The pandemic has changed so much in our worlds – where we work, how we work and how we interact with our teams, clients and partners. But one thing that the pandemic has not changed is demand for terrific executive level talent.
We all know that recruiting outside leadership has always been a high-risk endeavor, with a reported 40% of executives leaving their posts within eighteen months. Why does that happen? It could be cultural misalignment, failure to inspire teamwork, ambiguity in performance metrics or lack of a solid onboarding plan. The costs of this turnover have also been well documented and include financial impact, loss of productivity and damage to culture and morale.
With the pandemic altering our business practices so dramatically, companies and nonprofit organizations need to be more intentional than ever about how they make mission-critical leadership hires, in an effort to decrease the risk of failure and ensure that they have the right talent to drive transformation and results. Here are some tips for your team to stick the landing with a successful search in the pandemic era:
Invite more voices
Humans tend to buy-in to change when they have some agency in it. So, taking the time to ask more people, like peers and direct reports, for their input on a new role or hire before the search begins helps people see their “fingerprints” on it and can aide the acceptance of the successful candidate. There’s another benefit to this approach, too: With uncertainty as rampant as it is right now, and our nature as humans to fill in the blanks with negativity when we don’t have full information, inviting people to weigh in on a position profile and key success factors provides more transparency and trust (this is good) and may alleviate some of the unproductive behavior that shows up during times of uncertainty (this is also good).
Project Management 101: The interview plan
Pandemic calendars seem busier than pre-pandemic calendars. Go figure! But successful search efforts have a clear plan for interviews and don’t suffer from delays because of scheduling. Hiring teams should identify who is going to be involved in each round of interviews and hold time blocks – even if they’re six weeks away. Choreographing the interview experience for the candidates up front makes for fewer hiccups, allows candidates visibility into the process and shows a level of professionalism that can be differentiating.
Get crisp on your culture and your journey around diversity, equity and inclusion
Many of today’s top candidates are seeking a professional home with a positive, inclusive culture and a diverse team. They want to understand what makes your culture unique, and what programs, policies and practices are in place to support diversity, equity and inclusion. They are looking at “the picture” on websites and social media and they will ask about leadership and buy-in. Spending time reflecting on these elements of culture and discussing them with other leaders will be well worth the investment. If you can demonstrate the right level of authenticity, commitment and cultural competence are in place, you’ll be in a solid position to recruit today’s most sought after candidates.
Invest in a great candidate experience, for today and the future
Every candidate interview is an opportunity to elevate your company or organization’s brand in the marketplace, and we all want candidates to leave with a positive impression. There are a few keys to delivering on a great candidate experience:
First, great leadership candidates are looking for a career match, not a job, so selling the opportunity, the culture and the strategy are key. Interviewers should be both a buyer and a seller. Small personal touches, such as virtual office tours and video introductions with the team are powerful employment branding opportunities.
Second, we have seen client interview processes include up to twelve people during the pandemic. That’s a lot, and that’s okay! We encourage our clients to think of interviewing as a team sport, where each interviewer has a specified role and covers a set of questions or topics. This way, each conversation feels fresh, and candidates don’t have to answer the same questions time and again. It also ensures consistency when it comes time to discuss candidates.
Finally: Closure. Whether the news is good or bad, or even if there’s been a delay, it’s imperative to get back to candidates and let them know where things stand. I can’t tell you the number of great leaders we’ve encountered who won’t take a call from a particular search firm or a particular company because they weren’t give the courtesy of closure. No one likes delivering bad news (and no one is perfect), but it’s critical.
Be intentional with onboarding
Onboarding is emerging as a key competency for hiring companies and organizations. Our highest performing clients and placed candidates have pre-start onboarding plans that include seeding key relationships around the organization, clarity about early phase deliverables, finding moments to make the new leader visible, etc.
And new leaders are finding creative ways to get to know colleagues outside of scheduled and formal check-ins. In the good weather, there were park meetings and walks. As the cold returns, we are seeing 15-minute virtual coffees with a loose or no agenda. Without a water cooler, the development of those critical informal relationships can still be done.
Finally, great hiring organizations provide intentional pause points for hiring managers, boards and the new executive to look each other in the eye and make sure that everything is “as advertised.” These conversations often validate positive experiences, provide clarity for short-term objectives and allow for course corrections when needed.
In the end, good onboarding serves as an accelerant to new leaders’ ramp-up, impact and results. It just takes an extra dose of intention and attention during the pandemic.
We have built our reputation on helping clients win in the talent marketplace and we would love to help you elevate your game! Give us a call to learn more about how Doran Leadership Partners can support your leadership needs. Our phone number is (612) 445-8900 or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.