Game Changing Assessment Tools Coming to a Recruiter Near You

October 6, 2016 – Organizations everywhere are looking for better ways to recruit and retain good quality people to drive effectiveness, and performance, in their business. Executive search firms are stepping up with an array of leadership assessment services that are starting to make massive strides in the field of predictive analytics. But not all of them have candidate assessment tools to offer clients. That’s about to change — big time.

London-based advisory firm ALC is launching a new assessment tool, ALC Insights, next week that some are saying could revolutionize the way talent assessment is delivered, and who delivers it.

This latest assessment offering is designed to fill a knowledge gap in the hiring process and, once employed, according to ALC founding partner, Tim Connolly, in just a matter of hours it could provide a more complete and dynamic profile of any candidate being screened.

Off-the-Shelf Tool for Search Firms

Once launched, the new product will serve as a complimentary tool for heads of HR and talent acquisition leaders. But what makes it really unique is that this off-the-shelf assessment tool can be licensed by any search firm. That, its founder said, could level the playing field in this hotly contested new area of executive search and leadership solutions services.

Partner Allison Hughes leads ALC’s assessment practice. With over 10 years in executive search, her experience is complemented by years of broader HR consulting work. She has run her own search business in London and, more recently, headed up the business development and marketing activity for a global training provider. She recently qualified as an executive and personal coach.

She is joined by Dr. Lucy Rattrie, who serves as head of the firm’s executive assessment practice. Dr. Rattrie is a chartered psychologist and has 10 years of experience in assessment, providing consulting advice to clients globally.

Value-Metric Science

“What I like about ALC Insights and what differentiates it from other tools is that it is based on value-metric science,” said Dr. Rattrie. “It examines why, not how, people behave in a certain way, taking assessments to a whole new level.”

The firm’s assessment tool combines three intrinsically linked areas, allowing for a more thorough picture of a candidate. They are:

Emotional Intelligence: This identifies how someone thinks and makes decisions, and it pinpoints natural talents as well as potential blockers to enable development and improve decision making;

Value Structure: This identifies what drives the individual, how to reward them, what provides motivation and, ultimately, what influences their thoughts, feelings and behaviors;

Behavioral States: This identifies ‘natural’ and ‘adapted’ behaviors, identifying the desirable environment in which the individual can be effective, as well as their current stress levels.

All of this, said Mr. Connolly, serves to create insights into an individual’s talents and strengths, how they think and make decisions, prefer to be communicated with, the environments that allow them to breathe, where they would add value in a team, what truly rewards and motivates them, preferred learning styles, the management and leadership that will be most effective, what risks are present under stress and how they will likely respond and react.

A Mass Offering

“In essence, what’s coming to the global executive search market is a fresh new way to look at talent, from the top down and side to side,” said Scott A. Scanlon, founding chairman and CEO of Hunt Scanlon Media, based in Greenwich, CT.

“This is an area that for years has been entrusted to Egon Zehnder, Spencer Stuart and the other large branded search outfits,” said Mr. Scanlon. “That’s changing now. Talent assessment is about to become a mass offering and it will soon flip the recruiting profession on its head.”

Mr. Scanlon said while talent identification remains a key component to the core service recruiters provide, it is a shrinking one. “Clients want, expect and demand more since they’ve now joined in on the identification game themselves.”

“Our assessment tool provides an illuminated view of talent,” said Mr. Connolly. “Organizations everywhere, as you rightfully say, are desperately seeking better ways to recruit, develop and retain quality people to drive performance in their business.” The truth of the matter, he said, “is that when you hire someone, you don’t know much about them. Existing recruiting efforts seek to fill this gap, yet lack reliability and can be superficial.”

ALC’s tool essentially fills this gap and helps to mitigate risk with an evidence-based approach to provide both confidence in hiring decisions and a more detailed picture of the ’true’ candidate, thus removing any masks or impressions and to ensure the right talent decision is made. Its system, said Mr. Connolly, is based upon the world’s leading humanistic technology, developed by Nobel Peace Prize nominees.

Taking the Search Industry by Storm

According to its founder, ALC’s assessment tool has a validity score of 94.8 percent, 25 percent higher than almost every assessment tool out there. “It is designed specifically for the search and recruitment industry to use for themselves and for their clients,” he added. It is tested every 90 days and is currently used in 27 countries with multinational FTSE clients.

