With over 20 years in the executive search business we have seen many shifts and trends in how companies are perceived by the talent they look to attract. None is more concerning than the loss of cache that seems to be occurring with some of the biggest names across many industries.
The reasons can be quite varied ranging from loss of leadership positioning due to more intense competition; poor stock or management performance reports; stigma by association to industries that have undergone reputational loss; lacking focus on innovation; seeming to be mired in old ways of doing things; high turnover that gives a “churn and burn” impression – and one that we are seeing more and more – constant reorganizations that, while done for the right business reasons, are not well communicated and give the external impression that things are not stable.
A look at some of the top names in their respective industries on glassdoor.com is startling in that it reveals that the ratings for employee satisfaction are quite poor – and the reasons for the low ratings are often tied to constant restructuring. “It’s OK” seems to have become the new acceptable standard for employee satisfaction. If that’s the best that the people working for the company can say about it, why would a high quality prospect be interested in joining the company?
We’ve seen an increasing challenge in attracting executive talent to top tier companies and have had to put much greater emphasis on selling the opportunities and dispelling the misconceptions prospects may have than was previously the case – the brand often no longer holds the same appeal that it did in the past. Often top tier companies have lost sight of how their employer brand is perceived in the market and are surprised that the calibre of people they want are not clamouring for their job.
One client that recently engaged us to find them a VP of Marketing was surprised that they had to engage an executive search firm as they felt they had a marketer’s dream job on offer. They had posted the assignment on multiple industry sites and, while receiving hundreds of applications, did not deem any of them worth an interview. They were attracting lots of people but not of the quality they were looking for. When we reached out and spoke to senior marketers the initial response was lukewarm. The market perception was that the company had gone through so many reorganizations that it was seen as no longer being a stable place to work. The question back to us was – why should I consider moving from a company where I am challenged and valued to a situation I see as risky? This was only aggravated by the “cattle call” approach the client previously took to looking for this senior executive. While we were happy to get the assignment, our work was certainly made harder by these circumstances.
We’re seeing this more and more – companies that are still trading strictly on their market dominance and not realizing that they have lost their cache as an employer. They continue to approach talent acquisition from the perspective of a “buyer” and an attitude that everyone would want to work here. That’s why they are so frequently surprised that they are not attracting the caliber of talent they want when they go to market directly. Attracting top talent is a sales process from end to end and requires presenting a compelling story, often correcting market perceptions, about the company and the opportunity.