April 6, 2017 – Some companies feel that the big executive recruiting firms should make greater use of their foray into accessory services to bolster their mission of identifying top talent. That might help them recoup some of the business that continues to drain off to the more nimble, relationship-oriented, service-conscious boutiques as well as sidestep certain challenges that come with their size.
“As many of the larger recruiting firms continue expanding into other HR consulting services, I think they have an opportunity to figure out how to leverage the full range of those offerings to help companies in their team-building efforts,” says Michael D’Ambrose, chief human resources officer (CHRO) for Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM).
“Their No. 1 job is to help drive success by helping companies assemble successful teams, so their problems with ‘off-limits’ restrictions may be a sign that they should foster deeper relationships with fewer clients, rather than casting a wider net and risking conflicts of interest.”
Based in Chicago, ADM has employees in 160 countries, encompassing every cultural nuance imaginable. Like a growing number of companies, the $67 billion agricultural processing giant prefers to use smaller search firms when it enlists outside help.
Forging Strong Teams
For ADM, the relationships that develop are mutually beneficial and go beyond simply filling roles. “We often work with boutique firms that take the time to get to know our needs and partner with us,” Mike told me during a recent interview. “In certain cases, we’ll even help these smaller shops grow their businesses so they can enter new markets and expand with us.”
For smaller start-up or boutique firms, cash flow can be a real challenge, said. “So in some instances, we’ve structured our fee arrangements to provide our partner firms with a steady flow of cash that helps them focus more on the assignments they receive from us and less on their own finances.”
More than ever, companies need good talent and effective teams. If recruiters want to be truly relevant, says Mike, that is where their ultimate focus should be. “I do think that the search firms’ ultimate priority should be leveraging their suite of services to help companies like ADM build great, diverse teams,” he says.
“That’s their experience and their expertise, and it’s a service that’s becoming more and more critical for companies like ours. In an increasingly competitive marketplace for great talent, companies like ours benefit from strong relationships with outstanding executive recruiting firms. The ones that service as genuine partners, rather than vendors, are the most valuable.”
Mike believes ADM’s focus on forging strong teams produces a potent carryover effect that helps set a competitive standard for other companies, thus raising the bar of talent. Building teams is a process to which ADM devotes considerable thought and energy, both in training and promoting its own people as well as in recruiting individuals from elsewhere.
“To prepare our existing colleagues to take on bigger and broader roles in the company, we invest in skills training, continuing education, mentoring and coaching, and other professional development programs,” Mike explains.
“At the same time, because we’re a growing organization, we recruit talented professionals from outside to round out our teams, boost our bench strength, and help us advance our culture of performance excellence. In addition, we are always looking for extraordinarily talented and qualified people and have often brought them onto our team to prepare for growth and enhance our teams’ capabilities.”
Hiring From Within
For ADM, hiring from within only makes sense. After all, the company thoroughly knows it’s own people’s abilities and strengths. The company has directed a lot of resources to their training and knowledge. Offering its employees development opportunities benefits everyone involved.
“Importantly, these are people who have already demonstrated that they can work successfully within the ADM culture,” says Mike. “We have an extraordinary number of employees who have been with ADM for 20, 30, and even 40 years, and that’s a tribute to the fact that our culture encourages people to stay, learn, and grow with us.”
The company’s collaborative, people-focused culture is a big reason why ADM has been recognized in countries around the world as an outstanding place to work. Culture, Mike emphasizes, is vital to both the individual’s and company’s overall success. Learning and growing is the key, even if sometimes that inner growth comes the hard way.
“Our variable pay programs are mostly predicated on company performance, which helps create this kind of collaborative culture,” he says. “Our culture also emphasizes continuous learning, where even misses and mistakes are viewed as great teachers.”
“Internal learnings are often as much about the ‘how’ as the ‘what.’ It’s not just about coming up with innovative ideas; it’s about execution. We work to keep our people ‘state of the art’ through continuous learning, and this is one of the reasons ADM is admired for our expertise in execution.”
So it only makes sense that culture plays a tremendous part in whom ADM recruits from the outside. It’s imperative that those individuals be able to work effectively within ADM’s unique environment.
“Culture matters,” says Mike. “It’s not that we’re looking for individuals who fit a certain mold; in fact, we want a diverse workforce where different perspectives, ideas, and experiences are valued and leveraged to help us succeed. But it’s critical that new hires be comfortable navigating our highly complex global company, and that they build internal relationships that help them succeed.”
Internal recruiters drive ADM’s hiring efforts. Globally, those internal experts’ responsibilities are wide-ranging and include everything from college and entry-level hiring, to professional and hourly recruitment, to executive level hiring. “Our recruiters are assigned to specific businesses and corporate functions, and they support hiring managers throughout the process of assessing, interviewing, and selecting candidates,” says Mike.
Friends & Family
Yet he insists that those efforts are not the exclusive domain of talent acquisition professionals: each of ADM’s 32,000 employees, in one way or another, serves as an internal recruiter.
“One of the factors that distinguishes us from many other companies our size is the enthusiasm and excitement our colleagues have about the role they play in feeding the world through their work,” he says. “They feel a deep personal connection to our mission and purpose, and this passion and commitment make them great ambassadors for ADM in their communities. They also know we are committed to developing them, and to helping them build great, meaningful, and rewarding careers.”
That pays dividends in many ways. One of the biggest benefits is that ADM’s employees tend to want their friends and family to also work for the company, and so they spread the word accordingly.
“Word-of-mouth gives us a significant advantage in the marketplace for great talent,” says Mike. “When it comes to sourcing outside talent, one thing we’ve learned through the years is that some of the best people outside our organization aren’t necessarily the ones looking for jobs. So when it comes to looking outside our organization to fill key roles, we leverage social media, person-to-person networking, and non-traditional recruitment techniques in addition to more standard approaches.”
Contributed by Christopher W. Hunt, Publisher and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor — Hunt Scanlon Media