sustainable organisations.

More freedom, in more ethical, responsible and sustainable organisations: New global study reveals what senior executives really want for their own careers.

The Amrop report reveals the current career needs of senior executives across the world* who answered confidential questions regarding their expectations from their next hiring organisation, their approach to the hiring process, why they left their last job and their openness to changing organisations at the current time.

Over recent years in conversations with senior executives surrounding corporate roles, Amrop, a global executive search and leadership consultancy, began to notice a change in their career aspirations. One apparent trend was a move from traditional engineered, to more organic career routes. Amrop’s research team summarised this as ‘an increased desire to control their own destiny, even at the expense of some predictability and security’.

This was just one hypothesis that led Amrop to conduct the new global study. The Amrop Talent Observatory was conducted late 2020 into 2021 – making it a unique barometer of the deeper factors determining senior careers against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Amrop’s pre-Covid hypothesis regarding senior executives’ increasing need for freedom was backed up by the data. The stress under which the pandemic has placed executives has been widely reported and has led many to seriously reflect on what would fulfil them in the next chapter of their lives. Amrop believes that the pandemic has reinforced and even accelerated, an underlying trend.

Commenting on the report, David Kelly, Managing Partner of Amrop in Ireland said:
“The results of this important report is a mirror image of the approach we take in developing the context and deep understanding of our client and prospective candidate needs. Ultimately, remuneration is a hygiene factor for senior executives and whether they realise it or not, they are most often motivated by a primal instinct to exhibit mastery, autonomy and purpose in the work that they do”.

Executives want more control over their own destiny – even in the current economic climate

  • – Support, growth and professional freedom are important to more senior executives (80%) than compensation or remuneration.
  • – Linear upward career routes are losing attractiveness. They are giving way to semi-structured, sideways moves, underpinned by executive learning
    • Even if 40% of senior executives still want the traditional one track, upward career path, the strong trend is towards a semi-structured approach, as sought by 73%
    • 79% actively seek organisations that give them their own learning budget. 73% would avoid firms that neither expect them to follow any programs, nor provide finance
  • – A significant number of senior executives now want to work for more than one organisation at once: if 51% still want the classic ‘locked-in’ contract, almost as many (45%) actively seek more freedom
  • – Despite the economic insecurity of Covid, the entrepreneurial spirit is strong: 63% of senior executives want a major part of their compensation to be linked to organisational performance (which 90% want to influence).

Executives are in search of a wiser professional environment
The survey also found that most executives are now actively seeking organisations that emphasise an ethical, responsible and sustainable approach to making decisions. The report presents the characteristics which take organisations to the top of the list when it comes to attracting (and retaining) senior talent.
From a clear purpose and a robust ESG strategy, to diversity of thought, compassion and involvement, these factors prove to be extremely important to senior executives. And they far outweigh their opposites (such as an emphasis on unity of thought, competitiveness, speed and financial value).


  • – A higher purpose is critical: 86% of senior executives say that when they’re deciding whether to join an organisation, its purpose, mission and vision are highly important. Ethical reputation in particular is key for 89% and 74% seek an ESG strategy.
    • Asked to pick the 3 most important areas in making a career decision, the organisation’s purpose still ranks highest, (closely followed by remuneration and work-life balance).
    • And whilst 91% would actively seek an organisation with a clean ethical reputation, 84% would actively avoid a firm that had suffered a serious reputational fallout
  • – Diversity of thought is more important than unity: 79% actively seek organisations that emphasise diversity over unity of thought. Hardly any (5%) would avoid organisations with this emphasis.
  • – Compassion is more important than competitiveness: 47% actively seek organisations that emphasise compassion over competitiveness – three times as many as would avoid organisations with this emphasis (15%)
  • – Stakeholder involvement is more important than speed:44% actively seek organisations that emphasise involvement over speed – twice as many as would avoid organisations with this emphasis.

The report sends a number of clear signals to organisations seeking to attract (and retain) senior talent: the focus of top executives is shifting towards a professional life that gives them greater control over their destiny, working in organisations with a more holistic approach to doing business.