Digital Elasticity: Success Factor in COVID-Era Executive Recruitment

We have all felt it in our everyday lives: the rate of digitalisation has increased
massively since the outbreak of COVID. More online shopping, more online meetings,
a lot more online education, and more Netf … online entertainment.

And COVID has had the same effect on corporates and SMEs.

A bank or pharmaceutical group that was on a solid path of organic digitalisation in
early 2020 was forced to face the growing realisation, as the COVID era
progressed, that both private and business customers were becoming rapidly more
willing to digitalise (and digitise) larger and larger chunks of their
activities, to the extent that digital options were becoming the only way to
reach many customers.

A COVID-lockdown, a cynic might observe, was an online retailer’s dream and a
traditional retailer’s worst nightmare. Corporate and retail customers, whose
lives had changed thanks to COVID, were forcing businesses to hurry up.

A McKinsey survey of executives confirms that this felt change is very real. The study
indicated that companies have accelerated their digitalisation of customer and
supply-chain interactions, as well as internal operations (e.g. back-office,
production, and R&D), by three to four years. And the proportion of digital
or digitally-enabled products in their product portfolios has jumped ahead by a
staggering seven years. This has been most acutely felt in healthcare and
pharma, financial services, and professional services.

How does this impact executive recruitment?

There will be many answers to this question. This is one of them:

Candidates looking at a potential new employer have traditionally done so through a
variety of lenses: market positioning, growth, corporate culture, innovation,
financial KPIs, future career opportunities, sustainability, and so forth.

Since COVID, senior managers looking at a possible new role now have another key
metric against which to measure the success and attractiveness of a potential
new employer: we might call this “digital elasticity”, i.e. a company’s
capacity to adapt and accelerate its digitalisation processes to maintain or
improve its competitiveness, as a response to the market dynamic that the pandemic
has, if not created, then amplified.

Of course, the capacity for digitalisation is not new. But the capacity rapidly to
accelerate the rate of digitalisation is a capability that has been thrown into
relief by the pandemic.

It would be a mistake to imagine that this is a capability that is located exclusively in
an organisation’s “IT” or “digital” business units. Digital elasticity is
connected to many things: leadership excellence at board and senior executive
level, strategic and tactical competencies, organisational flexibility,
financial health, and so forth.

While the acute phase of the pandemic appears to have passed, Covid will be with us, in some form or another, for several more years. But regardless of this: the
digital forces that have been unleashed are with us to stay.

For employers, this means that in the coming years it will be more important than
ever to create a culture of rapid digital transformation, and then to shine a
spotlight on the company’s digitalisation success stories. In many industries,
this will now become a critical piece in employer branding.

For candidates, the new scenario means that the kind of due diligence that might
have sufficed two years ago now needs to be broadened by a new metric: digital


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