Does a Retained Search Firm Make a Difference?

Business people waiting for a job interviewThese are not particularly new statistics about retaining talent, but they are revealing:

  • 93% of CEOs in the US said earlier this year they need a new strategy for attracting and retaining talent.
  • 63% of said CEOs fear that (lack of) availability of key skills will stunt their plans for growth

These numbers appeared in ERE Media, a respected online source.  What they would appear to reveal is a breakdown in the recruiting process.

Another survey by Deloitte points a finger at recruiting processes, citing a weakening relationship between those doing the recruiting and the managers doing the hiring.  The charge was aimed at in-house recruiting teams but the message is equally pertinent for agencies, particularly those who practice contingency recruiting.

Talent acquisition has acquired its own high profile in recent years.  Once upon a time, the “personnel department,” or HR, handled all related issues including benefits, employee relations, firing and hiring.  As required expertise became more specific, recruiting and retaining talent became more specialized and earned a more suitably important title, Talent Acquisition.

But, say the experts, we’ve ended up over-specializing.   Recruiters have become locked into specialized centres of sectoral knowledge at the expense of their abilities to create relationships both with their internal customers and the candidates.  According to the Deloitte report, the typical large organization recruitment function has been taken over by groups of “order takers”.

It’s difficult to see this absence of focus being applied to an outside recruiting source, particularly the retained executive search elite comprising the Association of Executive Search Consultants (yes, we are a member).  That’s because the very nature of the mandate issued by an organization requires that the search firm:

  • Knows the business and can convey the needs of the organization to the candidates
  • Knows how to help management assess candidates, i.e. can assess the expertise and behavior required to do the job well
  • Knows that the hiring manager has accountability to make the experience work once the hire is in place.

There was no segmentation of the opening statistics given above.  But it’s a reasonable presumption that CEOs may sleep better when the hiring was done by someone with the motivation to make it stick.

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