Recruiting predictions 2016 – and the role of design leadership

General Electric, the nations largest industrial company, just announced it is moving it’s headquarters from Connecticut to Boston. Of their 360,000 G.E. employees globally, only 800 will go to the new HQ in Boston. What I find most interesting is that the New York Times reports that of the 800 going to headquarters only 200 will be top executives, the other 600 will be “digital industrial product managers, designers and developers”. Talk about design having a seat at the table!

There is more and more solid evidence like this of companies shifting from engineering-driven to design-driven, from product-centric to customer-centric, and from marketing focused to user experience focused. It’s a sign of the times. And a sign of design impact.

Prediction 1: Executives want to collaborate more with designers, design thinkers and design leaders, and they are making room for them.

G.E. executives say “The new headquarters will be leaner, faster and more open with a constant flow of industry partners, customers and innovators.” The intent, they say, “Is that it will be more like walking into a start-up in an urban setting than the remote suburban headquarters of the past.” This move fits the recent pattern at G.E., analysts say, “It affirms G.E.’s digital technology orientation and that strategic commitment for decades ahead,” said Steven Winoker, an analyst at Bernstein Research.

Prediction 2: Work force and work space will be redesigned for design thinking, open innovation and collaboration.

Last year both G.E and IBM announced plans to hire over 1,000 UX designers each, 2,000 designers. Both companies recognize the value of design-driven innovation and design-driven customer experience. Traditional big business is hotter than ever on the importance of user experience, design and design leadership. We’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg.

Prediction 3: Demand for experienced UX designers, service designers, design researchers and design leaders will increase.

LinkedIn just released their 2016 Global Recruiting Trends report. LinkedIn surveyed 3,894 talent acquisition decision makers across the globe, 55 percent of who manage small or mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Regarding SMBs, LinkedIn found that 62 percent of respondents expect their hiring volume to increase in the 2016, the SMB hiring managers said their biggest roadblocks in landing talent is providing the desired compensation, losing candidates to competitors, and lack of awareness or interest in their brand on the candidate’s end. It’s tough for SMBs to compete with the Fortune 500 brands, especially with those recognized as being the most innovative.

Prediction 4: Hiring competition will gain in intensity between big brands and SMBs.

Boston Consulting Group just released their 10th annual global survey on the State of Innovation. The top ten companies are Apple, Google, Tesla, Microsoft, Samsung, Toyota, BMW, Gilead Sciences, Amazon and Daimler. See the full list here.

According to IDSA, the Industrial Design Society of America, most respondents to the survey rank innovation as either the top priority or a top three priority at their company – the highest percentage since BCG began asking the question in 2005. BCG also reports science and technology continue to be seen as “increasingly important underpinnings of innovation, enabling four attributes that many executives identify as critical: an emphasis on speed; well-run (often lean) R&D processes; the use of technological platforms, and the systematic exploration of adjacent markets.

Prediction 5: The competition for top innovation and design leadership talent will be more intense.

Here is a list of the 100 best innovation articles in 2015 from Innovation Excellence, which claims to be the “World’s most popular innovation website”. It is interesting to note that seven of the top 11 innovation articles are about Design Thinking.

Prediction 6: Design Thinking will be even more embedded as a core business practice across the globe.

There is a serious competition for creative talent and I would argue that there is no more critical role for any company to develop, large or small, than design leadership. With the term “design leadership” I’m including leaders in product design, user experience design, service design, brand design, tangible innovation – it’s all connected, and it all needs a unique kind of leadership. Plus, in the past, competition was between companies with good design against companies with not so good design. Using design strategically made it easy pickings, so to speak – think Apple, OXO, Dyson, Philips, Audi, P&G, etc. But now everyone caught on. So the future is about companies with good design competing against companies with good design. The point of competitive advantage will be on effective design leadership, not just design alone.

Prediction 7: Emerging fierce competition for the top design leadership talent.

In the recent LinkedIn study SMB talent acquisition managers also predicted that their biggest recruiting challenges in 2016 will be finding candidates in high-demand talent pools. It’s clear that design leadership talent, UX leadership, design thinkers, design strategists, design researchers, and service designers, etc., are all high-demand areas.

Prediction 8: Since design and creative leadership is high demand, these positions will be more difficult to fill.

The LinkedIn study also found that companies want to improve their sourcing techniques in finding and attracting passive candidates (passive candidates are people who are not actively looking to change jobs). I recently attended a national conference for recruiters which featured a panel discussion with seven passive candidates, all experts in their fields. All the panel members all agreed – they don’t want to be found or contacted by recruiters, they don’t return emails or phone calls from recruiters they don’t know, and they turn off or disguise their online profiles. But they do value conversations with peers and with niche recruiters who have specific knowledge about their function.

Prediction 9: Effective recruiting for top talent in high demand areas will be peer-to-peer with hiring managers and experienced niche recruiters.

There is a plethora of new apps, aggregators, job boards and online sourcing platforms, each claiming to be the best tool. Generic recruiters love them, and there is massive outbound recruiting activity. But it’s mostly one-way, and mostly being dodged by top niche talent. Facebook and Amazon currently engage over 500 generic contract recruiters each, who are all are blasting away trying to make pals online. But the best candidates don’t want to be bothered by junior generic recruiters. Truth be told, the conference panelists and moderator agreed, internet recruiting tools alone are not so effective.

Prediction 10: Mass recruiting on social media is great for mass recruiting, but not for niche top talent.

A more thoughtful recruiting strategy that yields more relevant results is developing your hiring managers, and engaging with retained recruiters that are focused on a specific functional niche, like Lockwood Resource. How do you know if a recruiter is an expert in a functional niche and not a poser? Just look at the career experience of the recruiter – have they actually worked in the position they are recruiting for themselves? Have they walked a mile in the shoes of the positions they are trying to fill?

2016 will be a year of employment growth and strong competition for niche top talent. High demand areas such as design leadership, design thinking and innovation that will be even more competitive and more difficult to fill. But have no fear, there is no more important area to build than design leadership, in order to create effective innovation and great customer experiences. Take a tip from G.E., fill your headquarters with design leaders.


Published at Linkedin by Thomas Lockwood PHD



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