August 24, 2016 – Training in the executive search profession has fallen off in recent years, pushing recruiting chief Jeff Kaye to make it his mission to put a strong emphasis on the task. Jeff is chief executive of Kaye / Bassman – Sanford Rose, the 10th largest search firm in the Americas, but he also heads up Next Level Exchange which provides on-demand training for recruitment professionals globally.
Jeff points out that the barriers to entry in the search profession are lower than almost any other line of work. “We essentially train ourselves. What we lack is a centralized resource representing what I deem a ‘recruiter university’ — a place where search professionals can come to learn the fundamentals of our business and where tenured veterans can offer up best practices and assist in the development of future high potential leaders in our field.”
According to Jeff, it is critical to set up an equivalency program with a dedicated mission to elevate the competencies of search professionals, and thus the reputation of their industry. When asked why the search industry has turned a blind eye on internal training and learning practices, Jeff said that “illogically, training is somehow synonymous with new hires.”
Yet, he says, “can you imagine if your physician never attended conferences and relied on the same surgical techniques he or she learned in medical school? Why should our industry be any different?” Not only does ongoing learning and development benefit clients and candidates, he adds, but it allows “even the most tenured of professionals to add to their toolbox.”
Jeff goes on to say that some organizations view training as something that is appropriate for sales professionals but not consultants. Yet the recruiting profession requires a skill-set similar to a sales professional. Being able to persuade a targeted candidate to consider the possibility of change is no easy task, says Jeff. “I am perplexed at how some organizations can lure successful professionals from their respective industries — who have gone through years, if not decades, of training — and then try to integrate them without paying heed to their learning, training, or professional development needs,” he says.
Link Between Training and Retention
Having a focus on training search professionals has additional benefits as well. “Train to retain is not just a cliché, but rather a proven strategy,” says Jeff. “Employee loyalty is not eviscerated, it has simply evolved. Whether voiced or not, recruiters are always conscious of the value proposition offered by their firm,” Jeff adds.
“In nature, plants are either growing or dying – they do not survive in a stagnant environment. Humans are the same; if we do not provide opportunities for growth, boredom and stagnation set in.” Retention rates, he says, are directly linked with training as ongoing development serves as the catalyst for the growth needed not only to sustain a long term career, but to strengthen the value proposition that becomes imperative.
The importance of training has been at the forefront of many companies outside the recruiting sector. All companies today recognize that strong leaders are the most important source of growth, inspiration, and long term employee engagement. “Therefore, many organizations are taking a much more active role to ensure that managers are trained to inspire employees, share their expertise, and offer opportunities for growth,” says Jeff. “Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, said: ‘Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish,'” Jeff adds.
“Empowering employees and boosting their self-worth breeds trust, and that trust breeds loyalty,” says Jeff. “Loyalty is earned, and more leaders are being tasked to preserve the human connection within their organization. This is done by enabling the successes of others, improving the performance of others, giving meaning to tasks, and modeling the behaviors you expect. The simplest formula is quality hires plus meaningful development equals increased retention.”
The Cost Savings, and Importance, of Training
Another benefit of good talent training is that it can also save companies money. In a recent study by the American Society of Training and Development results showed that ‘leading-edge’ companies trained 86 percent of employees while ‘average’ companies trained only 74 percent. Leading edge companies also spent twice as much per employee. Companies that invest the most in workplace learning yielded higher net sales per employee, higher gross profits per employee, and a higher ratio in market-to-book values.
In relation to the search industry, ironically, Jeff says that the search firms that spend the most on training have higher producers and more profitability; the less successful firms claim they will wait to invest in training until they are more profitable. “The most valuable asset of any organization is its people,” he says. “As such, an organization’s greatest cost is hiring the wrong people, the opportunity cost of failing to hire the right people, and the lack of productivity and low morale that ensues. The solutions to these issues is to spend more on learning, yet most companies facing these issues spend less and this creates the downward spiral to which we’re so accustomed.”
Changes are still to come in training as the world of predictive data analytics, virtual reality, behavioral sciences and the like will continue to drive the future. According to Jeff, it is the mediums, methodologies, and approaches that will change drastically, not the concepts of what recruiting professionals will learn.
“Ten years ago, Next Level migrated from DVDs to one of the first online recruiting educational platforms in our industry. The transformation 10 years from now will be exponential. I guess if I had to put my Nostradamus hat on, I believe training, learning, interviewing, and even hiring will be most transformed by advancements in virtual reality.” One thing Jeff says he knows for certain: “Nothing will ever replace the importance of personal communication and meaningful relationships with clients, candidates, and colleagues.”
Contributed by Chase Barbe, Vice President Media and Digital Content, Hunt Scanlon Media and Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media