Do you know how to build a team with top talent in this highly competitive market?
Investors back companies that build teams who know how to create value and growth in our “new reality.” Whether your company is closely held, part of a private equity portfolio, or publicly traded, this requires an unwavering commitment to building a strategic and diverse leadership team with the intellectual capacity, influence and passion to be creative in doing complex work.
The economy will remain on an uncertain course for some time, so CEOs are faced with continuously adapting their companies’ business models, which intensifies the demand for proven leaders and the most promising up-and-comers. This has dramatically shifted the talent marketplace to being a buyer’s (candidate’s) market.
A study by Sparkline Capital examined what it takes for a company to be what they call a “superstar aggregator.”
“Today, the best is 10 to 100 times better than the average. As a result, firms today must place a great emphasis on acquiring superstars and not settling for average.”
Exceptional leaders move the business ahead by leveraging their skills, experience, knowledge and expertise to achieve results – at scale – through others. The pandemic underscored the need for leaders who are agile and strong communicators, accomplished in overcoming difficulties, finding silver linings amid crises, and leveraging them into opportunities for change. This is where the talent pool narrows.
Win by Flawlessly Executing Three Steps in your Search
To be successful, it’s important to understand (and accept) the competitive dynamics of this talent market and execute flawlessly as you identify, attract and hire the right candidates.
Start with a clear vision of whom you want to hire by defining the skills, qualities and experience this leader needs to advance your company. This will also help you identify the internal and external networks you need to tap for a strong and diverse pool of highly qualified candidates. Identify the resources you need to ensure there is structure, accountability and discipline built into the search to keep it on track and efficient for everyone involved.
Highly successful leaders are not likely to be actively looking. Surfacing them requires a strategic dive into the right talent pool – by industry, specialization or role. At the level of director and up, a search firm is usually retained. It’s important to consider whether your search partner should be a generalist firm that places senior level executives across industries, or an expert in the category with deep relationships, stellar reputation and successful track record in your industry.
In a “buyer’s” talent market, if you don’t “woo and wow” top candidates, you lose. Exercise your power to “win others over” (WOO) by presenting the role as an opportunity to do exciting work with people they’ll enjoy working with. Appeal to their desire to tackle a new challenge, expand their circle of influence and drive meaningful accomplishments.
Top candidates also should be “wowed.” They’re seeking to join a company with visionary leadership where they can buy into the corporate vision. They also value autonomy, and need to clearly see that they will not be handcuffed or constrained from using their skills and influence to make a significant, positive impact on your business.
Be transparent and trustworthy. At this level, a top leader or up-and-comer has invested in their personal brand. They are naturally concerned with how working with you looks to the rest of the world. Your reputation will precede you, and LinkedIn makes it easy to gain insiders’ knowledge from people who have worked with your company. Just as you will conduct a reference check on them, so they will do an informal – but rigorous – reference check on you.
A high-performing leader is more than a “great hire.” You’re making an investment in building your company’s capabilities and long-term success. Support that investment with a competitive, compelling compensation and benefits package that will make it easy for your top candidate to say yes quickly and experience no “buyers’ remorse” later.
A strong base salary is an important piece of the puzzle. But is just that: a piece of the total package, which should include a well-designed performance bonus and equity in the business. The best players usually want skin in the game and a share of the win when they hit the ball out of the park. Likewise, they are also smart business people who will justifiably expect to negotiate an exit package on the front end to make it worth the risk to make the change.
At this stage of the search, it’s about more than the money. Top candidates are busy professionals and may be entertaining several opportunities. They will move on if they feel like an afterthought or another cog in your recruitment wheel. Don’t fumble the ball in the end zone.
Instead, master the flawless execution of your search and become known among leaders, up-and-comers and investors as the company that attracts and retains top talent in both the best and most challenging times.
Written by Kris Holmes.
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