An Interview with our NSW Gig Executive Associate Partner – Martin Searle
Gig Executives on the Rise
Meet Martin Searle, our new Associate Partner for the Gig Executive practice. Martin is no stranger to the many benefits of interim talent, having successfully delivered interim executive assignments for nearly a decade with respected local and global organisations. Martin has broad experience, so can relate to both client and candidate challenges. He held permanent and interim executive roles in Corporate Planning, HR and Professional Services, and is a recognised International judge for the Dubai Business Awards and was twice finalist for HR Director of the Year.
Congratulations on joining Future Leadership, Martin. First some flattery, why us, and what are your initial impressions?!!
I was fortunate to have worked with Adam Kyriacou in the past and was delighted to join and support the growth of the business into NSW and ACT. The scale of the Gig Executive business in Victoria has been a welcome surprise. Clearly, we’re the market leader there. Also, the integration of the three Future Leadership business units really creates a talent solutions ecosystem that can help future-proof our candidates and our clients. The 20-year history of our Executive Search team, coupled with the innovative leadership development advisory firm CLA, means we enjoy a highly collaborative, solutions-first culture, which is not always the case in this industry.
Now for the scoop. What have you seen happening in the interim market over the last couple of years?
Higher Education is a really interesting space for the interim proposition. The UK has a very significant Higher Education Interim market and we think Future leadership is uniquely positioned to grow that part of Gig Executive, especially given our stellar reputation for placing permanent leaders via Executive Search. That will be one of my focus areas over the next 12 months or so.
We already have a cohort of active senior academics who are available for interim assignments. A number have taken the opportunity to move into a portfolio career post their institution’s restructuring and downsizing. Vice-Chancellors have been much more active in engaging senior interim academics to manage structural change. Some have found over the last two years, that their bench strengths don’t have the experience and capability to manage the degree of change required to effectively re-position the organisation.
In addition, global research tells an interesting story when it comes to interim assignments:
- 54% increase in HR roles
- 21% growth in digital roles
- 20% drop in comms roles, reflecting organisations implementing ongoing external and internal communication strategies after requiring additional support the two years prior
- 45% increased demand in human services, particularly health and housing
How strong is the talent pool of Gig Executives, really?
The Gig Executive talent pool seems to be growing all the time. Candidates are increasingly assessing “opportunities”, driven by personal and professional interest, access to a new sector, flexibility and, of course, remuneration. In relation to gaps, some functions are more difficult to source and that probably reflects the search market. For example, Chief Risk Officers, high-quality GM’s of Safety, Senior Remuneration and Benefits Executives have always been a little more difficult to find. Having said that, not once have we failed to complete an assignment. Fisher Leadership has a two-decade pool of experienced executives wanting to work differently. Additionally, our parent firm Future Leadership is very well positioned to source candidates through our dedicated Talent Engagement Centre which (when needed), partners with us to source high-quality candidates who are known subject matter experts. This is a pretty unique model in the market and we’re fortunate to have these resources as a differentiator.
Do you have one final observation for us, on where the market might head in the next couple of years?
We had an interesting trend in 2020 and 2021 with nearly 50% of interims converting to permanent roles for their clients post assignment. Usually, this only occurs around 10% of the time. I believe the trend has emerged for a couple of different reasons. First, a Gig Executive is often “over-engineered” for the role to ensure that they are immediately effective. Organisations today realise the opportunity to retain an experienced pair of hands in such a talent-scarce and high-change environment. Second, a Gig Executive is quite often working in a new sector and brings best practice ideas from other industries, fuelling healthy innovation. The Covid situation reduced permanent opportunities, amplified transferrable skills and gave clients the chance to secure senior talent not normally available to them in the market.
Now things have stabilised somewhat, the movement from gig assignment to permanent has gone back to between 10-20%, yet these benefits still exist for the future-focused organisation.