Tough at the top

Senior executives don’t last as long as they used to. In fact, tenure at the top has dropped by 30 percent over the past two years, according to survey of senior executives in transition by global HR consulting firm DBM.
The average tenure at the top of the New Zealand executive food chain has dropped from high of 17 years in 2001 to 12 years now. And nearly one third of executives surveyed had been in their previous job for less than five years.
It is also getting harder to find job,according to Reece Notton, national director sales, DBM New Zealand. It can take up to 65 percent longer to find new job than at any other time over the past seven years. An average seven-month job search period has doubled to over 12 months, and that is to secure new role that pays roughly 21 percent less than the previously held position.
The survey of 650 senior executives in career transition between 1997 and 2003 also reveals that the average age of senior executives is decreasing from 50 to 46 years. And three times as many executives found themselves “in career transition” in the period 2001-2003 than between 1997 and 2000.
“Top jobs are taking longer to find and are more difficult to secure,” says Notton. “As organisations look for greater accountability and performance levels in executives, they are scrutinising applicants very closely. High energy and drive to turn around business performance, sound understanding of technology, and fresh thinking is driving trend towards higher executive turnover and youth-driven recruitment at senior levels.”
Increasingly shorter tenures are putting executives under pressure to be effective from day one and to produce near-term results – often at the expense of longer-term success and personal health.
In the US, according to Notton, the trend is toward organisations providing “onboarding” coaching for new executives – whereby the integration process for new recruits is fast-tracked so they can make immediate, significant and lasting contributions to business performance and guarantee their success. “This is starting to appear in New Zealand,” he adds.
Executives are now insisting on employment contracts that provide “appropriate levels” of outplacement support to get them through longer periods of unemployment when they find themselves out of work.
And, believe it or not, executive compensation levels dropped sharply over the past 18 months. The average compensation upon re-employment, while relatively stable for the past five years, dropped 21 percent year to date from 2002.

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