Competing in the War for Talent

The candidate experience, the quality of recruiting, and diversity & inclusion are becoming vital to the recruitment process, says Stuart Leibach of McDermott & Bull. Special attention to a client’s needs still goes a long way as well.

April 8, 2019 – With the arrival of spring, 2019 is looking to be another strong year for the executive search industry. A recently released report by Bullhorn found that 79 percent of recruiting firms expect revenues to increase this year.

To succeed going forward, recruiting firms must be innovative to compete in the war for skilled talent.

Stuart Leibach, principal consultant for McDermott & Bull, recently shared his perspective on what his client’s needs are in today’s marketplace and other key trends for recruiting in 2019.

“The candidate experience and the quality of the recruiting process are extremely important to prospective employees and employers today,” Mr. Leibach said. “A candidate’s criteria for choosing to work for a company goes beyond name recognition. The executives we see are hyper-focused on culture, work styles, benefits and future growth opportunities, and the companies we serve are laser focused on delivering that message to potential employees.”

“The desire to find opportunities that match a person’s values and skills is stronger now than ever before,” he said. “Some of this sentiment can be attributed to a tight labor market.”

Mr. Leibach points to a 2019 CEW Job Market report that showed that 66 percent of candidates said their experience as a candidate had a material impact on their employment decision. Factors such as the number and quality of their interviews, as well as a company’s compelling brand story, were key factors in their decision making. “In my experience, the personalized approach we take as a retained search firm reinforces and enhances the candidate experience, particularly at the senior executive level,” he said. “This often presents a conflict for contingent search firms who may be focused on volume at the expense of quality.”

Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity in leadership and inclusivity are key trends that Mr. Leibach found based on his conversations with senior executives. “Well-represented organizations have a clear advantage over others,” he said.

But what are the readiness factors to building a more diverse team? Last year was a big year for diversity and inclusion, said Mr. Leibach, citing a recent article in Forbes. Many companies created successful D&I strategies, while others were challenged to create a culture of inclusion.

“The first step is to examine your purpose: Why do you want to build a more diverse and inclusive organization?” asked Mr. Leibach. “Is it because you want better statistics for the annual report, or is it because you want to enhance diversity of thought through disruption and creativity? Do you want your team to reflect the demographics and psychographics of your consumers?”

Wilton & Bain Joins Inclusive Culture Pledge
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is becoming increasingly important for both employers and employees. Research has shown that diverse businesses are 35 percent more likely to financially outperform their industry’s national average. For potential job hunters, 67 percent now consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor when considering job offers. Recently, London-based executive search firm Wilton & Bain joined leading companies from a range of sectors and industries in signing the Inclusive Culture Pledge, an initiative managed by the EW Group, a diversity consultancy.

Throughout 2019, the search firm will receive specialist support in the following areas: gender pay gap, inclusive leadership, inclusive recruitment, cultural intelligence, measuring success and accessible communications.

McKinsey & Company research supports the value of diverse leadership to an organization’s long-term success, and it starts with a clear understanding of your company’s goals and objectives. “Once you’ve defined why you want a more diverse and inclusive organization, you’ll want to stay keenly aware of the impact (positive or negative) new thinking, broader backgrounds, unique stories, and varying points of view, may have on your business,” said Mr. Leibach.

Related: Key Activities to Drive Diversity and Inclusion Strategies

In many instances creative disruption can drive tremendous progress for an organization. “It will be critically important to develop a strategy around how to successfully integrate new talent, while establishing best practices to ensure all voices are heard,” said Mr. Leibach. “There is a clear opportunity to lead in this area as companies are now only beginning to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

Proven Track Record

Mr. Leibach is a member of McDermott & Bull’s national consumer products and retail practice, based out of the firm’s New York City office. With expertise in scaling and operating both private and public consumer products and retail businesses, he has a long track record of assembling high performing executive teams. Throughout his career, Mr. Leibach has led culture transformations and been instrumental in selecting executive talent. This includes C-suite members and senior management in the areas of sales, distribution, merchandising, marketing, operations, finance, supply chain, human resources and technology.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Executive Search is Ready for Disruption

Mr. Leibach recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss what executive roles are in highest demand and how McDermott & Bull can help organizations fill their senior talent needs.


Stuart, what executive roles are in highest demand within your areas of expertise of consumer products and retail?

With an increase in M&A activity, particularly in the middle market, we are definitely experiencing an increase in demand for CFO and finance-related positions. Private equity firms and boards are seeking objective, fresh, financial leadership and innovative business strategies. Their goals are twofold: to protect their investments and move quickly to reach financial targets. In addition, digital initiatives are breaking new ground and opening new roles in the areas of IT, eCommerce and marketing. According to a recent RSM digital transformation survey, 72 percent of organizations will increase digital spending in the next three years. In addition, 69 percent of the CFOs that were surveyed, share or own the responsibility for leading digital transformation initiatives. In marketing, brand building and storytelling remain important, but we are also seeing an increased desire for data-driven marketing expertise and the use of consumer behavior insights to influence marketing strategies. This is particularly true for mature brands and established retail and consumer packaged goods companies looking to compete with the smaller and at times more agile newcomers to the market.

“The top challenge hiring managers faced last year was finding candidates with the right cultural fit.”

Related: Growing Influence of Private Equity Pushing Recruiters to Deliver Value…

In terms of new digital initiatives, what effect is this having on talent acquisition?

Generation Y and Z consumers are less brand loyal and more willing to experiment with new, less traditional, independent and celebrity brands. Their first point of entry to explore the market is in digital, so this is where some of the shift is happening. Larger companies, who have invested big in the mobile and digital experience, are facing the challenges of retaining and continuing to develop their digital talent. The 2019 CEW Job Market report I referred to earlier also cited extremely high talent mobility within the space. It noted that 87 percent of employees in the beauty industry, for example, believe they can find a comparable or better role elsewhere. In addition, 43 percent were open to a job change in the next 12 months. With these kinds of numbers, we have seen an uptick in companies seeking retained search professionals to help them find and hire top digital and marketing talent at the director-level and above.

With all of the options companies have for selecting a search partner, how does McDermott + Bull differentiate itself?

We serve our clients like no other firm by putting to work the resources and methodology of larger global organizations with the high level of engagement of a boutique firm. The feedback we get from many of our clients and candidates, particularly those from the middle market, is that they do not get the attention or feel adequately served by larger search firms. When evaluating talent, we understand that qualifications and experience can take candidates only so far. In a recent poll I conducted within my own network, the top challenge hiring managers faced last year was finding candidates with the right cultural fit. We take the time to really get to know our clients and “fit” remains our primary focus from day one. In addition, now more than ever, speed and efficiency have taken center stage. Finding the right leadership fit within a finite period of time can materially impact the financial performance of our clients. As a former business owner, I understand the sense of urgency each search has on our clients. And as a firm, we have made it our mission to reduce the time it takes to find the right talent for critical roles. As a Six Sigma-trained organization, our time to fill is faster than industry standards, and those saved days equate to higher ROI for our clients.

Related: A Bright and Busy Future for Executive Recruiters

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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