In the world of executive search, most searches conclude with a finalist candidate accepting a search firm-mediated client offer that establishes the agreed upon financial terms, start date and on-boarding initiative — important items to any new leader. However, many are surprised to hear that a search firm’s engagement with both client and candidate doesn’t have to end with placement. In fact, post-placement consultation and follow-up is perhaps the most important part of our firm’s search process.
In the course of connecting the next best leaders with the organizations who need them, search professionals become trusted advisors to both clients and candidates. During the 75-90 day engagement, we work hard to establish familiarity, comfort and trust with both sides. We extend that trusted adviser relationship by honing in on the efficacy of the placed candidate’s on-boarding and facilitating a smooth, first-year transition.
Consistent with industry standards, we guarantee our candidate placements for one year. However, we are never satisfied with this threshold alone. Like our clients, we consider a minimum of 3-5 years, and ideally 5-7 year tenures, as sufficient ROI. A well-executed on-boarding process — one that lasts at least a year — sets the new leader up for both short- and long-term success. When on-boarding is not taken seriously and executed strategically, the new leader’s tenure and organization’s ROI may both be short-lived and under-achieved.
At all costs, it is imperative that a search firm does its best to ensure that a new leader not only excels in Year One, but also thrives and transforms the organization for many years thereafter.
For starters, we advise our clients to allow a newly placed candidate to take a week or two after ending one job before starting anew. This allows the candidate to have a clear mind, undivided attention and laser-like focus on the new leadership role and challenge ahead.
Next, it is key that a new leader hits milestones, achieves objectives and attends to the priorities agreed upon with the board shortly after executing the employment agreement. Therefore, we schedule specific check-ins with placed candidates at the following intervals over their first year: Day 1, Day 7, Day 30, Day 60, Day 90 and Day 180.
At these checkpoints, we ensure that the new leader has a positive mental attitude about work imperatives, on-boarding and team leadership. We listen, observe and discern how they are feeling about the transition, alignment with the Board and the establishment and cultivation of productive relationships and strong partnerships with key stakeholders. We make note of any contraindications or issues that may need to be communicated and mediated.
Because candidates tend to build a trusted relationship with our search professionals, they often will confide in us that which they may not share as transparently with the Board/client. Particularly, in a new leader’s first 90 days, we want to ensure that promises made between the Board and the candidate during the search and within an employment agreement have been duly honored and, if not, determine where inconsistencies exist. When we become aware of challenges or sense red flags or disconnects, we set aside time to communicate discreetly and confidentially with the client. Our goal is to ensure that both parties address prevailing issues and challenges, clarify roles and responsibilities and ultimately align around expectations, KPIs, and Measure of First Year Success.
In essence, the search firm’s role in this coordinated, post-placement approach to new leader on-boarding, one that leverages candor and transparency, effectively helps our clients and placed candidates to “get out of their own way” and focus on what truly matters to take the organization to its next level of growth and development.
In summary, spanning the placed candidate’s entire first year, post-placement follow-up during and throughout the new leader’s first year is a vital component that both clients and candidates often underestimate and undervalue. By staying involved post-placement, an executive search firm delivers value-added service that sets the new leader up for long-term success by preventing derailment in Year One.