4 Prime Reasons Why Companies Should Retain an Executive Search Firm

(Originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine)

Search partners are not just “recruiters” or “head hunters” but are credible ambassadors for their clients.  The role of a search consultant has evolved beyond just finding the “right candidate”, “the right cultural fit” for a leadership role. It has taken on the avatar of “champion” or “chief advocate” personally communicating the client’s vision, values, growth potential and culture to a targeted community of senior industry/functional leaders on behalf of the client, thereby subtly, but most definitely, building/enhancing an organization’s employer-ability brand and its ability to attract the best leadership talent to its fore.
There has always been a very strong case advocating the use of a search partner whilst hiring leadership talent. With geographical boundaries becoming more fluid, technology shrinking our world and the war for talent becoming de rigueur, the case for working with the right talent advisor only becomes stronger.
Consider these four prime reasons to consider executive search as the only go-to option for leadership hiring:

Search brings passive candidates to the table

This reason is old hat. But it continues to be the most valid reason to consider executive search as the only way to hire leadership. Search as a process is designed to communicate the organization’s value proposition, USP, culture and so much more to a wide variety of candidates (often from different industries, geographies etc). The process allows for the best candidates, including passive candidates, from a given targeted set to come to the fore and consider the mandate. This is something that recruitment/advertisements or other traditional methods just cannot deliver.

Search Consultants are specialists

Search consultants bring a rich, wide variety of industry information and experience to the table. They have deep networks and strong relationships across their areas of expertise which allows them access to information, industry insights and the wisdom of senior leaders. The right search partner is probably as resourceful and well informed as an investigative journalist, and as well networked as your lawyer. The challenge for organizations lies in choosing a search partner who brings experience coupled with energy and resourcefulness along with the right amount of wisdom.

Internal Hiring CoEs vs The External Search Partner

Rationalizing costs where one can is a prudent policy. However, when organizations set up internal hiring CoEs, they must carefully consider leadership mandates that the COE will fulfill. Leadership talent in Asia and often across the world, feel that their long-term career goals and aspirations are better represented via a third party (search consultant) and hesitate to engage (often refuse to engage) directly with an organization. Thus, a strong case to engage with a search firm for critical mandates. Bringing in an objective third party to balance the interests of the candidate and the client leads to excellent hiring decisions.

Why the search process often trumps the “referral”

With extremely sophisticated evaluation methodologies available with leading search firms and their deep understanding of industry segments they work in, a search firm’s ability to objectively assess and match the best candidate to a mandate is a smarter way for companies to hire. This is especially true of independent/boutique search firms looking to build strong, long-term relationships with their clients. They understand the value of hiring for the client’s long-term success. Unfortunately, a referral from within, is usually monetized by the company, thereby, biasing the decision-making process. Referrals gathered on the fly from friends and well-wishers often don’t even make the initial cut, thereby wasting precious company time.
Search is an expensive and engaging process, where boards and company leadership need to commit both time and money. However, data over the past 30 years shows that the benefits of using executive search to hire leadership far outweigh the costs. It’s an objective, risk free, intense process run by specialists who have the client’s interest at the very core of the engagement. Search Firms are your brand ambassadors, corporate communication specialists, talent management experts, industry consultants all rolled into one.
When hiring something as critical as company leadership should you prefer recruitment over search? The closest parallel one can draw is when considering a critical procedure like open heart surgery, would you get your GP to perform the operation or would you go to a specialist? The answer is obvious!


4 Ways Diversity Is Directly Linked to Profitability

(originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine)

Workforce diversity is becoming an increasingly vital component in the business world. There is good reason for this trend. Research shows that more diverse staffs have been linked to rising company productivity levels, which directly correlate with increased profitability. In fact, Barron’s recently published an article highlighting the many ways diversity has measurable impacts on firms’s success. In short, today’s businesses simply cannot afford to ignore diversity when hiring.

Bottom lines are impacted by diversity across the board: gender and sexuality, ethnicity — even age, which is often overlooked as a category of potential discrimination. Understanding how diversity of all types affects profitability is the first step to incorporating this broader-minded philosophy into a company’s culture. Below are four ways diversity impacts the bottom line for businesses of all sizes.

