In Sync: Support Clients Through Economic Changes

Dec 10, 2009

In an attempt to stay afloat in this shaky economy, many businesses are taking a close look at their operating processes, reevaluating their hiring needs, and determining how best to obtain top-notch talent.

As you are well-aware, these companies have also taken a good, hard look at their current relationships to determine which are aiding them in reaching established goals and which are impeding progress.

To remain market leaders in their fields, companies must look for ways to rehabilitate, re-train, and enhance in order to address today’s unique talent needs.

Management really has to break down the entire process and make a best guess as to what it will be in the future. This future must be determined with as much acumen and forethought as possible, getting away from the “business as usual” blueprint and stepping outside the box into a new realm of creative and rejuvenating prospects.

During this coming of age of talent acquisition, retention, and development, hiring authorities should be on the lookout to attract new, diverse skills while retaining and further developing those skills that will continue to keep the company ahead of the pack. As companies look to attract new talent, it is imperative they first contemplate current and future goals, and then determine the characteristics needed in the new hire to help achieve those goals. Truth be told, if companies really take the time to assess talent needs, they may be presently surprised at what they might find right under their noses. Associates may have abilities and interests vital to the new direction of the company that have not been utilized.

As clients become more creative and forward-thinking, they will expect the same from their search providers. As top search providers, we should always be in sync with what is going on around us and strive to cultivate the skills necessary to advance and transform client talent needs.

As technology continues to advance and our world gets smaller, clients will pay more and more attention to what we do, how we do it, and how we put out the big fires.

Two questions we must ask ourselves:

  1. Are we providing the best service possible to clients?
  2. Are we supportive to clients or are we concentrating on our own business-development needs?

Many companies have an Artic approach to hiring during this economic downturn. Companies in the financial services arena have had potential searches frozen for up to a year. Many search consultants have seen this same pattern in other industries, with no thaw in sight.

Search firms are closing their doors all over the country, and many who haven’t closed have either cut staff to the bare bones or partnered with other firms in order to offer clients more bang for their buck. The companies that are making the paradigm shift from the single business transaction to developing a mutually beneficial, long-term partnership are ahead of the game.

Supporting our clients means more than just filling a job order. In order to find the right talent, search firms must fully understand the strategic, financial, and operational issues the client is facing, along with thorough due diligence and needs assessment expectations regarding the candidates’ backgrounds, abilities, and competencies, potential compensation arrangements, and related information.

During these economic times, companies are learning to do more with less. Search firms must seek multi-faceted talent who can not only fulfill the client’s current needs, but also has the bonus attributes to assist in the company’s 10-year plan.

Supporting clients also means finding innovative ways to provide clients with invaluable resources and information by which to make more informed decisions. Examples of these resources include:

  • Providing companies with the latest research in leadership development, management audits, and compensation structures.
  • Coaching clients on how to gauge, cultivate, and attract the best available talent.

The Era of Simply Locating Talent Is Over

Clients in the market for a search provider are looking beyond a brand — they are looking for providers with a more expansive reach and marked success who want to invest in their company and in educating them so they can make better-informed decisions. They want search providers who LISTEN to their goals and aspirations, and partner with them to ensure they deliver the type of candidate who will best suit the company’s needs.

An effective relationship can only be established if the client is fully able to trust the search provider’s ability to be honest not only with them, but also with the candidates. Search firms that continue to be generous with their time, resources, and experience through the economic downturn will find themselves well-compensated when the market turns around.

These same attributes also go a long way toward satisfying candidates. I’ve spoken with many candidates who’ve relayed instances where search consultants didn’t want to return their calls because they’d been laid off, having forgotten that prior to the economic downturn, these same consultants were “blowing up” their phones with presentations of the “perfect” opportunity.

Indeed, many of these candidates had once been prime clients. It is imperative that search consultants remain aware of this fact — candidates have friends who are clients. These clients are monitoring how candidates are being treated. This unprofessional behavior will only foster ill will with both candidates and clients.

When dealing with candidates, we must ask ourselves:

  1. Are we providing candidates every resource we have available to assist them in their career goals?
  2. Are we being creative in the assistance we provide? Are we exhausting every avenue?

There are two areas in which search firms must excel with EVERY candidate; we must prove ourselves trustworthy and show creativity in our process. Trust is the main ingredient in the search consultant/candidate relationship, and if that trust is lost, it is impossible to be effective.

We must also be creative in our approach, thinking outside the box to locate non-traditional opportunities that may be more readily available in today’s job market.

Consider implementing the following ideas:

  • Assist candidates in taking advantage of their network of peers, friends, and family to flush out unique and rewarding opportunities.
  • Help them re-tool their resumes for non-traditional opportunities. Once the market improves, candidates will remember the search consultants who, even though they had no opportunities to present, were generous with their time, educating the candidates on what they were seeing in the market and counseling them on how to better position themselves to be considered for a wide array of new positions. In other words, they worked to establish and nurture a relationship for the long term.

One thing is for sure — change is unavoidable. If you don’t prepare for it, you will have to react to it. It is paramount that clients continue to assess their needs and focus on how to locate, attract, retain, and evolve their best talent.

Search consultants must adapt to their current environment because they will continue to be judged on their willingness and ability to be in sync with the changes occurring around them.

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