Paradigm shifts in the way we do business are usually linked with advances in technology (sometimes referred to as “disruptive technologies”) and the rise of social media is just one of the many “game changers”. By offering direct routes to audiences, and by reducing the degrees of separation between people, this communication channel has quickly been seen as the way to cut costs, create new channels to market and cement existing relationships. The way we think about business hasn’t changed, but our reach and network connectivity has. So at Stonewater Consulting Group (SCG) we have been discussing what this means for executive search and recruitment?
Networking in the sense that we interact with the world around us has experienced a significant face lift with the likes of facebook, Linkedin, and twitter. With this new and unprecedented level of access between people and companies, executive search and recruitment firms have therefore needed to rethink their value proposition. If one considers that the previous most valuable asset within a recruitment firm (like most other professional services) was the intellectual property, in whatever manifestation it came, then social media has indeed cheapened the aforementioned access to information and degrees of separation. In days gone by the jewel in the crown was either the size of the database or the relationships; in either case, information was king. Today, of course, recruitment firms are no longer the gatekeepers to this hallowed information.
Social Networking As The Next Job Board
From creative crowd sourcing, to internal communications and everything in between – companies are seeking ways to use Social Media to make contact with people direct. Hence, the need for a middle man is less convincing. We only need to look at some of the latest data coming out of the US, which states that almost half of the companies across North America are investing HR budget into facebook’s 700 million users through cost per click, to see that social networking is rivalling if not replacing the job boards of yesterday. Indeed hiring through the facebook channel doubled from 2010 to 2011 (although exact figures are hard to come by).
Even though this channel is becoming imperative to the way that companies do business, does it mean social media will be the death knell of the recruitment and executive search space? Of course not. Look back to when job boards were first created (the headlines read “the recruitment industry won’t exist in 12 months’ time” and “recruitment fees to be slashed”) to understand that social media is just another disruptive technology and should be treated as such.
Nevertheless, as with any professional service firm, the aim is to provide a value-add to the customer and so a successful strategy for search firms is to use all channels to market (including social media) simply as a component in a more compelling offering. The something extra might be to offer depth of knowledge, accuracy, personalised service, total market access and speed of response.
The Future Of Executive Search & Recruitment
At SCG we believe the future of the industry must be built around providing targeted talent pools that offer genuine alternatives to clients when filling key positions. This idea of “succession planning” is not new. Organisations have had succession planning on the boardroom agenda (with varied degrees of success) for some time now. However, we would suggest that all succession planning should be outsourced to a trusted recruitment partner, because it is necessary to look outside (as well as inside) the company when considering the most suitable talent.
In this “total market succession plan” model, social media, when used well, offers us an opportunity to build an audience ahead of our clients’ needs to recruit or replace a member of their team. Our ongoing investment of time and energy coupled with a philanthropic approach to broadcasting advice and industry insight ensures that we develop a loyal audience of candidates, who are interested in what we have to say. This level of engagement and positive brand sentiment then allows us to proactively provide clients with a genuine talent pool of individuals who are specifically hand-picked for their superior, exclusive, or distinctive skills and experience. What’s more, the talent pool has already been identified and the investment of time into the relationship has already been spent. So the turn-around between a client’s need and the introduction being made is extremely short.
Under this model, the best way for a search firm to be truly effective for a client is when they spend their time and resources to ‘engage’ with potential employees on an ongoing basis. It’s not simply a case of posting jobs; it’s about creating an audience through a well-designed engagement strategy.
Thus, the recruitment firm of the future will be an ongoing business partner to their clients and the fee structure will reflect that commitment to each other. For example, SCG has a variety of pricing models; some that do away with placement fees altogether. We can do that because we offer a service that is built around a partnership framework. By working with an exclusive group of executive teams, we help strategically plan their workforce of the future and are able to devise ongoing strategies for the development and replacement of key roles within their companies.
Information & Engagement Is The New “Holy Grail”
If the challenge of businesses is no longer in gaining access to talent pools, the true value an executive search firm or recruitment company can offer is in understanding succession planning requirements for their clients, generating options tailored to the client, and engaging with appropriate talent pools in a permanent and ongoing manner so that those pivotal roles can be filled or replaced quickly, efficiently, and with minimum upheaval.
At the end of the day, it’s still about information, but it’s also about engagement. Understanding where the added value in the service lies is what will essentially mean the death knell for some recruitment firms and the stellar success of others. At SCG we welcome disruptive technologies because we believe that the continued focus on how we add value is essential. The good thing is that recruiters who don’t go the extra mile, recruiters who do not constantly evaluate and improve their service, will struggle. Merely having candidates on a database is not good enough anymore. At SCG we have embraced social media and treat it like the channel to market it is.