1. Diversity attracts more talent

Companies that display ethnic, gender and age diversity appeal to a broader spectrum of job seekers, giving those companies a better chance at attracting top talent. Today’s companies are in a fierce competition for the best employees and are always looking for ways to draw them in. Simply put, diverse companies appeal to a diverse workforce and have a distinct advantage over companies that do not have a healthy percentage of women and people of color and varying ages on staff. When recruiting, businesses that source candidates from a diverse base are more likely to hire people with diverse characteristics. 

2. Different experiences lead to more innovation

If everyone on the team thinks the same way, there’s little room for innovation, which creates a stifling environment for inventing the next big thing. On the other hand, people from dissimilar walks of life approach the world from a wide range of perspectives and offer unique intellectual capital to the companies for which they work.

Listening to the viewpoints of those who have had different experiences engenders richer brainstorming sessions, which foster outside-the-box thinking and higher levels of creativity for today’s companies. These sessions can in turn lead to an idea or invention that will help a firm distinguish itself from its competitors and become more successful.

3. Diverse thought leads to increased customer satisfaction 

Serving the end user is difficult if a company’s decision-making team doesn’t include people who can relate to that customer. A diverse team is more likely to relate to a particular audience’s wants, needs and pain points, creating greater opportunities to resonate with customers. Also, a diverse staff introduces the potential to reach new demographics in ways that might not have come to light with a homogenous group at the helm. Ultimately, customer volume and satisfaction can be improved through higher levels of diversity, which raises profitability.

4. A diverse team resonates with both customers and investors  

Today’s investors and customers are keeping a keen eye on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) when it comes to the companies they invest in and support. Diversity is playing an increasing role in how these groups assess ESG. As clients and customers become more diverse, they want to work with and support diverse people; therefore, these groups seek out companies that actively and openly champion diversity as a pillar of their philosophy. Having a more diverse workforce gives entrepreneurial firms a better chance of connecting with the investors and customers who will help them grow their businesses.

Growing demand to increase company diversity is leading to a greater emphasis on this characteristic in the business realm. Just as sustainability was once a “nice-to-have” quality in a company and is now a necessity, diversity is fast becoming the norm rather than the exception among businesses. By recognizing how diversity is linked with greater innovation, increased customer volume and satisfaction, better ESG profiles and a higher likelihood of attracting top talent, entrepreneurial firms can begin to incorporate diverse hiring strategies that will lead to rising profitability.


9 Talent Acquistion Tips For Startups

How can startups or small businesses stand out in a crowd and find quality candidates to hire? Let’s break down some of the key tactics to think about:

Even if you can’t compete on money, you still need to be fair

When you say startup, people often envision passionate entrepreneurs working round the clock without pay. In reality, we all know people won’t work for peanuts, and have immediate needs (and bills), so while dangling equity can be a nice gesture, there needs to be some basic compensation coming in semi-regularly so that someone can exist until the equity matters. If you are funded, talk to your funders about the importance of getting the best people, and money’s role within that play.

Culture is huge

We talk a lot about culture in business discussions, and some people don’t fully seem to understand it, because we live in this data-obsessed era, and “culture” is not easily quantified or translated into data points. Well, we can quantify it in one way and that’s with the talent it attracts. Epic Systems, which handles a huge chunk of medical records, is a massive, multi-billion dollar company you’ve probably never heard of — and they operate outside of Madison, Wisconsin. That’s a long way from Silicon Valley. Yet they get elite talent from top business schools globally. How? A lot of it is their unique culture.

Target up-and-coming talent

Sometimes it pays to be proactive. Find pathways to build relationships and talent pipelines so that, once someone is done with their formal education, they will come and want to work for you. Consider tactics like sponsoring a high school STEM event, going to university talent fairs, working to hold events on campuses, or even have a “doors open” day at the startup. There are lots of ways to reach out within your community and build these connections that may bear fruit long term. After all, you never know who will be a job seeker one day. 

Cultivate the employer brand

This is part of the culture discussion above, but an external representation of that culture. Make sure that Glassdoor reviews are positive — and if any are not, respond to those that aren’t to appear proactive to others glancing at reviews. Use your company’s LinkedIn page to highlight cool projects people are working on, gatherings, happy hours, and fun events like office Olympics. Do the same on your blog and Facebook. The message that any candidate gets from you should be: “I will do interesting work and have fun with cool people if I end up at this place.” And once you have an employer brand, keep an eye on it and help it grow!