In many ways the “replacement guarantee” is the bane of both employers’ and search consultants’ lives. The very existence of a replacement guarantee appears to predicate a potential failure, however the reality is that employing new people is full of risk anyway. While it is up to the executive search consultant to place the right candidate in the right role, it is also up to the employer to gradually build an enduring relationship with that new employee and that starts from effective onboarding.
So, in times where talent is increasingly in short supply because of pandemic inflicted mobility restrictions and a generally ageing workforce, what can be done to make the placement stick? Here are 5 thoughts!
1. Be Consistent
While the requirements of every role may be different, when we talk about being consistent, we are talking about exhibiting consistency throughout the search process. Clearly defining the skill sets and experience required, the core managerial competencies needed, the values and behaviours expected and the attributes required to drive exceptional performance are a starting point. However, too often, both search consultants and hiring managers can be seduced by very high quality interview performance that masks the depth needed in all of the required attributes.
To this end, employers need to work closely with executive search consultants on interview techniques, and perhaps most importantly on interview content. Only then, can they both have an objective discussion about the suitability of individuals they have seen.
2. Add a Little Science
Too often we hear both candidates and clients suggest that they “do not believe in” psychometric assessments. World-class, workplace relevant psychometric assessments that have been correctly constructed, validated and updated with high-quality reference sets are science. While there are a large number of interesting assessments around for individual growth, team development and cultural fit, unless these assessments compare the specific attributes required for a role with results from a large sample of peers, then they are not suitable for making employment decisions with.
Knowing this, then it makes sense to make sure that the process includes a continuum from definition of requirements, through interviews, assessments and finally references, with each stagebeing a checkpoint in evaluating the attributes required.
3. Make References Meaningful
We all understand that a candidate does not provide a referee that is likely to be critical. It is also a fact that the greatest incidence of reference fraud is committed in the executive realm. On a due diligence basis, the simplest thing to do is to ensure the location and identity of the referee. There are tools around that allow for geocoding online referees and simple IP address checks to validate this.
Beyond that, it’s a question going back to the required attributes. Rather than a generic set of questions, the focus should be in any area where there has been some inconsistency in the process so far. The secret then, is in using open questions to draw out additional information. “Can you describe Mary’s leadership style?” Is likely to be more revealing than “Was Mary a good leader?”
4. Hire for retention
In our practice, we have always had a consulting focus on retention. Quite often, our first challenge is to ensure that employers understand the value of placing and retaining the best talent in the highest value roles in the organisation. Retention of top talent in these key roles is a far more important metric than general turnover. This means that because there is a measurable financial return in adopting such a strategy, compensation packages can be stretched beyond existing policy and, where really important, sometimes beyond existing market rates. Prior to this though, the search consultant should be identifying that shortlisted candidates are at the right point in their career for this change. Typically, they will have exhibited extended periods of loyalty to an employer where they have also enjoyed successful career progress.
5. Trust your advisors
Obviously, this has to be earned. Trust will rarely be earned by speed in the first instance. Working with search consultants who are prepared to challenge the thinking of employers, share data driven insights on the labour market and compensation as a minimum and who demonstrate the capacity to understand both the requirements of the role but also the contribution it is likely to make to the business is where trust will be earned.
This all takes a little time, but it provides a much better financial outcome than rushing to fill a critical role.