As technological innovation changes the world around us, the way executive search firms conduct business is also changing. In this article, we will examine a few areas – social media, mobile technology, and security/compliance – where technology trends are changing not only the processes used by search firms, but the very value proposition of engaging a firm to complete a search. Though there are greater expectations of transparency and speed, greater ability to measure results, and an overarching concern for security and compliance, the executive search industry has great opportunities to provide more value than ever for their customers, but must embrace information systems in order to get there.
While social media has a far-reaching impact on executive search, and my firm studies this from countless angles, for the space permitted here, let’s focus on two points. First, as the whole world will be able to complete ‘Name ID’ for a basic target list, the extra value (in addition to strength of a consultant’s network) becomes thoughtful incorporation of less likely targets and knowledge of how to assess, activate and ‘close’ the list. When anyone can make some sort of long-list, the skill of delivering the right candidate needs to be emphasized.
Secondly, niche industry networks also become increasingly valuable as top talent in some sectors has already begun to tune out of social media due to ‘fatigue’. When anyone on the planet can make a recruiting target list, the world’s most in-demand talent is getting overwhelmed by recruiters at all levels of the industry. This leads to de-listing or creation of inaccurate/decoy records. Actively maintaining relationships with those people in your niche brings ever-increasing value in the breadth of potential candidates and accuracy of vetted information.
Pervasive mobile technology is moving the needle on the value provided by executive search firms as well. Having access to research, clients and candidates ‘anytime, anywhere’ creates a greater expectation of responsiveness and the overall pace of search execution. With rapid communication among all the stakeholders in a search there is greater risk in having a candidacy go sideways overnight. Having a great search professional manage the interactions can be of critical value, but they need to be available and they need to be connected. Executive search teams therefore require good search-specific data systems to cater for these increased demands. At best a slow response will reduce the chances of impressing clients and earning repeat business; at worst it can scuttle a search.
Easy information entry and recall on mobile devices is paramount to coordinate between team members and avoiding potential toe-stepping conflicts with BD and issues around off-limits. This information becomes more and more valuable as it supports the fast pace of search execution without an individual having to check back with a central office or busy colleagues.
Security and Compliance Issues
Security and compliance concerns are increasing every day. With more connections between our information systems there are more opportunities for wrongdoers to exploit the regulatory machines meant to protect us from them. With increased availability of social data, proprietary information that is not available to the greater community becomes more valuable for search and more critical to protect.
Executive search firms must provide value in the assurance of high technology security standards to their clients and their candidates. This satisfies not only concerns of cautious candidates and diligent clients, but the contracts and laws that govern most search firms’ operations. The candidates are becoming more cautious. The clients are becoming more diligent. The laws are becoming more stringent. Whether it is an addition to the already strong value proposition of your executive search firm, or just the cost of entry to be in the business, having a prepared position detailing how your firm achieves security and compliance is only becoming more important.
The Durable Qualities of Executive Search
Ultimately the value of search will continue to be based on the most durable qualities of top executive search teams: a true understanding of the customer’s needs, skills of assessing the market and potential candidates, navigating the path to a completed assignment, and a true partnership with the client based on responsiveness, integrity and transparency. As always, the highest value is not in a fast target list (or even a placement) but rather the very process of completing a true executive search which, done right, gives confidence to a search committee and reveals much about the market and the client’s own organization.