunity itself to attract top tier executives in 2022,” explains Donald Parker, a Senior Partner who manages the offices in Orange County and San Diego, California. 

“More than ever, the most capable leaders are exploring new and dynamic opportunities that fit with their preferences first and foremost, and looking to make what would be seen as ‘unconventional’ career choices in a more conservative market. They are open to a high degree of agility as long as it works for them, which for some means changing industries completely, joining a venture capital project, or undertaking non-executive board or advisory work.”  

2. Remote work tussle intensifying

Aside from the extreme talent shortage, the debate around working modalities will probably be the biggest feature of 2022. Primarily an issue for the existing workforce, a company’s remote work policy is already having a big impact on the ability to hire and attract executives. 

If a company’s stance on working from home is not fit for market, it will on average miss out on one third of the best candidates in any one search. If the role involves moving a candidate’s family to where the corporate headquarters is located, 33% will immediately say they are not interested. Some are even moving to lower-cost areas assuming that remote work is here to stay. Meanwhile, many employers expect that everyone will return to the office at some point and even those companies permitting remote work will calibrate compensation offered according to the cost of living in a candidate's actual locale.

There is conflicting data as to whether there are net gains or losses with a largely remote workforce. The time-cost benefit associated with eliminating the commute has been well published. Yet many firms are doing their own productivity research and assessing remote performance. One client we recently spoke to said that they know 8% of their workforce essentially does very little when working remotely, and they are therefore mandating a full-time return to the physical office from March 2022. 

This conflicting data is perhaps why we see research from McKinsey that indicates 68% of companies have no detailed plan communicated or in place with regard to what work will look like in the medium to long term.

“It’s a simple fact that companies which have a candidate-centric work location policy will attract the best candidates,” said Lorenzo Zavala, Managing Partner of Latin America. “I expect the hybrid work modality to stay for the vast majority of firms, so companies that move away from that will be at a hiring disadvantage.”

3. Visibility around sustainability required

Similar to diversity, sustainability will increasingly move up the corporate agenda in 2022 and beyond. It is already a big factor, with more than 200 companies signed up to the Climate Pledge, a commitment to become carbon net zero by 2040, including Procter & Gamble, tech behemoth HP and cloud-computing titan Salesforce. As more companies audit their ecological footprint and make commitments, it is conceivable that some of these companies will have mandates that only allow them to do business with suppliers who have themselves committed to net zero. 

“The importance of corporate environmental goals and leadership are going to massively increase in realistic timescales,” explained Steve Lavelle, Managing Partner in the UK. “We are increasingly seeing candidates make judgements on who they want to work for based on their commitment or otherwise to carbon neutrality. This has been in effect for a while in industries like clean tech, but firms in all sectors will be increasingly scrutinized for what their ambitions and goals are by all stakeholders - customers, investors, existing and prospective employees."

4. Executive search process increasingly digitized

2022 will feature increasing levels of digitization in every aspect of the way organizations function – their marketing, operations, commercial processes, and their recruiting, even at the executive level. With the extremely competitive nature of the executive recruitment sphere set to stay for the foreseeable future, it is essential for companies to utilize the very best AI and ML software when searching for key roles. This enables companies to uncover and tap the shoulders of exceptional potential candidates.  

“I wrote about the increased digitization of hiring processes earlier in the year, and this is a trend that is  growing rapidly, simply because of the very high demand for talent that we are seeing right now,” explained Can Onen, who is based in NGS Global’s office in Istanbul, Turkey. “With the market this white hot, both speed and accuracy of execution have become more critical than ever. Executive search firms will continue to find ways to leverage the most leading-edge AI and ML-based tools to augment their research capabilities for competitive advantage.”


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