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Cyber and C-suite capability top the list for skill deficiency in 2022

​For the third year running, Cybersecurity and Executive Management topped the list of skills gaps identified by respondents to Watermark Search’s 12th Annual Interim Executive Survey.

While this suggests a scarcity of talent in an already tight labour market, our research also shows there are some highly experienced people ready to fill these skills gaps – as long as organisations are open to Interim Executive appointments.

Please click here to download Watermark's 2022 Annual Interim Executive Survey.

Australia’s labour market was extraordinarily stable just before the pandemic, with the lowest turnover rates on record according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Back then, workers valued long term job stability and financial security.

Now after two years of reflection during the pandemic, Australians are reprioritising what matters to them in their careers. In February 2022 the ABS reported a huge rise in turnover and record job vacancies.

These days many highly skilled professionals are less interested in sticking out a full-time, nine-to-five job that doesn’t reward them fully, and more interested in pursuing career opportunities where their talents are highly prized. They know their experience and expertise are in huge demand – and they’re motivated to make a difference to the organisations that engage them.

For 12 years Watermark Search has been tracking these professionals – and the organisations seeking to engage them – with our Annual Interim Executive Survey.

Our 2022 Survey revealed several interesting trends about the skills gaps across multiple sectors and value Interim Executives bring to organisations. Here are some highlights:

  • The biggest skills gaps are in Cybersecurity and Executive Management

  • The sectors with the biggest demand for Interim Executives are Health & Human Services, Government, Not-for-profit and Financial Services

  • Interim Executives are most often engaged to fill C-Suite roles, followed by Transformational leadership positions

Where are the skills gaps?

Respondents to Watermark Search’s Annual Interim Executive Survey have ranked the same business areas in the top three for the past three years’ surveys.

In 2022, the highest ranking skills gaps requiring urgent attention this year and beyond were:

  1. Cyber Security (44%);

  2. Executive Management (43%);

  3. Data Analytics (32%);

  4. Customer Experience/Service (31%); and

  5. Financial/Risk Management (24% -- down from 48% in 2021)

Note: for our 2022 Survey we split out Cyber and assume respondents from the previous two years included Cyber in their IT/Digital answer.

Where are Interim Executives in most demand?

In 2022 Watermark Search found the sectors with the highest demand for Interim Executives were:

  1. Health & Human Services (24%)

  2. Government (19%)

  3. Not-for-profit (17%)

  4. Financial Services (16%)

We also saw a slight uptick in demand for Interim Executives to fill skills gaps in FMCG, Retail and Infrastructure sectors, though to a lesser degree.

Female Interim Executives were engaged to a greater extent across Health, Government, Not-for-profit and Financial Services, while their male counterparts were busier in FMCG, Retail, Manufacturing and Technology Services.

Our survey also revealed the highest paying sectors were:

  • Financial Services – more than $1800 per day for 48% of assignments;

  • Health – $1300-$1500 per day for 61% of assignments; and

  • Not-for-profit -- $1300-$1500 per day for 44% of assignments.

C-suite is the sweet spot for Interim Executives

We have seen a massive uptick in the number of Interim Executives working on assignment at the C-suite level in 2022. Watermark Search’s clients report they valued the calm, wise counsel Interim Executives brought to the C-suite throughout the pandemic, particularly their abilities to bolster leadership teams and settle employees in uncertain periods.

In 2022, the most popular roles for Interim Executives are:

  1. C-Suite – two thirds of respondents have filled roles at this executive level; and

  2. Direct reports to the C-Suite – 63% of respondents have completed assignments as the Head of an organisation’s key function or the General Manager for that business area during the period.

Fit for purpose – why 2022/23 is the time for purposeful reinvention

If re-invention is the best counter strategy to disruption, then it’s not surprising Transformational and Operational roles are in demand as organisations reposition in 2022.

Following C-suite, the next most in demand functional skills required from Interim Executives were:

  1. Transformational (Program) leadership (36%) – Transformation/Program Director assignments were filled by 39% of females and 35% males; with daily charge rates spanning $1000‒$1800.

  2. Operational leadership (35%) – Operational leadership assignments were filled by 38% males and 29% females; with daily charge rates evenly spread across the range of $1000‒$2000.

The functional assignments outside of C-suite roles commanding the highest rates ($1800-plus per day) for our Interim Executive cohort were:

  • Transformation (62%);

  • Operations (56%); and

  • Finance (55%).

Across other functions, HR and Legal assignments were more often filled by women, with men holding more seats in Finance, IT and Supply Chain.

These trends in Interim Executive assignments are reflected in a key insight from the Korn Ferry Future of Work Trends Report 2022:

“If 2020 and 2021 were years of unplanned reinvention, 2022 is where it gets intentional.”

We’re seeing this reinvention manifest in heightened demand for Interim Executives at organisations that want to close their skills gaps as soon as possible.

If your organisation is interested in engaging this talented cohort, or you’re an executive looking for a great new opportunity, we’d like to help you - please contact us.

Donna Burr, Partner - Interim Executive