“We provide knowledge of a candidate that is not achievable by any other means in a way that clients can truly rely on,” said Mr. Connolly. “The decisions that can be made from such powerful information are fantastic,” he said.

“We know corporate executives are skilled, talented professionals, who have mastered their environments, but the best approach when seeking them out as job candidates is to understand what makes them tick, remove any covers that have built up, and to get to their core,” said Mr. Connolly. “Once we have an illuminated view of the executive, we can truly understand both what they can bring to a role and what they need to flourish.”

Offering assessment services is a natural extension for executive recruiters and has been dominated by five key players for close to three decades (some might argue even longer). According to recruiters at Spencer Stuart, management assessment improves the quality of searches, enhances the reputation of clients and candidates and leads to a more reliable process that increases an executive’s longevity, known as the ‘stick rate’ in executive search parlance. For small search firms and mid-sized boutiques that haven’t been able to invest in assessment technology, this generic, one-size fits-all tool might be the answer to their prayers.

“ALC is in a uniquely privileged position in that its clients are search firms and this assessment tool is the only one of its kind designed for the industry,” Mr. Connolly said. The assessment tool can be tailored specifically for the use of a particular search firm or for a particular client of a search firm, or for the recruitment of a particular job function within a company, further increasing its hoped-for relevance. “Given that this assessment tool is much more robust and leagues ahead of its competition, we expect it to take the search industry by storm,” Mr. Connolly concluded.

Assessment Tools Gaining Traction

Some search firms see it a different way, and are either partnering with analytics platform providers or designing their own custom-made assessment tools.

Executive search firm Allen Austin recently partnered with ENGAGE, a sourcing intelligence platform that combines big data and predictive analytics to identify potential targets, to increase overall business intelligence, and enhance sourcing efficiency. The firm forged the alliance as it looked for productive technology to improve speed, execution and growth predictability, particularly one with advancements in analytics.

“Utilizing our proprietary Foresight (strategy focused on long-term relationships) process in combination with ENGAGE’s predictive analytics, we are potentially cutting our research and candidate development time by half,” said Rob Andrews, Allen Austin chairman and CEO. “These powerful analytics will enhance speed of execution and support our commitment of bringing our clients the best possible talent in the market, not just a suitable slate.”

Russell Reynolds Associates, one of the ‘Big Five’ assessment providers, recently formed a partnership with Hogan Assessments, a global provider of personality assessment and leadership development. The alliance is designed to increase the success rate of executive appointments and accelerate the development of rising leaders. It combines Russell Reynolds’ expertise in advising senior executives and boards on executive search and succession planning with Hogan’s suite of assessment instruments, data assets and scientific acumen.

“The cost of betting on the wrong leader has never been higher,” said Reynolds’ chief executive officer Clarke Murphy. “That said, innovation in the executive assessment space has not kept pace with the rate of change confronting senior executives.”

Mr. Murphy said the initial stage of working with Hogan will be “sharply focused” on the creation of an assessment approach that is purpose-built to predict success (both short- and long-term) in senior executive roles. “For decision-makers, ‘increasing predictability’ really means ‘reducing risk,’” he said. “The risk associated with executive selection and hiring has always been high. But, as executive roles have become more complex, the risk of making the wrong hiring decision has increased meaningfully.”

Options Group, a boutique search provider, recently named Debbie Freer as head of OGNext, the firm’s classified strategic initiative. Its market intelligence unit, OG iQ, provides solutions in culture assessments as well as competency assessment, metrics, identification of key talent, and benchmarking.

Marlin Hawk Launches ATHENA

Then, there’s ATHENA. One search firm that is making big investments in the sphere of candidate assessment analytics is global talent consultancy boutique Marlin Hawk. The firm is launching its new assessment tool, ATHENA, today after a 12-month development cycle and positive client feedback from beta tests.

ATHENA uses a potent blend of science and art to deconstruct a candidate’s DNA and identify their talent gene. In effect, it takes talent assessment to heights not seen in the executive search business before.

“These other assessment developments certainly move the ball up the field”, said Mark Oppenheimer, Marlin Hawk’s New York-based 32-year old chief commercial & innovation officer. But this Millennial has instead chosen to put his firm’s weight behind its own ‘bespoke’ assessment tool that better supports its methodology. Mr. Oppenheimer, its chief architect, said ATHENA is already yielding superior results. “We use it for executive search, benchmarking and succession planning,” he said. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess.

