The Importance of A-Level Talent 

June 2, 2021 – Attracting and retaining top performing executives is the true lifeblood of successful organizations. Yet identifying and attracting them can be a challenging endeavor. Top performers, in leadership roles, will deliver about 50 percent more than the average and will improve their organization’s competitive position. But according to McKinsey & Company, 82 percent of Fortune 500 executives don’t believe that their companies recruit highly talented people.

There are many reasons organizations do not target A-Level talent: lack of resources, concern about internal pay inequities, lack of managerial confidence, chemistry/fit, etc. Organizations of all types, however, must strive to both attract and retain talent that will improve their competitive position, said Walter Baker, managing director of Cornerstone International Group, in a new report. “Specifically, organizations must develop and embrace a strategy that supports the hiring of talented executives,” said Mr. Baker. “They must live the concept that a rising tide floats all boats…that to win in the market they must accept new ideas, concepts, and recruit and retain top talent.”

“Speaking from experience as a member of a global executive search group, identifying ‘A’ talent is best accomplished using a disciplined process that must include four tangible measurements,” he said.

When incorporated into the executive search process, the following will facilitate an organization’s ability to identify and attract best-in-market talent:

1. Determine Current Organizational Position/Potential

“Often, the assumption is made that because candidates have worked for top performing competitors (or academy companies such as GE or P&G), that they are automatically a top talent,” said Cornerstone International Group. “With the cost of a mis-hire being more than four times annual cash compensation, this can be a costly assumption. Once you have identified potential candidates, but before you contact them, recruiters should speak with knowledgeable sources such as alumni of their company and competitors.”

“These pre-references will ensure a consistently higher level of candidate quality and help determine fit to the new organization,” the report said.

2. Ensure a Progressive Career Track

Ensure that the candidate has had progressively more responsibility throughout their career.  Has he or she made the appropriate decisions including agreeing to take on risky and more autonomous roles within their current or prior organizations?   Has he/she stayed in roles long enough to deliver consistent and high-level results?

Related: Executive Search Firms Adapting to the New Normal

Have job/company changes been made to further the career in terms of scope and responsibility, or just for more money? Is the candidate a job hopper, never staying with the same company for more than two to three years?

3. Assume that Compensation and Talent are Linked

Compensation levels often reflect the quality of the candidate. “This is a basic and irrefutable law of our open market economy,” said Cornerstone International Group. “Top talent commands top dollar, and quality candidates are typically compensated at a higher level than their peers.”

“While there are obvious exceptions, this is true over 80 percent of the time. For example, a general manager making $200,000 is more than likely a stronger candidate than a comparably experienced one making $125,000.”

Keep in mind that “A” players are well-compensated, and their respective organizations will fight hard to keep them with rich, comprehensive, and long-term packages. It will typically require a premium to pry them away.

4. Senior-Level References

After the initial references mentioned above, subsequent references must be conducted with senior line management highly familiar with the candidate.” Most senior level executives will readily agree to be a reference for an ‘A’ talent executive,” said the report. “Because of their rank and experience, they are the most candid and useful references.”

“In closing, identifying, attracting, and retaining ‘A’ talent is not an easy task, yet is paramount to the success of almost any organization,” said Cornerstone International Group. “While using these measurements will result in improved talent levels, they are not the only components of an overall recruitment plan.”

“For ultimate success in the market, management must commit to identify and hire individuals who will challenge them to take the business to the next level. Organizations must commit to a strategy of hiring the best person for the job, not the best person looking for a job.”

Related: Executive Search Enters a Pivotal Moment

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

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