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Reflections on the Year 2021/22

As we mark this first anniversary of the Carnelian Quarterly, we offer a few brief reflections on trends we have observed over the last year.

Reflections on the Year 2021/22

Increased demand for Chief Operating Officers

In the last twelve months, we have seen a significant increase in the demand for COOs and Directors of Operations. We consider the bread and butter work to be the appointment of CEOs, and of these we have helped appoint five in the last year. It is interesting to us that alongside this we have also been involved in five appointments of either COOs or Directors of Operations (and Finance), and we are currently working on a sixth. These appointments have needed leaders who combine rigour and process with leadership, humility and emotional intelligence.

This seems to indicate a churn not only in the strategic and visionary elements of charity leadership, but also in the process and structural elements. We wonder whether operational leaders stayed in place longer on average than they might have planned during the pandemic, and now that things are more sure-footed, are seeking new challenges. Most of our successful candidates have been stepping upwards into positions of increased seniority, indicating a new wave of operational leaders, and the consequent need for the next generation to be developed.

Increased demand for trustee recruitment

In 2017 we were never asked to help with trustee appointments. Now it’s a significant proportion of our work.

Over two years ago, we launched our Trustee Watch service on the back of our research into trustee recruitment. This alternative search structure allows our clients access to the entire pool of candidates with whom we are working but is less costly than a full search, which is an expense beyond many trust boards.

We have seen a great uptake of this service, as well as a few clients opting for the traditional search for trustees to meet more pressing needs. We have worked or are working with nine trustee boards (or similar) over the last year, whereas previously trustee recruitment work sat at two or three boards per year. It is encouraging to see so many boards reaching for a level of cognitive diversity which they recognise to be beyond their own networks.

Recruiting in periods of transition

We wrote recently with our reflections on the increase in the number of our clients who were going through structural or cultural transformation or development during our partnership. This called for a different level of input from us, requiring more consultancy from us before the start of the search. Of the roughly 25 searches completed in the last year, we consider at least nine of them to have been in periods of transition or start-up. Again, this perhaps reflect the lessons learnt during the pandemic being put into effect, and new initiatives which were paused or slowed being implemented.

The gender gap: CEOs remain male-dominated posts

Gender gaps are divisive subjects which some feel are unhelpful tools in measuring female success and seniority. Nonetheless, we find reflecting on the gendered elements of our work helpful in helping us to understand what attracts different people to different roles, and in encouraging new generation candidates towards senior roles.

Of the CEO (or equivalent) roles we appointed in the last year, four out of five were male (80%). Of the COOs we appointed, three out of five were male (60%). However, of the Directors and other senior executive positions (Chief Information officer, Chief Development Officer) we appointed, five out of eight were female (62.5%). We appointed two Chairs, both of whom were male.

Whilst it is still disappointing to see a lack of female appointments in the most senior roles, it is clear that there are plenty of women in Director and other senior roles, and that overall leadership teams in our sector are only growing more diverse from a gender perspective. This naturally prompts the question, what is restricting these women from moving into CEO positions? Much research has been done in this area, but perhaps a first step is for those of our readers in CEO positions to ask the women in their senior leadership teams what their ambitions and goals are, and support them in developing skillsets and experience required by the CEO role.

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This piece was written by Abi, our Research Associate.

Other posts by Abi include:

What I learned in my first 8 months of search

Productivity and Flexibility: Would period leave benefit your female employees?

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