The 5 most in-demand corporate strategy skills every leader wants

The 5 most in-demand corporate strategy skills every leader wants

We’re a few weeks into Q4 2022, and many organizations are still grappling with solving pandemic-induced challenges around business and supply chain resilience, talent shortages, inflation, and more. 

Looking ahead to 2023, businesses will continue to wrestle with massive amounts of change in the upcoming year brought on by the aftereffects of the pandemic, geopolitical issues, accelerated digital transformation, and economic outlook. 

Navigating the potential impact of these changes will be no easy task. As corporate strategy leaders gear up to set their plans for 2023, many will be placing a special emphasis on rebalancing business portfolios in an effort to weather potential storms and maintain long-term performance expectations. 

To better understand the corporate strategy skills that will be most in demand to help corporate strategy leaders best address the challenges ahead, we reviewed more than 180 active job descriptions. Below are the five most in-demand skills business leaders like you are looking for to build high-performance teams now and in the upcoming year. 

1. Management Consulting Experience

Corporate strategists work cross-functionally with business unit leaders, the CEO, and CFO to analyze future trends, current business goals, and the best ways to move forward. It's, therefore, not surprising that the vast majority of businesses are emphasizing prior management consulting experience as a requirement. 

Professionals with prior MBB and Big Four experience are familiar with the frameworks and processes needed to provide strategic direction. Since candidates from these backgrounds worked on several accounts and teams, they also can build alignment among diverse teams and manage ambiguity to achieve desired outcomes.

In addition to the obvious ability to think strategically and reacting quickly to environmental, governmental, and other changes to ensure their company is always on top, other sought-after competencies include:

  • Communication (listening, writing, speaking, and presenting
  • Leadership (emotional intelligence and executive presence)
  • Data and analytics interpretation

2. Strategic Planning/Business Planning

Many businesses are knee-deep in 2023 planning amidst a heightened level of uncertainty about what the future holds. That said, a recent Forrester survey of US business leaders found that most expect at least some increase in overall spending next year. At the same time, many also anticipate spending more on talent and technologies.  

Strategic planning/business planning involves collecting ideas in a formal business plan that outlines a summary of the business's current state, the state of the broader market, and the detailed steps required to achieve objectives in the coming period. 

Corporate strategists must provide cross-functional leadership and project support for a variety of initiatives, partnerships, and operational imperatives to deliver a coordinated plan that optimizes returns across multiple objectives. As a result, they’re often sought out for their deep industry expertise and experience working on unusually complex technical problems and providing solutions.

Many corporate strategy leaders also look for corporate strategists with both strategic planning and project management professional certifications.

 3. Market Research

Ensuring the business can maintain its market position and remain competitive requires a clear view of the market landscape. Market research in this function is critical, as it helps businesses identify potential risks to prepare for and opportunities to drive growth and scale.

In today’s uncertain market climate, corporate strategy leaders are making candidates with exceptional market research expertise a top priority. They're looking for individuals with deep industry experience who can conduct in-depth research and provide unbiased opinions and perspectives on difficult matters and complex business problems and issues. 

But expertise is required not only in market research, but also with presentation, collaboration, best practices, and tools and technologies. 

While data science typically sits in a department separate from corporate strategy, the two functions are converging, and increasingly the most in-demand research skill is the ability to leverage complex data visualization tools to mine data for actionable insights and commercial advice.

4. Operations

Creating a best-in-class operation strategy can help boost financial performance and strengthen competitive advantage. By aligning operations to business goals and optimizing the organization's use of resources, people, and processes, an operations strategy can help companies better navigate uncertainty and disruption. 

Highly qualified operations strategists must understand how to implement frameworks and for making operational design decisions that can increase efficiency, mitigate risk, expand global networks, and maximize value creation. 

Increasingly, operations strategists with experience and skills in a specific area, such as supply chain or workplace experience, are also in demand. They leverage their knowledge to identify any omissions, problems, and improvement areas in overarching strategies, in addition to implementing action plans and measuring the results against key performance indicators.

5. Financial Modeling

Financial modeling is a representation in numbers of a company's performance in the past, present, and the forecasted future. They’re used for a variety of initiatives, such as: 

  • Determining the valuation of a business
  • Benchmarking a business to its competitors
  • Predicting the impact of events on a company's stock
  • Estimating the costs and profits of a proposed new project

In strategic planning, financial modeling is instrumental in testing various scenarios, calculating the cost of new projects, deciding on budgets, and allocating corporate resources.

While there are many different types of corporate strategists who build financial models, many have experience in investment banking, equity research, corporate development, and financial planning and analysis. Among the most sought-after skill sets are:

  • Expertise in the fundamentals of accounting, including the three core financial statements
  • Understanding how to build a forecast
  • A logical framework for problem-solving
  • Ability to distill large amounts of data into a simple format
  • The ability to easily zoom in on details and zoom out to high-level strategy
  • Strong Excel skills

Finding the Right Talent In Today’s Tight Labor Market 

Knowing the skill sets that are in high demand can go a long way in helping you identify the gaps in your organization to build the best-in-class corporate strategy team. While finding talent in today's tight labor market might be challenging, taking steps to revitalize your talent acquisition strategies can help you find the talent you need. To help you out in this endeavor, we created a guide on eight creative talent acquisition strategies you can implement today to find corporate strategy talent fast. Take a look at it here.


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