August 25, 2017

Securing Diverse Leadership Talent Through Search Firms

In the first quarter of 2016, less than 10 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs were diverse (defined in this article as gender and ethnicity). Data for other leadership levels within these organizations were not as readily available, but most sources suggest that the percentage of direct CEO reports, as well as the next level of direct reports, were also less than 10 percent.

Many organizations have modest levels of diverse leaders—or none at all. While there are often fundamental aspects of organizational culture that should be explored when seeking to understand and effect changes in this area, one tool organizations can use as a starting point is a good search firm. When an opening for a leader presents itself, and an external candidate is required, a search firm can help source strong diverse talent. Although sourcing and securing diverse talent can prove to be a challenge, here is a case study that highlights the vital role that one search firm played in the successful recruitment and retention of senior leaders for a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Recruiting Talent

A Fortune 50 client was in search of two new senior leaders, and required an external pursuit of talent. The client was seeking a pool of candidates that was diverse, could lead in a manner consistent with the company’s core values, and could demonstrate a high level of competence. The two positions had been open for nearly a year, during which time the search continued through the company’s internal efforts and those of a contingent search firm.

After much effort and patience taking other paths, the organization selected DHR International, a top 5 global search firm led by Executive Vice President Dwain Celistan, to fill the two positions. The firm is committed to identifying great talent and including diverse candidates, through a unique process that begins with first defining success. For this particular client, a successful candidate pool would meet the needs described above, as well as represent a narrow industry group and achieve a desired score on two third-party assessments.

A pool fulfilling these requirements was established, and following an extensive interview process, the two positions were filled with diverse candidates. The pool proved to be so rich that a third diverse candidate was selected for another position.

Retaining Talent

Now that top talent has been secured and integrated into the organization, the real work begins: Talent Retention. From the perspective of an executive recruiter whose firm provides the longest guarantee for retention of senior level talent who have been placed, there is an equally important and vested interest in the success of the new leadership hire and their performance. To retain the top performers, here are a few tips:

Continue to challenge and create opportunities for them to add value. Your top talent can likely use their skills beyond their current assignment. Provide them with opportunities to showcase and develop their abilities.

Communicate their value to the organization. Other than the annual review or bonus discussion, in many instances employees may have limited reinforcement of the value that they provide to the organization. Effectively communicating their value with specific examples can enable them to build on their strengths and also know that their value is recognized throughout the year.

Maintain competitive compensation levels. Compensation levels for top talent have been increasing over the past few quarters, more rapidly than typical annual raises. Thus, many organizations are finding themselves behind the compensation curve for their top talent. Ensure compensation is aligned with performance and the marketplace, even if it may not fit the standard organizational increase limits.

Finding the right talent can prove to be a challenge. Using many existing search firms, such as DHR International, can be a great resource as illustrated in the case study. The second half of the battle, retention, is equally important and can be supported by continuously challenging top performers, communicating their value, and providing competitive compensation.


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