It is not surprising to see the latest technology and science-driven launch in C-suite recruiting come from this leadership advisory firm. From its four offices in London, New York, San Francisco and Hong Kong, Marlin Hawk has built a reputation for disrupting the industry and, along the way, inventing new ways to serve clients. While its core focus remains finding world class sector leaders and visionaries, it is gaining strength in such diverse, but interconnected, fields such as organizational analysis, compensation benchmarking, micro intelligence, leadership benchmarking, interim management, succession planning and nearly all aspects of talent planning and candidate pipelining.

Discovering the Leaders of Tomorrow

An enticing assessment launch comes this week from Marlin Hawk. Branded ‘ATHENA,’ it is a behavioral & personality assessment analytics tool designed to peel back the layers to uncover a candidate’s deeper personality and tendencies. Mark Oppenheimer, its chief architect, gives us a sneak peak at ATHENA in this just-produced ‘Talent Talks’ podcast. Listen Now.


Mr. Oppenheimer asserts that assessing on skills for a specific role is not enough anymore and that it is a candidate’s “thinking ability and aptitude that are the real game changers.” Marlin Hawk’s unique tool is branded ATHENA after the Greek goddess, a name that intentionally suggests a fusion of wisdom, courage, inspiration, justice, mathematics, strategy, arts and crafts.

“Our tool is a hybrid, engineered from the best practice of numerous cognitive, behavioral and personality tools, combined with Marlin Hawk’s own extensive experience,” he said. “It peels back the layers to uncover a candidate’s deeper personality and tendencies, revealing how they are wired and what motivates them to succeed.”

Future potential – rather than past experience – is the holy grail of candidate assessment, said Mr. Oppenheimer. “So the most valuable attributes to assess are potential, drive-through, strategic intelligence, organizational adaptability, cultural maturity, emotional intelligence, coachability —  these are now the most valuable talent assets to assess for,” he said. “Once we have pinpointed game changing leadership potential, our clients can put in the right framework and talent management processes to unlock it.”

“The majority of search consultants assess purely on skills for a specific role,” he added. “And, historically, this has worked. But now with improvements in technology, there’s a whole new way to look at talent.”

Therefore, when assessing for those people who can change the way an industry is perceived, for example, Mr. Oppenheimer said their basic skills become only “a small piece of what we need to be looking at to determine who they really are” and the impact they are likely to make.

“ATHENA is the most advanced, yet practical, assessment tool in the executive search industry today,” said Mr. Scanlon. “By delving into candidates’ inherent abilities, values and potential, it reveals how they are wired and what motivates them to succeed. It charts their life journey and future trajectory, identifying the stars of tomorrow who will shape the future.”

The Risks of Bad Hiring

In a forthcoming interview conducted with Hunt Scanlon Media’s editorial board, Russell Reynolds Associates ‘ new U.S. region head, Constantine Alexandrakis, said that when he looks ahead he sees challenges on two fronts.

“Boards and executive teams are under more scrutiny than ever before – whether from shareholders, institutional investors, or even employees. This significantly raises the stakes for the talent they seek,” he said.

The risk associated with executive selection and hiring has always been high, he noted, “but as executive roles have become more complex, the risk of making the wrong hiring decision has increased meaningfully – and the cost of executive failure has jumped dramatically.”

Leaders, he added, now have access to far more information on their talent – through both improvements in human capital development as well as highly advanced third-party talent related tools. “This has the effect of blurring the lines between what companies can do on their own and where executive search firms can help.”

Mr. Alexandrakis said that CEOs and boards are no longer content with “Rolodex-based search strategies or vanilla search services” – rather, he admitted, they are now more interested in services that span the full executive talent lifecycle.

“Clients expect their search partners to offer thoughtful, consultative guidance and deep insight – from defining a role, to selecting a successful candidate, to planning for succession, driving business transformation through talent, and rebalancing culture. In many ways, we are as much in the retention business today as we are the search business.”

Opportunity for Russell Reynolds Associates and other search firms, he added, “lies in helping to increase predictability, which in many ways really means ‘reducing risk.’ Clients, he said, “look for us to bring specific advice and market insight – but they expect that insight to be supported by data and evidence. If you’re trying to compete on superior access to basic information, you’re going to lose every time. To win, you need to bring real insight to the table.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Adam Shapiro, Director Marketing & Brand Management

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