August 16, 2018 – Finding and successfully integrating the right talent is critical to success – but it’s no easy task. And losing a recent hire can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in time lost, damaged client relationships, misdirected personnel resources, recruiting costs and potential revenue.
Inadequate preparation, pressure on a hire to gain traction quickly, slowed collaboration or wariness of the new hire, and unrealistic expectations on everyone’s part can derail a smooth integration. Of course, a successful integration depends on both parties involved. A new report by Beecher Reagan Advisors, however, shows how to avoid common pitfalls by focusing on three phases of integration: commercial, cultural and operational.
Commercial integration involves a firm’s efforts to introduce and plug a senior experienced hire into client relationships, the report said. Most firms understand this phase well – indeed, many make the mistake of focusing solely on it – but fail to realize that commercial traction takes time. While the “honeymoon period” used to be 18 months, there is growing pressure to understand whether a hire will succeed or fail much sooner. Beecher Reagan offered the following steps to help firms take a step back and better facilitate a hire’s commercial integration:
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Plan. During the hiring process, prepare a go-to-market strategy that clearly delineates how the new hire will contribute to the firm’s business objectives in their first three to six months. When non-compete agreements are in place, though, the firm should focus on increasing its share of wallet with current clients by harnessing the new hire’s content and relationship skills.
Act. Promptly send out announcements, update web material and rework marketing materials so that clients and firm members have access to the profile of the new hire and the hire can start forging relationships. Have them participate in client conversations and jump in on projects from the get-go.
Continue. Allow 12 to 18 months for the new hire to gain commercial traction and three years for your investment to mature, but expect to see trends starting to develop around six months in.
No two cultures are the same, so firms must help a new hire adjust to the new environment, the report said. While commercial integration is mostly outward-facing, cultural integration focuses on the intangible benefits that internal efforts – including a supportive, collaborative environment – can bring to the process. Many firms underestimate the importance of the more inward-facing steps to integration, potentially leaving their new hire feeling out of the loop. Beecher Reagan said that proper preparation calls for the following:
Plan. Organize both informal and formal social events, including welcoming team meals and cocktail events. Invite firm leadership, the new hire’s teams and their family to these various social gatherings. Connectivity is critical to success.
Act. Schedule presentations, interviews and informal group meetings, and send out internal communication to establish familiarity. Clearly explain what success looks like at your firm and how the hire will be evaluated over the first 12 to 18 months so that they’re sure of their objectives.
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Continue. Assign mentors and an external coach so the professional has people to go to with questions or general needs. Beecher Reagan’s data shows that a new hire will open up to an external coach about their integration experience more than they would to an internal one and that this feedback loop is key. Continue this communication with the new hire for 6 to 12 months, ensuring they have all the tools they need.
Each company has a unique way of doing what they do, said Beecher Reagan, no matter if they’re manufacturing a product or providing a service. If two companies start with the same raw materials and the same kind of talent and produce the same thing, the processes will still be vastly different. One of the critical parts of the integration process, then, is to help the new hire learn and become comfortable with your processes. Without this information, they’ll work how they are accustomed to working, and the product – and their relationships within the firm – will suffer. Beecher Reagan offered this advice:
Plan. Brainstorm ways to get the new hire leading processes – the right way – right away. Many firms feel like this information and responsibility should be earned, but by integrating the hire immediately, you both inspire them with your trust and help them settle in sooner.
Act. Put the new hire on leadership committees so they have opportunities to learn how the firm works from long-tenured partners and executives. Doing so also gives them the opportunity to share fresh perspectives that could help the firm as it continues to mature and grow.
Continue. Maintain communication, feedback and support until the new hire gets comfortable with the firm’s processes. Harness the new hire’s energy to push the model forward, and use their enthusiasm to motivate and reinvigorate the existing ranks.
Focused solely on finding leaders in the professional services sector, Beecher Reagan enjoys a client base that reads like a Who’s Who in consulting. Since inception, they have served the likes of McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, AT Kearney and Accenture, to name a few. But, creating a business virtually from scratch took passion, persistence and perseverance – clearly the three essential traits both of these recruiters share. In the following interview, Clark Beecher and Tim Reagan discuss some keys for successfully integrating new executive hires.
