Green shoots are sprouting vigorously in the executive search market with a sustained and continued demand for agile leaders, a trend that aligns with other positive market indicators and is often seen as a leading indictor of economic activity.

Neil Maslen, MD of executive search firm Mindcor, says there had been more than 100% growth in assignments received from corporate clients compared to the same period last year.
“There is an especially strong demand for executives with entrepreneurial skills who can help to grow companies now that we have left the worst of the recession behind. Demand is strong, placing strain on available supply,” he says.
“We know from the authoritative Execunet survey done among 153 recruiters in the US that demand is expected to grow by more than 19% in the first half of 2010 compared to the same period last year. We expect a much more substantial increase here with a strong possibility that the second quarter of this year is going to be an all-time record for Mindcor."
Maslen says his company continued to see green shoots throughout the economy with the need for executive talent across most industries.
“While predicted GDP growth of 2,3% in 2010, and 3,2% in 2011 is relatively modest, it is robust enough to encourage companies to invest in skilled talent at the top end which in turn is going to help substantially in promoting real economic growth and the creation of sustainable jobs across a wide spectrum. Although somewhat modest, Minster Gordhan alluded to an increase in employment in his recent budget speech.”
Maslen says there had been strong demand for senior executives in most industries from finance through to retail. Many companies realised that innovative leadership was needed to take advantage of the uptick in the economy.
 “Our advice to executives who want to take advantage of the new growth cycle is to ensure that their skills are transportable and not to be timid about changing sectors.
“We know from previous experience that a competent leader in one industry is capable of changing to another sector with minimal adjustment because executive skills remain the same irrespective of what area the person is working in,” Maslen says.
It is equally important to ensure that executives remained current in their skill set and to broaden and renew them to ensure the widest possible marketability in the corporate arena.
Maslen says the company also expected a strong resurgence of growth in demand for board members who were capable of providing the right input and guidance to steer companies through issues like governance, black economic empowerment and continued economic recovery.
“We see great opportunities in making the top management of South Africa’s corporates more representative, bringing a new set of skills and insights into the market."
He says it is clear that the economy was on the right track. “Companies that deferred hiring and froze work forces are now searching for the talent they need to grow."