For many companies, 2010 and 2011 meant operating in survival mode: maintaining client relationships, not losing traction, keeping the best people, and generating revenue. Now as economists predict an upturn for the economy, 2012 could be a great time for companies to take advantage of a new and improving business climate.

Many businesses that put executive hiring on hold now are prepared to retool their top talent. We already have received calls from companies with cash on hand to upgrade their executive team. If your company is thinking along these lines, we recommend the following exercise: Identify those individuals on your management team whom you cannot afford to lose. Think of each person individually and then ask yourself this question: “If this individual told me today that he/she is leaving, would my business be irreparably harmed?”

When the answer is “yes,” you need to ensure these top team members feel satisfied in their roles and are motivated to drive your company’s growth. So ask yourself whether you believe they are truly happy within your organization. Do you understand what motivates them and what incentives you should or could offer to ensure they feel valued? Should you consider increased bonuses, profit sharing, additional benefits or vacation time, etc.?

When the answer is “no,” ask yourself whether you should take this opportunity to find a better fit for these positions. With a lot of top-tier executive talent on the market right now, this could be an opportunity to locate executives who will be strong additions to your team.

Executive Talent Search

Keep in mind that the game has changed substantially for executive talent searches in the last few years. While the crop of talent may be rich right now, more and more executives seek more than just a great paycheck; they’re looking for a strong “fit.”  We speak regularly with hundreds of executives who are contemplating career changes. A number of themes have emerged. While compensation will always be important, these individuals are just as critically seeking a role that is challenging, has meaning and provides a platform for career growth. They want to make a difference and have a strong impact on a company’s future success. They are equally interested in a company’s vision and the ethics of its management team. They seek inspirational leadership with a strong moral compass. So it is important to think about your own company’s vision and direction as well as what you have to offer this new breed of executive before you even begin the search process.

Test Drive Candidates

A new year also tends to bring resignations, so it’s important to be prepared in the event a key member gives notice. You may want to contemplate an interim-to-permanent executive hiring approach. Interim assignments can be an effective mechanism for companies that want to attract solid talent. Positions that can be filled on a temporary basis extend beyond the once-typical fields. Now, companies post interim assignments in the areas of finance, technology, operations, and marketing.

In an interim hiring approach, a business owner hires an executive to manage a specific project or assignment. The owner assumes relatively low risk and gains a sense of the executive’s performance and ability to mesh with the company’s culture. In some cases, a project expands into an open position, and the owner can feel confident hiring an executive who has been tested.

The challenge with this type of employment is that it limits the pool of candidates largely to those who are unemployed. But the benefits of an interim hire include the ability to fully realize what skill gaps the company needs to fill and to potentially reduce the hiring cycle.

Finally, a key to securing top talent in today’s market is to think beyond traditional hiring methods and keep your options open. Connect with trusted advisers and use tools such as social media to help validate your decisions.


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