May 15, 2015 – Collectively, the five largest global talent leadership providers enjoyed a healthy nine percent revenue rise in 2014, powered by double digit growth rates at Spencer Stuart and Russell Reynolds Associates. Together, the Big Five brought in $3.384 billion in global consulting fees for the year. But bragging rights clearly belong to the industry’s leader, Korn Ferry, as it reached undoubtedly the most important milestone in its storied 46-year lifespan: $1 billion in annual revenues. Korn Ferry has held onto the No. 1 spot in both Hunt Scanlon’s U.S./Americas and Big Five global rankings for the last decade. But it hasn’t come easy; the firm considered a bankruptcy option just seven years ago as the global Great Recession weighed down heavily on its business. The firm’s leadership team retooled Korn Ferry’s model, setting it on a new trajectory that dovetailed perfectly with the new rising economy.
Talent management integration is now at the heart of Korn Ferry’s strategy, with its recruiting business taking a back seat to more urgent requests from clients to assess, test, and validate people – leaving the identification of new talent in many instances to the companies themselves. It is a major shift happening across the Big Five and who emerges as the new talent integration leader is still up for grabs. In the next year or two half of Korn Ferry’s revenues will likely come from its leadership/talent consulting and Futurestep businesses.
“If you’re a large, global player there’s enormous pressure to offer an integrated package of talent and leadership solutions,” said Scott Scanlon, managing editor of this year’s rankings reports. “Identifying leaders doesn’t take what it used to with the right social media tools at hand. What’s in vogue now is assessing talent, integrating people and teams into cultures, and predicting leadership success. It is the greatest realignment ever to hit this sector and a watershed moment for its leaders.”
Hunt Scanlon estimates that roughly 23 percent of the revenues produced at the Big Five now emanates from non-core, or non-search-related, services. These include leadership assessment, talent audit, leader- ship strategy, succession planning, employee development and integration counsel, culture shaping, onboarding, recruitment process outsourcing and inclusion consulting. Korn Ferry is at one end, with 40 percent of its business coming from non-recruiting advisory services; at the other end is Spencer Stuart, Heidrick & Struggles, and Russell Reynolds Associates, each at about 10 percent. Egon Zehnder, long a talent leadership integrator, takes about 30 percent of its revenues from clients seeking advice above and beyond their recruitment needs.