The 3 Types of CEOs That Talent Leaders Work With

Article main image
Jun 17, 2016
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

According to a recent survey from leading professional services network PWC, 93 percent of CEOs understand the importance of strengthening their company’s talent acquisition program … and yet 61 percent haven’t taken a single step toward doing so. That juxtaposition presents a rather illuminating picture of the current state of hiring at the corporate level, and there are a lot of problems with it.

Investing in people isn’t a novel concept anymore. Almost universally, business leaders acknowledge that good hires are a key component of a company’s growth and success. At the same time, hiring is the one part of corporate development that isn’t ever taught in business school, and in a rapidly changing talent market, many CEOs are relatively out of their element when helping steer hiring programs. The result is a kind of hiring paralysis that leaves executives out of the loop about one of the most — if not the most — determinant factors of their businesses’ success.

Few CEOs come from HR backgrounds, so for many new executives, talent acquisition is a relatively unexplored area. Building a hiring program from scratch is daunting, so many are tempted to outsource the job, but at the same time they have such a vested interest in its success that doing so seems insensible. As a result, new CEOs end up falling into one of three categories: the poser, the investor, and the confused-but-willing.

The Poser

“Poser” CEOs are — superficially — just as concerned about talent acquisition as any of their peers. They are vocal about its importance with shareholders and external constituents, and their internal communications are supportive. But, when push comes to shove, posers aren’t willing to truly invest in building a sustainable hiring culture.

What does that look like? It looks like limited budgets, outsourcing, and hazy processes. Posers aren’t willing to take the time to work with HR to understand the problems the company might be facing in the talent market, or establish a standard for dealing with them. Posers rarely comprehend the impact that poor hiring can have on their bottom line and potential for growth. There is only one way to work with them successfully: with data. Even poser CEOs will always do what is best for their company when arguments are supported by metrics. If HR leaders do their research, they’ll likely uncover supporting numbers about hiring and about their industry that expose hiring’s impact on overall success, therefore justifying the resources that they need.

The Investor

Investors are a somewhat rare but wonderful breed of leader, who both innately grasp the importance of talent acquisition and actively involve themselves with building it out. They help create and nurture wonderful employer brands. They run regular diagnostics on the health of their workforce. Simply put, they actively care about getting the right people in the right jobs.

Investors are delights for talent leaders to work with and are always open to new ideas. Theirs are the companies that end up attracting the most competitive talent out there and reaping the benefits of those skilled workers as a result.

The Confused-But-Willing

Of all the CEO archetypes, this is the most common. Confused-but-willing CEOs are the ones who understand how important hiring is, but still need guidance about how to build the type of powerhouse talent acquisition program that they want. Aware of their own limits, these CEOs require the help of an experienced talent leader to create a system that will bring their company to the next level. These CEOs are empathetic and humble, always willing to learn and collaborate. They may operate more slowly than an investor, but with the right team they are capable of creating a thriving company culture.

There is no such thing as a doomed hiring program. Not all talent leaders will be lucky enough to work with an investor, but with the right skill set, any executive can be educated about (or convinced of the value of) talent acquisition — a better outcome for the CEO, the hiring department, and everyone else.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!