From Greatest Fear to Greatest Advantage

From Greatest Fear to Greatest Advantage

Slay your CEO’s top anxiety with this strategic partnership

Earlier this year, The Conference Board, a global think tank, surveyed more than 1,400 C-suite executives on pressing issues threatening their business. Those leaders ranked “attracting and retaining talent” as their number-one internal concern across all regions, globally.

“As global competition increases while the pool of available candidates decreases, it comes as no surprise that executives cited talent as a top issue in 2019 that’s keeping them up at night,” said Rebecca Ray, PhD, executive vice president of human capital at The Conference Board.

“Moreover,” she added, “they think talent shortages will only intensify beyond 2019, which underscores why organizations should consistently reexamine how they’re attracting and retaining their best and brightest.”

External partners become competitive advantage

Whether large or small, your organization already relies on external partners to keep you out of trouble. You likely engage external legal, accounting, marketing or technology partners, even if you have professionals on staff managing the same areas. These are highly qualified experts to guide you through critical and fast-changing arenas.

Your law firm, for instance, stays on top of precedents and regulatory changes that could sink your business if it weren’t for their oversight and ability to anticipate and counter problems on your behalf.

The same goes for money matters: Your CFO and finance team might do excellent work, but it takes an external accounting and tax expert to help you navigate federal and local changes to codes, audits, special projects and transactions.

And yet, one area where most businesses struggle is often left to flounder without external support: talent recruitment, development and retention.

Today’s recruiting = bringing a knife to a gun fight

Here’s a bit of truth serum: No matter how skilled, your internal HR staff isn’t equipped to manage the talent lifecycle (acquisition, assimilation, development, retention) at the pace and effectiveness the market demands. Without support from an external partner, you risk losing the war for talent and crippling your growth. Don’t compete with internal recruiters alone.

You’re ready for a talent partner if…

You need solutions to big talent challenges, including:

  • Future-proofing your succession plan by identifying external talent to consider or benchmark.
  • Solving performance issues by understanding how employees measure up to market standards, and whether they can be developed to meet or exceed those standards.
  • Understanding how other organizations manage the same challenges or type of work.
  • Transforming a business model or investing in a new space.
  • Changing your organization’s structure to solve short and long-term challenges.
  • Understanding what you’re seeing in candidates at a deeper level so you can forecast their impact and fit into your company with greater accuracy.
  • Early warning of industry shifts that could help or hinder your workforce.

Are you confident that your internal staff could master each of these areas (or at least avoid costly mistakes) on top of their existing workload today? Not likely. That’s where a talent partner comes in.

Discerning your best-fit partner: 10 questions

How do you find an ideal talent partner? A talent consulting firm becomes an extension of your team, so it’s smart to be as diligent in interviewing potential partners as you would in interviewing potential employees.

We recommend asking the following questions:

1. Who is leading the firm?

Are they strong business people who know talent strategy? They should deliver a custom strategy that reflects current market trends and your business needs.

2. Are they YOUR partner?

Does the firm represent you 100% in the market? Working with an executive search firm can feel risky. The same people helping you fill positions could be sourcing talent for a competitor. Ask the hard questions and know with confidence that your talent partner values discretion and will not share sensitive information about your organization or the people in it.

3. How do you know they understand your organization’s needs?

Every industry is different, and lack of experience in a specific industry isn’t always a deal-breaker. Find out what industries the potential partner has worked in, and how they approach new industries.

It’s less important to find a firm with experience in your industry than to find a firm who knows your market and can provide insights you can’t secure on your own. If the firm has business leaders who know talent as a strategy, they’ll continuously deliver knowledge on your brand, competencies, and new activities impacting your market.

4. Is their process for delivering talent based on market intelligence?

A reputable firm will have a proven process for identifying quality talent. This process should be clear, transparent, and well documented.

Beware of firms unwilling to share their process before signing a contract. Look for evidence-driven insights, customized to your needs using market intelligence.

5. How do they find talent?

Ask how the firm sources hard-to-find candidates with specific skills and traits. Job boards shouldn’t come up at all. If the firm uses tools and methods you could have used yourself, why hire them at all?

Internal databases are another common method for sourcing talent. While not all databases are bad, they should raise red flags if they are the only (or primary) method a firm uses.

The same tired list of names won’t produce the one-in-a-million candidate who can deliver the results you’re looking for. Every search should be fresh, not a re-cast of another company’s search.

6. Do they provide support after the candidate  has been selected?

Your ideal talent partner should not only find you ideal candidates, but also ensure their success. If your partner is truly vested in your success, they will provide support fo the talent before, during and after the hire.

It is a fact that all new hires take one year to fully assimilate. Your partner should support the promise made.

7. What’s their geographic reach?

Uncommon and specialty roles require extensive searches — sometimes a global one. Ask your potential partner about their geographic reach and how they manage candidates who will need to relocate for the position.

The one-of-a-kind candidate is rarely in your backyard. Look for talent search experts willing and able to look the world over for your position. You can then decide how far you wish to go.

8. When they present candidates, how much info will you get?

Not all search firms share in-depth information about candidates. Some only show you a list of people with work experience and a skills summary. Look for firms that also provide a variety of personal and professional metrics when presenting candidates, so you can make the most informed decision.

For a successful fit, you’ll need detailed information about each candidate: who they are, their ability to execute a certain role, potential fit in other areas as needed, and alignment with your culture.

9. How busy are they?

You don’t want a firm with so many irons in the fire that they can’t devote adequate time and focus to each challenge you ask them to solve. It’s only reasonable to ask a potential partner how much time they will commit to searching for your role, or helping your new hires assimilate into their new roles.

10. Do they assess candidates’ soft skills?

Soft skills are crucial for the long-term success of every employee you hire. Can their peers or teams trust, respect, like and follow them? Or will they create friction in the workplace? Experience and a list of skills won’t tell you that.

Ask your potential talent partner what soft skills they assess and how. Also ask how those skills impact the candidate search and selection.

Your biggest advantage over competitors is the talent you employ. Turn your biggest challenge into your biggest advantage by partnering with a “talent fixer” with a history of building businesses and people into market leaders.