What are some benefits of successful commercial integration?
Beecher: It results in a quicker time to traction for a partner, which pays back the cost of hire faster and gets you the ROI on the hire earlier. Subsequently, it reduces the risk that the hire will fail. Our clients that work with us on a commercial integration plan have a 90 percent success rate with hires. For those who don’t, the success rate goes down by 20 percent.
Reagan: At the end of the day, commercial integration is the pass/fail of any hire in professional services. The faster a partner becomes commercially viable, the faster they integrate into the practice and become a contributing member of the firm. That integration allows for more pull-through into other parts of the organization and more collaboration on client engagements.
How can search firms ensure that candidates placed will be able to adapt to clients quickly?
Beecher: Plain and simple – work with the client on an integration plan based on client’s needs, candidate needs and candidate’s assessment results.
Reagan: Patience and planning. Before any new hire is made, we always recommend a cultural assessment as well as a go-to-market plan. Beecher Reagan works with clients to design cultural assessments that will identify how well a potential hire will not only integrate into the overall firm, but also how they will culturally integrate into a specific group. Additionally, we work with candidates and clients to develop a 12-month commercial road map that will ensure both sides understand where the new hire will be able to work on getting commercial success in the first 12 months, where the hiring firm can deploy this new hire to get them billable, and where they can capture net new opportunities after non-competes expire in month 13. The hiring firm must be patient; integration is a long process and commercially it’s even harder given the need to respect non-compete agreements. The first year for a new hire should have truncated commercial expectations so the candidate can focus on cultural integration and also not have commercial pressures that might encourage them to take risks in terms of violating non-compete agreements.
“Nothing can be guaranteed, but we work with our clients to design cultural assessments that focus on not just the broad, general firm culture, but practice specific culture as well.”
How can recruiters be sure that executives placed will fit the company’s corporate culture?
Beecher: We use “self-referential assessments.” We encourage our clients to take the assessment as it maps not only work traits, but personality traits of the sample set. We codify it and take our candidate through the same process and look for matches and discrepancies. No one candidate is perfect, however we can identify the traits they test lower on and incorporate how to address these traits in their integration plan. This provides self-awareness on what triggers to look out for and more importantly to develop. We built an occupation specific tool with one of the world’s leading assessment firms.
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Effective onboarding can make or break an executive’s success in a new role, yet less than a third of organizations actively support their executives to adapt to the cultural and political climate – which rank as the top reasons new leaders fail.
Reagan: Nothing can be guaranteed, but we work with our clients to design cultural assessments that focus on not just the broad, general firm culture, but practice specific culture as well. Larger organizations tend to have practice specific cultural norms that will be more important than the firm culture that often times is too broad and ethereal to quantify.
How important is corporate culture in businesses today?
Beecher: Great question. I may be controversial in my answer but I believe team effectiveness and culture may have moved ahead of overall corporate culture. Organizations are bigger and more complex than they used to be. Hard to say a $40 billion company has one culture. It may have one vision, but the culture is executed through its teams. We try to focus on team culture and effective teams more than corporate culture, when we are assessing cultural fit.
Reagan: Culture is always important, especially at a professional services firm. Depending on the size of the organization, there are sometimes practice or geographical cultures that are more relevant than the overarching firm culture.
Can you discuss operational integration? And how can a recruiting professional spot this skill when narrowing down candidates?
Beecher: You can only address operational integration when the candidate has agreed to join the new firm. Operational integration is quite tactical. The client addresses how things work here. Here is your mentor and here is who you go to with questions. It is important to start defining this before the hire starts. If done after, it is too late.
Reagan: Operational integration is addressed in the 12-month commercial road map after both sides have agreed to work together. By sitting down with a business plan, client map and key stakeholders, both sides can look at the tactical road map to getting the new hire put in the best position to be successful.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media