How is Hiring Changing in 2020 for Innovation and Transformation Jobs?

June 3, 2020

In this episode of One Quick Thing, Nada Usina discusses changes in the job market for executives and how candidates can distinguish themselves during a remote job hunt. Usina co-leads the Technology Sector for Russell Reynolds Associates, the executive search firm. Her clients range from Fortune 500 companies to top sports teams and leagues, as well as venture capital and private equity-backed companies.

Chief Transformation Officer: At the Forefront

While the hiring process has slowed down in the era of COVID-19, Usina says that companies are still looking to fill high-level positions. “If you are on a board, and you had a challenge with your CEO before, you probably have an even bigger challenge now,” Usina says. “If you needed a CFO back in the old days of a couple months ago [pre-coronavirus], you need one now.” 

Usina adds that technology and digital leadership roles are also active areas for hiring, as are Chief Transformation Officers.

“We have certainly seen an uptick in that [Chief Transformation Officer] role. It is absolutely at the forefront of conversation with many of our clients, moreso than [Chief Innovation Officers] right now. What is a Chief Transformation Officer is a pretty wide spectrum, not too dissimilar to the Chief Digital Officer. It can be anything from, ‘Get me someone who is a former consultant at McKinsey, Bain, or BCG,’ to somebody who has led a Project Management Office, to somebody who has a very specific view, often connected to technology, and they may in fact have been a digital officer or a CTO-plus —the plus being, at a broad level, they have an MBA, or have had a business role, they are not purely a quant. That transformation officer is real and at the forefront.”

‘If They Don’t Invest Now, They’re Going to Have a Whole Lot of Pain Later’

According to Usina, some companies treat digital, innovation, and transformation capabilities as an imperative, while others view these efforts as an initiative with less urgency. Businesses that view innovation and digital roles as an imperative, Usina says, are likely to be in a better position long-term. Those that don’t are taking the position, according to Usina, that “It’s an initiative, and we can’t deal with initiatives right now. We’re trying to keep the lights on. We’re trying to do the basics, to maintain cash flow, customers, etc.” she says. “But if they don’t invest now, our view is that they’re going to have a whole lot of pain later.”

Usina says digital and innovation jobs will also evolve over time. A person may be hired to build new innovation or digital capabilities, and then move on to new projects once the shift has been successful. “You’ll come into that role. You have the support. If you’ve done the role well, you may have worked yourself out of a job in two to four years,” she says. “If you’ve done the role well, it’s been disseminated where digital is a way of working across the company.” 

How to Position Innovation Experience in Job Applications

“People come in with biases around what they think they are looking for,” Usina says of the hiring process. “Some of the obvious ones: They love a shiny degree. They love shiny brand names earlier in one’s career. They love to see a failure, but then success.”

When presenting these qualifications, Usina emphasizes the importance of nuance. Details about the size of the team and where the leader pulled talent from can give greater insight into a person’s fit for a role.

“You may be coming into an environment where it needs an overhaul. They’ll see you inherited a team and that you led them to success,” she explains. “Or there may be an organization…[that doesn’t] want to disrupt the team. They want to know you can come in, assimilate, and go.” Detailing a candidate’s background can help both sides determine if the position is a good fit.


This episode of One Quick Thing is sponsored by edison365. edison365 is the end to end business transformation platform built for Office 365. edison365 allows for the seamless generation, justification, and execution of projects that drive strategic success. Find out more at

You can also watch a recent master class from edison365 on how teams can adapt to disruption with a new model for innovation and execution.

Just Curious? Actively Looking? 

InnoLead asked webcast attendees about their current status. Forty-five percent of the webcast participants said that they are employed but curious about new opportunities, while 24 percent said they were unemployed and actively looking for a new job.