Emerging Issues in Executive Search

04/29/2015 03.16 EST

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Last week I attended the annual Global Conference of the AESC – The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants – in New York City.  This is the sole organization that represents the $11 billion global executive search industry.  The mission of the AESC is to serve as the voice of excellence for executive search and leadership consultants worldwide.  This year’s conference was attended by about 200 search professionals from 23 countries, and it was organized around three themes – innovation, inclusion and intuition.   I have attended this conference for many years and served on the Americas Council of the AESC, so I have a rather good sense of where our industry has been and where it is going.  Here are some observations about things that have changed – and some that have stayed the same – over those many years.   When I first began to attend this conference in the late 1990s, there were only a handful of participants from outside of the US, and a handful of women attendees as well. It was truly the land of old, white men.  This year, about 40 percent of the participants were women.  The average age was far younger, and I spent time with people from Brazil, Ireland, Dubai, South Africa, Venezuela, Canada and Belgium. In my 20 years in the executive search industry, the word “innovation” has rarely passed my lips when discussing our profession. Last week’s meeting didn’t change that.  The basic foundation of...

Post Recession: Executive Pay on the Rise

01/04/2013 02.46 EST

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In the years leading up to the recession, the talent market was hot. Unemployment in 2007 was hovering in the 4.5 percent range and U.S. GDP growth – while not as robust as the late 1990s – had recovered nicely from the business and geo-political turmoil of the early part of the decade.   These factors created a business environment where the need for new senior executive talent was at a premium, and the price companies were willing to pay for such talent showed it.   In a recent study of our executive placements since 2006, we found that executives changing jobs in the two years leading up to the financial meltdown enjoyed a windfall in terms of compensation increases. On average, they were receiving an increase in total compensation of almost 25 percent.   Executive pay drops with the economy – 56% in 2 years   Adding to low unemployment and high GDP growth, a key demographic issue seemed to be fueling this increased appetite for talent: the upcoming mass retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. The eldest of the Baby Boomers were turning 60 in 2006. They had recouped their investment losses, their retirement accounts were bursting at the seams, and they appeared on the verge of enjoying the “New 40” at their leisure. Then, well, you know the story.   As the enormity of the financial meltdown took hold in late 2008, it threw U.S. corporations into turmoil. At first, they were paralyzed and began instituting hiring...

What to Assess When You’re Assessing

05/29/2012 09.35 EST

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The use of some type of assessment methodology has been on the increase in the executive selection process over the past several years. While executive assessment is nothing new in Corporate America and tools such as Assessment Centers have been in use for well over 30 years, the proliferation of the use of assessment tools in the selection of external leaders is a relatively new phenomenon. In my experience, assessment tools for external candidates have become fashionable over the past decade and can be tied to the increasing focus that many corporations place on talent management.   Traditionally, and in my opinion incorrectly, corporations have held the recruitment and selection of external leaders as separate and distinct from such company pillars as its culture, leadership development and succession planning process. The attributes by which an external candidate wins a leadership position in a new company are often at odds with the process by which an internal executive would receive a promotion in that same company.   Take the Julie Roehm/Wal-Mart debacle as an example. If Ms. Roehm had been subjected to an assessment process that included a review of how she would fit within the Wal-Mart corporate culture, would the company have hired her in the first place? Not just to Wal-Mart’s benefit either, as Ms. Roehm herself told Fast Company in 2009 for an article titled “Behind the Rebranding Campaign of Wal-Mart’s Scarlet Woman”: “She now ranks cultural fit — geographic and corporate — at the...

What Do Employees Want?

08/03/2011 09.54 EST

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I talk to a lot of people over the course of my day.  Many of these folks are thinking through their next career steps and talking about their interests – what they are really passionate about doing.  At the same time, I am also often on the receiving end of venting – hearing everything imaginable regarding company and “boss” behavior.  Most of all, people are trying to figure out what they want to do when they grow up. As you can imagine, all of these discussions are held in the utmost of confidence.  However, I have learned a great deal about what employees want and hope to get out of their employers and bosses.  I’ve summarized some the themes I have heard:   Listen to me – Employees want to be heard…really heard.  They usually care about their work as well as their company and devote most of their waking hours to their jobs.  They really want to know their opinion counts and that they can make a contribution to the business.   Talk to me – Tell me what is happening.  Employees want to understand what is going on in the business.  They feel they will perform at a higher level if they are informed.  In addition, they know they can handle good or bad news – they just want to be included so they can adjust their work accordingly.   Stretch me – Talented employees want to be challenged, stretched and provided with ongoing interesting...

The (as of yet) Unfulfilled Promise of Talent Management

07/20/2011 02.40 EST

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Talent Management is the new black. It’s trendy, chic, and virtually every Fortune 100 company wants to have it. But, what exactly is it? The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) defines it in the following manner. A holistic approach to optimizing human capital, which enables an organization to drive short- and long-term results by building culture, engagement, capability, and capacity through integrated talent acquisition, development, and deployment processes that are aligned to business goals. Do me a favor. Walk into your CEO’s office and give him/her this definition and tell me how long it takes for their eyes to glaze over. I’ll bet you $5 you don’t get past holistic. But, if you ask him or her what drives the business, having the best people is most likely going to come out in the first sentence of their answer. The rush to establish talent management as a function is based on the perception of the C-Suite that people are indeed important coupled with the uneasy feeling from those same leaders that they don’t know how to get, develop, and keep the best people to work in their organizations. The knee jerk reaction is to create a talent management function that owns “get, develop, and keep” for the company. A leader is appointed, several functions are assigned to them (most likely executive and organizational development, performance management, talent acquisition, and perhaps diversity), and this newly created organization often finds that they have no mandate, specific objectives,...

A Mid-Year Report on Executive Employment: What We Are Seeing

06/29/2011 03.11 EST

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According to most of the national press, the Great Recession of 2008 has been followed by the Great Jobless Recovery of 2011. No one seems to know when we can expect job growth significant enough to make a major dent in the current unemployment numbers, but most all agree that it will be a while before we see the unemployment rate dip to pre-recession levels. If you’re up for a particularly sobering read, check out McKinsey’s thoughts on the topic. However, based on our experience through 2011, all the news isn’t necessarily gloomy. We’ve seen an uptick in search activity from the beginning of 2010 through to the midpoint of this year and our numbers are by no means unique. The Association for Executive Search Consultants (AESC) saw a dramatic increase in search activity in 2010, reporting a 28.5 percent increase from 2009. Obviously, that’s coming off one of the worst years in this industry’s history but still ranks 2010 as executive search’s third best year… ever. AESC’s reports from the First Quarter of this year were equally promising. As to our particular experience, SSG’s search activity is up over 50 percent in the first six months of 2011 vs. the same period last year. Here are some encouraging signs we have observed over the past six months: An increased level of competition for talent – The candidates we are pursuing for our clients are telling us that calls from executive recruiters and potential employers are up...