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Retained Search: Ethics and Yield!

Two very different topics - just two of the many that came out in a recent Human Resources Executive Forum presentation entitled Center of Excellence Practices for Corporate Executive Staffing.  The presenter, Joe McCool, is considered one of the leading experts in the area of retained search.  He is commonly quoted in the press on this topic and has written a book, Deciding Who Leads, which explores the executive search practice.

Let's start with ethics.

This was actually the topic of our first Blog entry (December 1, 2009).  While there are multiple sub-topics that can be explored in this area, the concept of Off-Limits was mentioned.  For better or worse, there are no industry standards or guidelines in this area.  Each firm makes their own decisions.  Each client has their own expectations.  This is where the problems begin!

Have this as a discussion

It may sound like very basic and simple advice, but the key learning was to discuss ethics up-front.  I can personally tell you that in almost 500 searches, ethics has come up through the client less than 10 times.  (We like to bring it up - at which point it becomes an interesting discussion).  The client needs to have an understanding of this area and its implications.  NOT discussing it is where search firm horror-stories often start.

So what is YIELD?

Do you know where your good people are coming from?  YIELD is my term for the topic.  When I worked for Pillsbury, I was asked if we were 'better off' hiring experienced people over new college graduates (MBA students who had 2 to 7 years of work experience prior to leaving work and getting their MBA on a fulltime basis). My response was that I did not know (I was in my first 30 days as Staffing Manager at Pillsbury so this was an acceptable response).  We actually performed a study looking at performance and potential rankings for employees from the marketing areas (to start) over the previous 10 years of hiring.  The results - amazingly different by source.  Not all the search firms we used did well; not all of the colleges we visited produced great results.  My boss' boss at the time had a saying:  "When in doubt, count."  We learned an amazing amount.

It takes time to focus on talent management

The (YIELD) message, from the presentation and as a result of actually studying this at Pillsbury, was a simple one - take the time to look at the results of your talent acquisition sources and processes.  Not all methods (or firms) are equal.  Knowing your best methods will help the entire organization.