Boyden UK's Nick Robeson explores how internal recruitment, social media, and lower barriers to entry mean to the future of executive search.

By Nick Robeson
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It's 2019, and we occupy a very new environment when it comes to our role as Head-Hunters. When Boyden launched in 1946, the landscape resembled something entirely different. Industry leaders relied almost exclusively on their trusted partners to deliver the talent needed to run their companies.

Our industry has continued to evolve, albeit at times far too slowly; however, the responsibility clients entrust in us to identify their future leaders must always be delivered with robust tried and tested methodology.

Today with the advent of social media, and networking platforms, a rise in in-house recruiting, and the relatively low barriers to entry mean the trusted partnership has become even more critical. So, what does that mean for the future of executive search?

The Rise of Internal Recruitment

Technology has aided the recruitment industry in ways that we could not have imagined. Tools and resources that were once only at the hands of recruitment firms are now commonplace inside businesses themselves. Data and insights tools have been made accessible to the masses.

These tools and data, mean it's easier than ever to recruit internally; using social media and networking to identify potential candidates at the executive level. Still, it is at this point that organisations struggle to convert data into robust, qualified shortlists. The handshake has thankfully disappeared, in place of a far more transparent and inclusive hiring process. Relationships and the use of advisors to develop those relationships remain steadfast.

For clients to engage an executive search firm, we must work even harder to demonstrate we understand the context, market and strategies and can add value. We must earn our place at the table more than we may have had to in the past and we must be willing to have a robust debate or opinion on the clients "must-haves" in the context of job specifications. I only see this as a positive effect on our industry, raising service levels and professionalism and relish client engagements of this nature.

Market Intelligence and Consultancy

With 75 years of data at our fingertips, we probe and study the industry for the latest executive movements, successes and failures within our client's sectors. It is our prerogative to understand the market and to present these insights to our clients. Our market insight provides an in-depth understanding of potential competitors. It allows us to intelligently consult on matters from compensation modelling, culture, diversity, strategy, employee satisfaction and brand perception within your industry.

Leadership Consulting, particularly around the development of high performing teams, will continue to rise and has further developed an opportunity to understand our customers more profoundly moving away from the less than satisfactory transactional relationship. Technology in the wrong hands becomes a false power; internal HR teams still need to understand how to balance technology with a human-centred approach. Data alone can hide the fundamental flaws in the talent who we seek to bring into our organisations; IQ, over EQ, for example.

The Hidden Talent Pool

Recruiting future leadership requires an understanding of an organisation's past performance and behaviours together with the ability to harness the current state with future projected outcomes.

Some say that it is an art, blending these personality traits, achievements and current standing to foresee the impact that a person will bring to a leadership position. That is the art of recruitment and the experience that an executive search firm delivers and supersedes any technology. It is this ability that I believe helps us to uncover the very best leaders, both current and future.

An exceptional executive search firm understands the mix of achievements, education, performance and culture, plus the demands of the role. We search in different locations, through direct competitors and other sectors and geographies. Technology doesn't take into consideration the person like a human would. Will it one day - perhaps!

Digital is Our Friend

As we see subscription model businesses boom, the appetite for a shopping-list menu of services is growing. Market intelligence tools are being employed to provide high-level general market information. We are already seeing the subscription model applied to executive search.

Our clients are requesting our help with specific parts of the search process, such as compensation modelling, market mapping and board evaluation. It may be that firms start to chop up services into smaller offerings delivering bite-sized consulting projects.

This art of 'plugging in' missing knowledge is a trend applied to all kinds of markets and industries. And why not - it can work well, but this doesn't replace a full end to end service which may better suit some businesses. Mapping a market is one skill, but reaching out and engaging with the right individuals with a view of encouraging them to join your senior executive team is another.

Survival of the Fittest

The future of executive search is exceptionally bright. Leading executive search firms of the future will be the ones who adapt and fit around expanding technology. Firms who provide a personalised service to clients rather than a "one size fits all" approach which we are seeing with some majors where in the end, the client feels oversold.

At Boyden, we believe our attitude and talent can only carry us so far, but innovation, growth of our processes is the real key to our legacy. We help our clients to find leaders, by being leaders in our field - to lead in 2019 compared to 1946 is a profoundly different game. Still, the fundamental building block to everything we do is the depth of the relationships which we build with our customers. Expertise, radical candour and smart, progressive hiring is the recipe for the future of Executive Search.

This article was also published on LinkedIn. Click Here to view the article.

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