The Bridge Between Talent and Value

Executive search consultants have become trusted advisors, partnering with organizations to navigate the complex landscape of talent acquisition. Much has changed within the search sector since Judith von Seldeneck started Diversified Search Group over 50 years ago. She recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to look at how the sector evolved from simply matching candidates with positions to providing comprehensive talent solutions and strategic consulting!

April 10, 2024 – In a world where organizations are driven by talent, the executive search industry plays a critical role in identifying and placing top professionals in key positions. From mid-level roles to the C-suite and boards of directors, recruiters serve as the bridge between talent and value across all industries and sectors. But the world of executive search, and the human capital industry more broadly, has witnessed monumental changes over the past few years as companies. In particular private equity firms have really started to understand the key role that talent plays in the equation, and thus the crucial role of executive search firms as strategic partners, according to Judith von Seldeneck, founder and chair of Diversified Search Group (DSG).

“With this understanding has been an influx of capital from investment funds, as well as a diversification of offerings from talent firms including fractional placements and executive coaching, to expansion of industries and geographies,” she said.

“Over the past 50 years since I started Diversified Search Group, the executive search industry has evolved from simply matching candidates with positions to providing comprehensive talent solutions and strategic consulting,” said Ms. von Seldeneck. “Today, executive search firms have become trusted advisors, partnering with organizations to navigate the complex landscape of talent acquisition. Because, at the end of the day, executive search is not just about filling positions; it’s about finding the right fit—the individuals who can drive innovation, lead transformation, and shape the future of organizations.”

At the core of every organization is the talent who helps bring the value to each organization and fundamental to this is a diversity of thought so that innovation can result, according to Ms. von Seldeneck. She explains that this vital function extends beyond corporate roles to key positions in education, non-profit organizations, and other sectors globally, as demonstrated through the six firms making up Diversified Search Group and the expertise that the specialty practices provide.

Related: Executive Recruiting Sector Declines 12 Percent

“The impact of executive search is far-reaching, and continues to influence the direction and success of businesses and institutions worldwide,” Ms. von Seldeneck said. “Yet while there has been this change, still at the heart of talent is executive search; it’s the high quality work of executive search that drives revenue and, if you do that right, everything else falls into place.”

Private Equity’s Impact

Recognizing the value and potential of the executive search industry, private equity firms have made strategic investments in numerous search firms in order to unlock inorganic growth. Ms. von Seldeneck witnessed firsthand the benefits that private equity can bring to the industry, through DSG’s partnership with Shoreview Capital. Shoreview Capital helped DSG grow inorganically and scale past what would have been possible: the two firms have done six acquisitions together and grown from 40 million to 150 million.

Diversified Search Group Acquires Yardstick Management
Diversified Search Group acquired Yardstick Management, a black-owned management consulting and executive search firm. As a part of this acquisition, Yardstick Management Institute, a specialized leadership program designed for leaders and senior executives, also becomes part of Diversified Search Group. “With this acquisition, we are continuing to advance Diversified Search Group’s purpose and decades-long commitment to investing in our clients’ long-term success as they respond to the evolving environment with a focus on innovation, resiliency, and growth,” said Aileen K. Alexander, chief executive officer of Diversified Search Group. “Yardstick offers unmatched expertise and scalable, actionable solutions to clients who are looking to create more inclusive cultures and achieve higher levels of engagement and performance.”

Headquartered in Atlanta, Yardstick Management brings extensive expertise in management consulting and data-driven business solutions. Yardstick’s team has a track record of providing organizational strategy, diversity, equity, inclusion consulting and solutions, and executive search expertise to organizations across multiple industries. Their clients span hundreds of companies, non-profit and social impact organizations, and higher education institutions. The firm was founded in 2012.

“I firmly believe that when done well, these investments provide the industry with the necessary resources to expand, innovate, and invest in related sectors,” said Ms. von Seldeneck. “The partnership between private equity and executive search firms has created a synergy that facilitates growth and enhances the overall capabilities of the industry, because at the end of the day, it all gets back to client expectations. The relationship with the client is the most critical relationship we have and if these investments can help firms expand their benefits, then our clients will ultimately benefit.”

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

While it wasn’t always this way, the executive search industry is now at the forefront of promoting diversity and inclusion in key positions, something directly at the core of Diversified Search Group’s philosophy. “When I started this firm in 1974, we were focused on helping women find corporate jobs,” Ms. von Seldeneck said. “There were a great many qualified women working in non-profit at the time and their jobs were akin to those in the corporate world. Therefore, we determined that a female professional working in non-profit could transition very successfully to a similar career in the corporate world. This history is fundamental to the way we have continued to approach executive search in the 50 years since.”

“We are the first top 10 search firm to have had a CEO of color, and the only top 10 search firm currently with a female CEO, Aileen Alexander,” said Ms. von Seldeneck. “You cannot unlock the true value of an organization if you are leaving out a large portion of the qualified candidates, whether by not considering them in the first place, or by failing to create a culture of inclusion. Similarly, diversity of thought leading organizations is crucial to a top-down push for an inclusive culture. By championing diversity, equity and inclusion, the industry ensures that organizations benefit from a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and talents to innovate and growth.”

Looking Ahead

Like any industry, Ms. von Seldeneck notes that executive search faces its own set of challenges. “The ever-increasing competition, changing market dynamics, and evolving client expectations require search firms to stay agile and innovative,” she says. “Growth is important, but it has to be handled responsibly. Organizations need to support the entire team with a strategy to get bigger and better and at the same time, while a firm is growing, culture cannot be taken for granted; taking care of people and the leadership is really key to that.”

Recruiters are on the front lines, placing talented professionals in roles that will shape the future of organizations and acting as talent advisors through leadership consulting, fractional placements and more, according to Ms. von Seldeneck. “It’s an industry where every placement has the potential to make a transformative impact,” she said. “And while 2023 was a challenging year for many executive search firms, given the macroeconomic climate, it was also an interesting year for the industry, with more M&A activity and greater changes to the way we approach talent. This is opening the doors to what should be an exciting 2024 to come.”

Related: 10 Benefits of Using an Executive Search Firm

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

Share This Article


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments