Satisfying Client Talent Needs through Specialization

February 5, 2016 – When it comes to hiring, board directors, CHROs, talent acquisition leaders and senior-level functional heads all have one thing in common: They demand more from a search firm than to simply find them good talent.

Increasingly, recruiters have been responding by developing a solid comprehension of the niche requirements of any given business, both to help find the best people and to provide incisive advice about how to move forward into the future. Added services, like DHR International’s new assessment and leadership development business, are also becoming more common. In short, clients are increasingly receiving deeper, more holistic, service from search firms than ever before.

Geoff Hoffmann joined DHR International 17 year ago and since that time has been involved in every aspect of the business – from strategic planning, branding & public relations, corporate marketing, and internal recruiting to directing various functions and global operations. He was promoted to chief executive officer in 2012.

During his tenure, DHR began a global expansion drive that subsequently established offices in 13 countries with additional openings to follow. Geoff holds a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and entrepreneurship from Miami University and a Master of Business Administration in finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

In the following interview, Geoff discusses a number of key changes that are happening across the leadership solutions sector, and how the generalist approach to recruiting has been rendered largely ineffective today. He looks at brand building – for his own business as well as for clients – and how DHR’s entry into the expanding field of leadership advisory services will impact his business over the next five to 10 years.

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Geoff, DHR has had quite a growth curve over the last several years. Where do you see the firm in terms of size moving forward?

For DHR International, size is really a byproduct of our pursuit to provide the best possible service to our clients while attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry. We have been deliberately and methodically expanding our presence into markets and industries where we see opportunities for growth, and that strategy has expanded our footprint to 60 wholly-owned locations around the world. DHR is an organization that prides itself on a team-based, collaborative and entrepreneurial approach to relationships, both within the firm and with our clients. It is critical that we adhere to our core fundamentals that have driven our success over the past 26 years. That is why our cultural assessment of new hires is every bit as important as their professional accomplishments. Over the next five years our expansion efforts will continue to focus on our ability to best serve both existing and prospective clients, while continuing to build a team that fosters our unique industry approach.

Is there a danger is getting too large? 

A firm’s size largely depends on the philosophy, capital structure and shareholder expectations of the organization. As a privately held firm, our growth is driven by our clients’ needs and that of our partners around the world. In order to best serve diverse, multinational clients it is critical to have a team of consultants with a broad base of experience and global presence. The generalist approach to executive search has been rendered largely ineffective, and for more than a decade it has been essential to develop specific domain expertise in a functional or industry verticals to deliver the best possible service levels to clients. Specialization will continue to develop for the foreseeable future in our industry as even more specific niche markets are established. This means that a firm needs to have a sizable consultant base with experience that is relevant to not only a client’s general corporate team, but also to the hiring needs of its business unit managers. We have seen the hiring process at many major companies become more decentralized which highlights the importance of an industry or functional concentration. As a result, it has become commonplace for us to have multiple consultants involved in client relationships from both a geographic and industry perspective. This, in turn, has led to shorter execution times, stronger relationships and satisfied clients.

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DHR seems to be handling more C-level search work. True?

Proportionately speaking, I think that we have always been awarded our fair share of high profile assignments. Clearly, as a result of our growth, we are taking on more and more assignments with well-known clients as our brand awareness increases. But this has never been the focus of our efforts. We are intent on growing consultative partnerships with our clients by helping them achieve their growth objectives through recruiting world class leaders across their organizations. We are very excited to have recently launched our assessment and leadership development business as a means to provide even better results to our clients. Our new team will assist in the assessment of new and existing leaders of clients with our proprietary tool and top caliber team of experts. We remain very excited about our industry and especially for the outlook of our firm.

Will leadership advisory services, then, start to play a more integral role as part of DHR’s offerings?  

In the simplest of terms, clients are more sophisticated about talent management and taking a more integrated approach. They don’t simply want us to find and recruit talent, they want our help with on-boarding new recruits, advice on top team effectiveness, and our thoughts on succession planning and leadership development. The base of our industry is rooted in client relationships and because we know our client’s culture and their people so well, we are in a position to help them think more holistically about talent management challenges. Recruiting is one very important piece of the puzzle. But clients today want us to be a trusted advisor about a whole range of interwoven talent management issues.

What industry changes do you see on the horizon?

Throughout the industry, it’s important to help our clients be more proactive so we are able to anticipate their talent needs down the road. Today, we work closely with CEOs, boards and heads of HR to think about the client’s unique strategy and goals three to five years out. We then help clients think about the kinds of talent and capability they will need to successfully execute their strategy. Search consultants will need a more holistic mindset and deeper understanding in evaluating how new placements will likely fit into the client’s culture and step into broader leadership roles over time. We currently have the tools to make these changes and know that in the near future they will be the industry norm rather than the exception.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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