In Recruiting, Selecting and Retaining Executive Talent
Much has been studied and written on best practices for recruiting and selecting executive talent. There are also a wealth of tools available to those charged with talent acquisition – online resources, applicant tracking systems and software to provide metrics on ROI. Candidates are carefully screened and vetted, interviews conducted, in some cases assessments are required before a hiring decision is made. But, in spite of all of this, a 2015 white paper on The Search for Executive Talent prepared by the SHRM Foundation reports that failure rates for senior executives continue to rise. So where is the disconnect?
The answer lies in the Due Diligence Imbalance (DDI) that puts employers’ hiring teams at a distinct disadvantage and the lack of resources available to Human Resources to provide appropriate support and guidance.
In the early 2000’s, large search firms merged management audit practices into the search process, linked it with assessment protocols for some corporate clients and renamed it management assessment. Corporate acceptance of a tool that promised to automate new hire culture fit varied widely. Nevertheless, large search firms began requiring candidates to meet client-specific assessment algorithmic results. Such assessments promised to eliminate the risk for clients and candidates alike.
The result of management assessment as a tool, however, is that many HR leaders mistakenly believed that such a tool would manage it all. They believed they no longer needed to advocate for the organization, no longer needed to be engaged with their internal clients or business leadership. Management assessment would ensure that viable candidates fit the organization’s culture and once hired, agree that the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and Employer Brand (EB) the tool incorporated in its protocols were accurate representations of the organization. As a result, in many cases HR has disengaged from a critical part of the talent acquisition process.
In fact, a Harvard Business Review study revealed that 73% of CEOs say that they, not Human Resources, are having to take charge of employer branding. That’s a 73% opportunity for Human Resources.
Candidates, on the other hand, have gathered a wealth of information in preparation for their interviews. Thanks to social media and the ease with which they can access information online, they typically spend weeks prior to an interview researching the organization, reviewing manager-level bios, analyzing team members and their aggregate function or business unit composition. The result is that candidates accumulate a mountain of data – some fact-based, some misinformation. In the course of their research, they also develop impressions about the organization and its people and perhaps have some concerns.
And there lies the Due Diligence Imbalance. Candidates have done their homework. The organization has not. At best, interviewing team members have read a resume. They are not prepared with the same information the candidate has and are ill-equipped to respond to questions or advocate for the organization. Yet, the top objective of prospects’ interviews isn’t limited to the EVP/EB; it’s their relational fit and career opportunities in a function or business unit. DDI-analysis-empowered hiring teams are better advocates.
There is a two-step process an organization can use to level the playing field. Step one is to clearly articulate and actively market the Employee Value Proposition and Employer Brand. The other is to provide externally-viewed, aggregated data to Human Resources and Talent Acquisition that will enable them to better prepare managers and members of the interview team.
How Important is EVP and EB?
Human Resource associations and journals now report that company cultures don’t vary as widely as imagined. Rather, they contend that there are only a few bad cultures that candidates should avoid. According to Catalyst Group, the difference between retention of high-potential individuals when the culture gap is huge versus when it is narrow isn’t catastrophic at just 23%.
Nevertheless, the EVP and EB provide the organization with an opportunity to distinguish itself from its competition and develop a recognizable identity through practices that are perceived as desirable, and that are supported and reinforced by senior management. In fact, if carefully communicated and supported, all employees can become champions of the brand.
A Conference Board study found that organizations with effective employer branding are at a distinct competitive advantage, are better able to attract and retain employees and their employees internalize organizational values (i.e., more engaged). Not surprisingly, employer branding has become a top priority for organizations in their efforts to attract top talent.
“The job of finding people belongs to everyone, and this fact needs to be woven into the fabric of the company."
– Eric Schmidt, How Google Works
Empowering Human Resources and Talent Acquisition
To boost their approval rating among CEOs, and improve the success rates of hiring decisions, savvy HR leaders need to re-engage with their internal clients – business unit and functional leaders, as well as senior management teams.
First, employers must obtain and analyze the same due diligence data that candidates obtain and bring with them when they meet interview panelists. Keep in mind that candidates have a vast level of presumptions about an employer all driven by publicly available information about the organization, its people, the specific executives on the hiring panel as well as business units or functional hiring teams.
Then, HR and TA must reclaim their lead role in analyzing their internal organization’s branding performance.
This process will empower HR and TA to play a key role with their internal clients, help support organizational goals and be seen as taking a more active, strategic role by their CEOs.
About the Authors
The authors are principals of retained search and leadership solutions and HR communications firms and collaborators on the AdvocacyQuadrantTM used by HR and TA leadership in counseling internal hiring business units and functions.
Eric Gustafson, founder and CEO of Access Point Partners LLC, a senior executive search and leadership
solutions firm in Stamford, CT, was previously Managing Director of Korn/Ferry International New York, CEO of a technology firm, and in Fortune 40 human resources. Follow them on Twitter: @AccessPtPartner and @AdvocacyQuad
June Mara is the founder and CEO of XL Communications Inc., a human resource communications