Rethink Your Executive Search Relationships

Author: Adam Zak | Source: HCI | Published: January 12, 2010

Yes, the rumor is true, and you can consider this your official confirmation. 
The War for Talent is about to come roaring back any time now.  And the C-suite team will tune in to its effects more rapidly and deeply than before, but this time unsure of any reasonable end in sight. So, HR leaders at all levels who’ve been advocating for their own “seat at the table” are about to get lots of opportunities to demonstrate their strategic thinking skills and their ability to deliver bottom-line business impact. 
I suggest this first quarter of the new decade as an opportune time to rethink and clarify the nature of HR’s outside executive recruiting partnerships.  In what ways are we receiving value from these relationships? How much net value, compared to our investment, are we getting? Are there ways in which we might improve upon both the nature and quality of that return?  Are we asking ourselves: What, really, are our expectations from those upon whom we rely to identify and procure new generations of talent for our organizations?
The word “relationship” itself is fraught with peril (see Dr. Phil, Elizabeth Gilbert), but in limiting ourselves to the context of executive search only, we should be able to steer clear of at least the big rocks in the river.  Or maybe  - in light of massively shifting global business and economic cycles; relentless demand for continuous performance improvement; constantly increasing pressure for innovation in products and services; accelerating obsolescence of managerial talent, and more  -  there is indeed one big rock we can’t ignore: Is our current executive search model broken (doesn’t work all that well) and unsustainable (can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing if we demand different results)?
Are we shopping for candidates by roaming the aisles at Macy’s, or do we focus on finding that unique and special gem at Harry Winston’s? Do we choose firms who can simply deliver a candidate as the need arises, or do we prefer working someone with whom we can share our long-term growth strategies? Someone who might then more prospectively cultivate the kind of talent we’ll want to entice with our value proposition a year or two down the road? Are we looking at our recruiters through the lens of purchasing or procurement, as just another one of the vendors in the supply chain? Or do we seek out dedicated professional relationships with specialists who invest their time and themselves in understanding our business and our issues?  And, despite my obvious personal bias, who is to say which of the choices we make about these relationships are the most appropriate for your organization, at your current point in your corporate life-cycle, and within the context of your industry and competitive situation?  More soon.
Tune in for part two of this post -  Recalibrate Your Executive Search Expectations
Adam Zak recruits “A” players.  Then, in their new executive roles, these talented individuals go on to make their new companies simply excellent. Adam has been using his uncommon expertise to help clients improve their businesses operationally and financially for almost 20 years.  He enjoys his work so much that he’d most likely even do it without pay.  And occasionally, he does.  During each of the past 5 years Adam has conducted one executive recruiting engagement on a pro bono basis.
Image: Tambako the Jaguar