It wasn’t so far in the past that accepting an executive position meant being in the office each day, showing up on time, dressed and ready for meetings, client lunches and in-person encounters with the team.
But much has changed since the Covid-19 lockdowns forced most everyone but frontline personnel into remote work for months or even years. Now — and even with pandemic restrictions on the wane — some in the executive-recruiting business for L.A.’s biggest employers say expecting a new hire to work in the office on a regular basis is a big “ask” — and it’s disrupting the process of recruiting top talent. (The Business Journal’s annual list of L.A.’s largest Private Sector Employers begins on page 33. The one for Public Sector Employers begins on page 40.)
Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, president and chief executive officer of Berkhemer Clayton Inc., a boutique executive search firm, calls the change a permanent “macro disruption” in the highest executive echelons.
“The ‘Great Resignation’ which has crossed the whole employment and labor market doesn’t really affect so much the senior levels,” Berkhemer-Credaire said. “However, what does affect it is the macro disruption, as we like to call it. People at all levels want to work at home, or they want a hybrid situation. And this is not just one industry – it’s all industries.
“That is probably our most intense competitive issue,” Berkhemer-Credaire added. “And it’s not going to go away.”
Berkhemer-Credaire said companies recruiting executives in the post-pandemic era often find themselves offering more money to get executives to consider even a hybrid work model rather than a remote-only job. However, she added that most corporations seeking Berkhemer Clayton’s services say they don’t plan on going entirely remote at the leadership level any time soon.
Nor are they open to hiring executives from elsewhere who want to stay home in states with lower costs of living, such as Texas, rather than relocating to Los Angeles, something that new hires have been able to get away with for jobs that began during the pandemic.
“These are the senior executives,” Berkhemer-Credaire said. “And they can’t require all their lower-ranking people to be in the office and not have the senior executives work in the office.”
Pre-pandemic, Berkhemer-Credaire’s company had occupied offices in downtown, but since its lease was expiring at about the same time the pandemic hit, the decision was made to transition to working remotely.
However, the small team meets regularly, usually at downtown’s City Club LA, and will most likely have an office hub in the future, said Berkhemer-Credaire.
And hybrid work will probably rule the new roost, because workers are simply not willing to be in an office any longer. In the office, she said, “Mentoring for the up-and-coming employees is so much better. They hear what’s going on. But people are used to being at home now. And they’re just not going to accept it.”
Peter Deragon, an executive recruiter at Stanton Chase International Inc. —based in Baltimore with offices around the world, including Deragon’s base in Los Angeles — agreed that those in white-collar positions are increasingly demanding hybrid work.
And some individuals being recruited for “high-altitude” jobs in California are often hoping to work remotely from other states with a lower cost of living while collecting a California-level salary. “It’s created an interesting dynamic,” he said.
Deragon added that some Bay Area companies are on to this game. Even if a firm tolerates some remote workers, many have instituted different salary tiers based on where the employee resides.
Deragon also pointed out that while most tech employees in a workplace setting would likely be working alone in an office anyway, big tech companies are attempting to lure them back to a place of business. An April New York Times article noted that tech firms including Google (owned by Alphabet Inc.) and San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc. have begun bringing in a “fun wagon” of free food, fitness classes, happy hours with top executives and lavish office parties, including Google’s recent private popup concert featuring superstar Lizzo.
However, since many experts believe a recession is looming, several wonder if companies will continue to offer hybrid work and pizza party perks to lure workers if jobs become scarcer.
People at all levels want to work at home,
or they want a hybrid situation. And this is
not just one industry — it’s all industries.
Berkhemer Clayton Inc.
Peri Hansen, senior client partner of Century City-based executive consulting firm Korn Ferry, said that most candidates for leadership positions understand the need for in-person interaction, so are not expecting to work remotely in new posts. However, she noted that when facing a recession, companies seeking new leadership are likely to snap up candidates who can adapt to newly created digital roles or have experience steering a company through financial difficulties – or both.
“I would say that if a C-suite role is open in uncertain economic times, there’s an even greater sense of urgency to fill that role,” Hansen said, and added that the company may prize those with resilience, creativity, confidence, teambuilding “and a track record of having (an) impact during uncertain or challenging economic times.”
On the other hand, Regina Regazzi, senior adviser, employer relations in the office of the dean at UCLA Anderson School of Management, is encouraged to find that most recent MBAs participating in UCLA’s intern programs – focusing on investment banking, tech, entertainment and other fields – are eager to return to the office. She advises new MBAs to plan on an in-office career.
“Students who are interns now, who are looking for full-time jobs, should not be thinking about demanding remote work,” Regazzi said. “Be thinking about building a base of champions. People who are champions for you get the promotion, and they just can’t do that if they don’t know you and they can’t tell when you’re working.”
Added Regazzi, when it comes to hiring, “all things being equal, if someone’s willing to come in whenever is needed or every day… I want to know that there’s a willingness. I don’t want to fight for it when we need them in the office.”