We all know that talent is a key determinant of an organisation’s success and therefore executive hiring is a critical task. However, firms often struggle to hire into essential roles with specific hiring challenges, due to deliberate and/or unintended gaps at the briefing stage. Mid-process surprises kill progress. Bad or restricted data in a process leads to bad or restricted outcomes.
After nearly 30 years working with organisations of all sizes on the identification of great executives and specialists, you’d think we’d have seen it all. But every day is a learning day for all 40 of our consulting team because nothing stands still. When HRM was founded, we had what was for the time, a sophisticated database to track skills and talent. Today we have a full spec research lab. A contemporary glass-walled room with banks of technology run by a team of research analysts. Along with managing our professional networks, their purpose is to deep dive professional verticals and regions to identify executive talent for client needs.
The other delivery from this team is a consistent data flow on the dynamics of the professional markets that we serve. Executive recruiting today is not just different from 10 years ago, its different from 10 months ago. Macro events shape and change the motivation and the inter-employer mobility of executive talent. Social, economic and political forces, company mergers, new technologies and a whole host of micro characteristics impact the drivers of change for executives and therefore the strategies needed to attract them.
The impact of all this on briefing your search firm is the need to ensure an expansive depth and range to your discussion before any research is undertaken. HRM’s model for this process is called DNA or Detailed Needs Analysis and is regularly iterated to ensure efficacy. As a general guide we explain to clients that if at the briefing stage you are not being asked unanticipated questions or for information that provokes unexpected reflections and considerations, you may have the wrong people in the room. Hiring processes must be collaborative, bringing together the expertise of the external consultant and the knowledge of the hiring manager to create a bespoke hiring plan.
There are four essentials to a search briefing, the ability to tell your company “story” is the first of these. Every company, big or small, has a valuable story to tell which will be the most influential part of engaging your target talent. We all understand the value of employer branding in attracting the interest of a talent pool, but a well-told story helps external talent connect with your company in an emotional manner.
Your search consultant will pull the story together for your approval but needs a broad and detailed background to all aspects of your company to achieve this. One of the characteristics of great executives is that they know the whole of a company and not just the importance of their own function in it. A feature of great leaders is that they develop deep, trusting relationships and therefore the story must be authentic.
Attracting such talent requires your search consultant to be able to speak as if from within your company, to share with target candidates every aspect of your story. Along with the history of the organisation and its facility, brief on all processes and functions in the organisation, not just those around the actual need. Through a series of well-structured questions, your search consultant will want to identify cultural characteristics and gaps. They will seek to understand typical traits for success in the environment, actual values in action and soft fails your organisation has experienced and learned from.
Your company’s story includes its future aspirations, investment plans of any size and current and new products along with their market position. Your story involves any past, current or future change programmes, what they seek to address, how they begin, are driven, and impact on the organisation. It will speak about company demographics, diversity, staff turnover, approaches to engagement and the reason people typically stay or leave the organisation. The story must include the risk to the organisation if the position is not recruited in to, which in effect amounts to the main purpose of the role and is one of the most important features of a person’s decision whether to engage in a hiring process. The first challenge for any new hire to address and how this will impact the firm is the final wrap on your organisation’s story before your briefing moves on to the second essential area to brief on, being the function and fit aspects of the hiring need.
As this is only the first of four essential areas for briefing your search consultant, it may seem like a lot of preparation. However, it is nothing when compared to the work needed in the aftermath of a poor or ineffective hire. Great companies don’t hire great talent by accident they achieve it consistently by having great recruiting methodologies as part of their supplier partnerships. Developing your organisation’s story in this manner ensures that all shortlisted candidates are informed equally about the company and it provides some rebuttal to any less desirable employer brand messages should they exist on employee review boards or similar. Above all, it provides a compelling and engaging first touchpoint to the very talent that you seek to attract.
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