Seven Critical Areas of Distinct Value in Executive Search

December 19, 2022

by John O. Burdett

Finding the right candidate is a matchless investment in building tomorrow’s leadership bench strength … today.

Talent Acquisition Cannot Thrive in a Vacuum

Without access to best practice, forging new ways to think becomes an uphill battle. Without new questions learning is limited. Where successful role models are missing, our extraordinary ability to copy what works cannot kick in. And when thought leadership is little more than “a consulting label”, creating tomorrow today becomes a bridge too far. There is clearly a good deal to gain, therefore, from working with best-in-class, external resources.

Talent acquisition cannot thrive in a vacuum. It’s an integral part of the overall talent management system. If you hire great people and coaching is a hard-to-find skill, assume a higher attrition rate than might be expected. If “succession” is poorly thought through expect to go outside for talent more often than is good for the organisation’s health. And if the leadership development agenda is found wanting, know that over-hiring for virtually every position will be a given.

Seven Critical Areas of Distinct Value

To that end, at a minimum, in addition to sector expertise and international capability, an executive search provider must deliver distinct value in seven critical areas.

  1. Bring creativity and flair when it comes to attracting top talent. The organisation’s story underscores a successful hiring value proposition. Central to that story are the hiring organisation’s values. Unfortunately, although the majority of organisations claim to have “organisation values,” in many instances, they amount to little more than window dressing. To “win” top talent over even a great story may not be enough. A best-in-class search professional draws out why high performers stay and leverages that insight to inspire the candidate who is happy where they are.
  2. Help the client measure the culture they have today (roots) and the culture the organisation needs moving forward (wings). The operative word here is “measure.” You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Talent acquisition devoid of a robust measure of the culture the organisation needs to compete tomorrow … amounts to little more than the hiring executive’s “best guess.”
  3. Leading-edge tools to build a robust, balanced scorecard for the position.
  4. Develop role-specific competencies for the role in question. This implies a library of relevant and up-to-date leadership competencies. It also means a proven leadership model that ensures that the competencies identified deliver “leadership balance.” Balance denotes fit in four critical leadership areas: (1) Direction, (2) the Discipline of Delivery, (3) Development of people; and (4) Day-to-day Dialogue.
  5. Provide a meaningful process to determine team fit. As with culture, this implies measurement.
  6. Coach inexperienced line managers in how to conduct the interview.
  7. Bring support and appropriate tools to the integration process, and that means a good deal more than the perfunctory call to see if the newly hired candidate is doing okay.

The implications are profound. When any of the seven dimensions of distinct value (offered by the executive search provider) are either missing or short-changed and where the search is delivered as a tactical “replacement” – not as strategic and integral to the client’s overall talent management system – the inevitable, default outcome is to hire the best and not the right candidate.

Finding the Right Candidate

Uncovering the best candidate is, essentially, a beauty contest. It’s the corporate version of the popular NBC talent show America’s Got Talent. If they look and sound good, give them a ticket to Vegas. On the other hand, finding the right candidate is a matchless investment in building tomorrow’s leadership bench strength … today.

For many service providers, business development is perceived as a kind of wrestling match … where the next sale, overcoming objections and asking for the order become the name of the game. Delivering all of the elements of fit, landing the right candidate is predicated on a supplier/client relationship that goes beyond “winning the sale.” It speaks of a trust-based partnership where long-term success is based on the executive search provider understanding the client’s emerging business need as well as the client does. It defines a way to work where making the client’s business better always takes precedence. It builds on a mindset where BRAND means Better Results And No Disappointment.

Successful business development ultimately draws on one simple question, “What do we have to do to ensure that the client views us not as a supplier but as truly part of their team?

Get the Hiring Process Right

Write down what successful leaders must do well and you end up with a pretty long list. Pare that list down to include only those leadership attributes that are absolutely essential and the number is significantly reduced. And if talent acquisition doesn’t head that list … it will certainly fall in the top three. If you’re a leader, bringing talent into the team is the one thing you absolutely can’t afford to get wrong. The good news … get the hiring process right and success as a leader becomes a whole lot easier.

Key questions:

  1. Attraction. Why do your very best people stay? How do you know? If you don’t know why they stay … it’s tough to do more of it.
  2. The interview. Whether you are a hiring executive or a search professional, when were you most recently trained/coached in interviewing … both as a science and an art? Pressing need unsupported by meaningful expertise is a mistake waiting to happen.
  3. The right candidate. Is your talent acquisition process landing the best or delivering the right candidate? Is a scorecard the basis for determining future performance expectations? Do you build role-specific leadership competencies for the role in question? Do you or the providers who support you deliver tools that will measure team effectiveness?
  4. Culture. Recognising that the more senior the hire the more important culture fit becomes, how do you define the organisation culture you have (roots)… and the culture you need (wings)? Define means measure!
  5. External support. Are your search providers equipped and motivated to become a full partner to your organisation’s approach to talent acquisition?

This article is a modified extract from “Talent Acquisition – The Battle for Tomorrow“, © Orxestra® Inc.

John O. Burdett is founder of Orxestra® Inc. He has extensive international experience as a senior executive. As a consultant he has worked in more than 40 countries for organisations that are household names. John has worked on organisation culture for some of the world's largest organisations. His ongoing partnership with TRANSEARCH International means that his thought leading intellectual property, in any one year, supports talent management in many hundreds of organisations around the world. Get in touch with John O. Burdett »

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