In May, we began a series of articles focused exclusively on in-house executive recruiters and their responses to the coronavirus crisis. Over the last two months, we’ve examined ways that internal search teams can better align themselves with their company’s broader COVID-19 strategy and actively recruit talent during a pandemic. In this final installment, we’ll look at how in-house executive search teams can make the most of this time amid hiring slowdowns. 

While some companies have soared or sunk due to the crisis, the vast majority occupy a middle ground in which business has slowed but not stopped. If you’re an in-house executive recruiter experiencing a slowdown, you’re probably still conducting active searches for critical roles while pausing other hiring.

It’s not often that in-house executive search teams have bandwidth to effectively implement strategic initiatives. Add to the equation that many companies are also going through restructuring, and this becomes a unique opportunity for in-house recruiters to pipeline for future leaders; adjust search management processes; and secure additional resources to scale.

1. Pipeline

There are various scenarios that might be playing out at your specific company, but the opportunity remains. In-house executive recruiters should take this time to thoughtfully build profiles of future leaders, and start pipelining for them now. After conversations with many in-house teams, here are a couple pipelining initiatives that might resonate with your specific situation.

Diverse Executive Hiring

It’s been widely noted that people of color are egregiously underrepresented in senior leadership roles, despite the fact that companies with more ethnically and culturally diverse executives are 33% more likely to financially outperform the national industry median. During our roundtable discussions, many in-house executive recruiters reported an existing commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I), but are using this time to revamp their sourcing strategy.

If your organization is consciously striving to create more balanced and inclusive leadership, now is the time to address the obstacles to sourcing diverse talent. Successful D&I needs a full commitment from your company leadership. Level set with key stakeholders and obtain the resources you’ll need to learn and implement the best practices for finding, hiring, and retaining individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Up-Leveling Existing Teams

Some in-house search leaders reported that their businesses were currently assessing internal talent. Now is a great time to forecast hiring needs that will emerge once business rebounds.

Maybe last year your team hired a few C-level execs, and they’ve used this time to map out their next set of key VP hires. Or perhaps your younger start-up has decided to focus on senior leadership roles to make sure it has the maturity needed to succeed beyond the current crisis.

Whatever value you want to add to your current talent, the leadership profile is likely evolving. Focus on ways to collaborate with existing leadership to proactively build out pipelines. 

Succession Planning

While succession planning is always a priority for in-house executive recruiters, it’s become an even bigger focus in the face of the current pandemic. 

“A lot of executives, particularly those with travel-heavy jobs and a ton of responsibility, have seen this as an opportunity to walk away and retire,” shared Tom Lovett, President at Lovett and Lovett.

As unexpected early retirement gains greater urgency, teams are thinking about succession planning in new ways. Some in-house executive search teams are not just looking to replace retirees. Instead, they’re taking advantage of extra bandwidth to map out what that executive’s role might look like 5 years from now.

This succession planning approach makes room for creating internal career paths, but also gives recruiters an opportunity to screen external candidates against those future demands. You might be screening a candidate for a different position, but realize they fit the bill of that future leader profile.

Next-Gen Leaders

Finding ways to collaborate with talent acquisition teams is an ongoing challenge for executive recruiters. During busier times, they struggle to tap into great junior-level talent that might not have fit within the executive rank. Now they have the opportunity to focus more on these individuals who could represent the next generation of leadership, and button up collaboration for more efficient sourcing.

“Due to our greater bandwidth, we are striving to become more effective and efficient in sharing lower-level talent with the rest of our talent acquisition team,” said Deepti Mangala Shirsalkar, director of executive search at Foundation Medicine. “In the executive search process, we might identify ‘stars’ that aren’t quite senior enough for an executive role but might be more of a fit for a senior director- or director-level role.”

In order to effectively implement any of the above, you’ll need to have a better search process in place.

2. Process

Now is the time to take a closer look at your team’s search processes, root out the basic inefficiencies, and tailor them to better suit your company’s priorities. 

Relationships are the key of all executive recruiters’ success. Yet relationships are often the first thing to get damaged by a lack of process, which creates longer searches, unhappy candidates and frustrated hiring teams.

To build a better relationship-oriented system, start with the fundamentals: white-glove recruiting with candidates and lockstep collaboration with hiring teams. For greater candidate engagement, track every interaction so that you know where you stand with them at all times. And as long as hiring remains virtual, be even more thoughtful about who really needs to be on the hiring panel so that you can save candidates from excessive interviews. 

As for hiring teams, involve them in the process without going too far—enable them, impress them, but don’t bore them with too much detail. Give them the tools they need to provide timely feedback on candidates that your team can access in real time. 

Now, tailor your search process to your company. Think about a specific pipelining initiative from the previous section, such as D&I sourcing or up-leveling for certain roles. Reverse-engineer the ideal search process for sourcing that profile. Identify any anticipated barriers and work to address them. 

As you work to establish a search process that better matches your company’s executive hiring priorities, you may realize you need more resources to enable and scale these changes.

3. Scale

Building out new pipelines and improving your search process is a great use of extra time. But when a rebound occurs, those initiatives will fall apart if they can’t scale effectively.

The resources your team will need depends on the other initiatives you’re working towards. If your team is focused on D&I, you’ll need to secure sufficient resources to specifically support sourcing more diverse candidate pools. If you’re working on succession planning or up-leveling, you’ll need the right tools to collaborate with internal teams.

Tailored systems help executive recruiters organize information, increase collaboration, enhance white glove treatment, and scale productivity. Unfortunately, adjusting processes and evaluating new tools can sometimes disrupt your normal operations. But with normal operations happening at less-than-normal capacities, many in-house executive recruiting teams are using this time to vet superior systems and get them up and running.

Regardless of your company’s current priorities, scaling any executive recruiting process will require your team to do the following:

  • Capture the right data and house it in a centralized repository. 
  • Enable the search process to focus on collaboration between recruiters and hiring teams.
  • Scale processes with automations and streamlined communication, with a focus on white-glove candidate treatment. You’ll need tech tailored for executive recruiting, not a typical CRM or ATS.
  • Assess your team’s strengths and level of bandwidth. If their time is not best spent on early-stage sourcing, for example, consider outsourcing for greater efficiency.

Embrace greater bandwidth

No one is thrilled by the hiring slowdown caused by COVID-19, but it does present a unique opportunity to reflect on what can and should be improved. Take this time to level-set with your team on strategic initiatives—focused on either the things you’ve always been meaning to improve or the new concerns born out of current conditions. Though activity has already started to ramp back up in some industries, it’s not too late to work on infrastructure and prepare for the future.

Up-level talent discovery with proactive pipelining for future leaders your company will need. Make sure processes are in place and effectively executed—now is the time to work out any kinks. And evaluate available third-party tools and partners that can help fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle and scale.

Don’t waste this opportunity to test out new solutions. Once normal search volume returns, new processes will fall apart if the resources available to your team aren’t saving you time. 

If you’d like to learn more about how tailored executive recruiting software can help level up your in-house search function, schedule a demo with Thrive today!