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The mysterious and often shadowy art of executive search has used similar methodologies since the Rolodex days of the 1970s and 80s. Historically, the process is lengthy and costly, and operates with a lack of transparency and accountability. But executives are more visible in today’s digitally connected world, forcing the industry to change.

Organisations seek partners who will work with them in a more transparent, accountable way. Search firms need to use technology to bring the efficiency and speed of the digital age to this static industry.

What’s a Rolodex? You could be forgiven for asking this question now, particularly if you’re under the age of 30. Three decades ago – and before my time – this seemingly crude filing device was the go-to mechanism for any self-respecting executive search consultant. While the industry has moved on from those days, it’s fair to say that it’s still slow to adopt new approaches and technologies, preferring to stick to old methods that often left the client in the dark regarding progress in the recruitment process. Now technology has advanced so that complete transparency is possible, but many organisations are still failing to utilise new digital approaches.

In a business environment centred on change and disruption, organisations demand more from search partners and think critically about the type of firms with which they partner. The search industry can no longer afford to operate in a transactional manner. It must step up and operate as a true partner, providing strategic counsel and added value that clients demand.

Greater transparency and accountability
Today, companies expect more for their money from executive search partners. Transparency and accountability are considered basic hygiene factors and expected at every stage of the process. The industry generally neglected these service table stakes in the past. But with technology, the industry can turn what was a genuine area of weakness into a real strength. Reporting and communication throughout the search process ensure true transparency. Companies should be able to access detailed, real-time updates at the click of a button from their executive search provider, allowing them to follow the search process and digest industry-leading insights and intelligence, with a clear view on next steps.

For search firms to remain relevant in an increasingly developing market, they need to provide companies with in-depth competitor management information, industry insight, diversity mapping, compensation benchmarking and new geography product analysis to aid strategic decision making.

Increased efficiency and effectiveness
Organisations need fast-moving and agile search partners who combine traditional, proven methodology with the latest technology and data-driven insights. Using technology and cutting-edge research techniques to better map organisations and company structures, and to provide market insights and intelligence. This ultimately means real time savings and cost benefits to our clients seeking executive-level talent.

Manage budgets
Traditional search is expensive and the cost of carrying out an executive search has remained mostly unchanged. To mitigate cost, some search firms insist on fixing or capping search fees rather than the traditional approach of fees based on a percentage of the successful candidate’s compensation.

Staged payments based on milestones are more common than calendar-based payments. Organisations recognise that with calendar-based payments, they could pay the entire search fee without even considering a candidate for interview.

Embrace technology
Technology will continue to disrupt the executive search industry and search firms should embrace it rather than fear it. Technology is key to delivering better services and results for clients. Search firms should complement their own methodologies with the latest technologies to pioneer a new, more efficient approach delivering results to their clients. This new, sophisticated approach provides clients with added value and addresses long-standing challenges such as speed, transparency, price and value within the sector.

What’s next?
As well as the advancement of technology impacting the art of Executive Search, modern methods are also adapting to the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and increasing calls for diversity and inclusion in recruitment. AI is an area ripe for exploration with the potential capabilities and benefits offered set to grow exponentially soon.

Meanwhile, diversity is key to building a sustainable workforce, but the new GDPR guidelines make identifying diverse groups harder. Firms need to offer a solution to meet this challenge.

Looking to the future, organisations and search partners need to innovate with AI and other technology in ways that embrace diversity and inclusion. And they need to be ready to implement this innovation quickly or risk being left behind by competition.

Marta Koczorowska, Partner Cielo Executive Search, Head of Client Services Europe

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