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New Leaders for New Times: Polish Businesses Seek Mature, Adaptable Management

BUSINESSNew Leaders for New Times: Polish Businesses Seek Mature, Adaptable Management

The year 2023 brought about many challenges and changes in the labor market. Economic turbulence and lack of stabilization influenced employment trends, including those at higher management levels. Current challenges include effective succession planning for talents and the need to redefine the role of teams. Mature leadership – the ability to navigate through business transformation – has become particularly important. These are the conclusions drawn from a nationwide study conducted by Page Executive, a company recruiting executive staff.

Leadership for current times

Last year, many companies faced the issue of limited revenue growth potential, stemming directly from weakening domestic demand. Organizations, therefore, needed to suspend their growth plans. Most businesses strived not to reduce employment. However, the deficit of available talents and increasing expectations from candidates became a major challenge. These conditions shaped a new face of leadership, adapting it to the times and current needs. Conscious leadership, change management-oriented thinking, empathy, and relatability are the qualities of the modern leader capable of navigating unpredictable business transformation conditions. Organizations primarily sought individuals capable of inspiring their teams, outlining development prospects, convincing employees to stay in the company, and building a succession path.

“2024 will be the time for people who have a lot of experience, who have already managed in non-standard situations and have previously coped with them. The desired leadership involves having a full “overview”, that is, a comprehensive view of the organization. Besides, the new leader is not a leader who manages a large ideal structure and has a hundred performers. A leader for the current times should not sit in their beautiful tower and only outline new paths. It needs to be a person who will go to the lower level and understand people’s problems, be close to them, and be an initiative and provide new perspectives. They should implement the target strategy, but always with people, not beside them.” – convinces Marta Grochal, Senior Partner & Head of Page Executive Poland & Baltics.

Paweł Wierzbicki, Executive Director, also points out the specific conditions that currently define business operations.

“The present time is a form of dynamic multi-level transformation. It requires an approach and redefinition. Asking the question: who is a leader? Today all the dogmas of the last 30 years, which we have worked out, have been turned upside down. The table has been overturned. Therefore, we must be open today and want to understand that these dogmas will be rearranged, and maybe they will never be arranged, and everything will just be fluid” – adds the Page Executive expert.

Adapt anew

The past months have been challenging for entrepreneurs who feared difficulties in hiring employees. Personnel changes did not occur as dynamically as in previous years, and lower team turnover was partly due to a decline in workers’ propensity to frequently change jobs in an expected slowdown. People deciding to take on new employment expected salaries even 20-30% higher than their current ones. In most cases, companies could not meet these demands. They also struggled to meet their employees’ financial expectations. The largest pay rises (about 6-12%) could be counted on by individuals holding specialist and expert positions. In the process of building and expanding teams, the ability to fit into the existing structure became particularly important.

“Actually, the starting point for the owners was the question: Will these people be able to work together not in a year or two, but will there be an actual fruit in five to ten years? It’s not a question of competencies per se. It’s about cultural fit – to what extent will individuals be able to cooperate? To what extent can both one and the other side be flexible and want to understand this other person? Cultural fit is key, and only then comes the challenge. And that’s where the conversation with most candidates starts from: “Do I fit in with them?” – says Marta Grochal, Senior Partner & Head of Page Executive Poland & Baltics.

How to attract talents?

Among the key factors attracting managing-level talents last year and will continue to do so according to forecasts – flexibility, development opportunities, and incentive programs were prime. Employees found a bonus for results and a long-term motivational plan stimulating. Therefore, LTI (long term incentives) programs are now standard in many industries. Organizations that do not offer them are perceived as less attractive employers. However, the job seekers’ list of expectations does not end here.

“Candidates also often expect that they will have a sense of influence – they want to make real decisions. They want to feel that they are treated as partners. The job interview’s perception is one thing, but the other is negotiations, where increasingly, the management staff asks about the possibility of receiving part of the financial package for shares in the company. People who are in high positions and have great knowledge want to feel they are building something more for themselves than just a salary and an annual bonus. There is reflective thinking on the principle of “I am already at an advanced senior level, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone because I have already proven myself and the world. Now I want to prepare these next ten years in the context of future retirement.” Because these are really the last 10-15 years to build your retirement capital” – notes Paweł Wierzbicki, Executive Director of Page Executive.

Sustainable and inclusive approach

Despite the difficulties encountered in recent months, companies operating in the Polish market did not cease processes in response to observed social changes and environmental challenges. This is evidenced by the steadily growing importance of areas such as ESG and DE&I, and the increasing demand for experts in these fields. These issues also gained significance in the eyes of the candidates themselves. In their decisions to accept or reject an offer, they considered aspects such as the benefits for society arising from a given company’s activities. Potential employers’ actions in the field of sustainable development of greater interest to candidates for Top Executives positions. The change in the level of remuneration in this area is also noteworthy. Due to the growing demand for roles in this area, individuals responsible for ESG could count on significantly better financial conditions than a year ago.

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