I know this is something of a controversial title, the kind of headline that reporters love. Rather than now going off on a tangent that actually means something entirely different, I am going to stick by it and tell you, based on instances I have seen throughout my career, why head-hunting is a good thing for business.
The extraordinary thing about the business environment we are in today is the pace at which it moves, and how quickly once essential items and processes become outdated. A big reason for this is the advancement of technology and it’s new applications. There isn’t a choice, even for paper lovers and blackberry aficionados like me, it is time to simply to move on, or get left behind. There are just too many apps that other people expect you have, things you need on the move, access you need to something right before, or during, a meeting. If you are a busy person, your life virtually requires it. With business changing so rapidly, is it normal to expect that organisations and the people within them, will stay exactly the same? The business which once suited them so well, doesn’t seem to fit anymore. The management team, half being new, somehow doesn’t feel the same. People are being asked to do more with less, be more innovative. But it is sometimes hard to be innovative when you have worked in the same business for upwards of 10, or even sometimes 5, years. My feeling is that people cannot stay the same whilst everything around them is shifting. How could a top performer be happy once they have achieved all their objectives to the extent that they have actually outgrown the business? How could a senior manager who has been in the business for 10 years, still motivate their team to carry out the same tasks? Isn’t it better to allow these people to move up, or move elsewhere, and promote someone internally – giving them a great new career path?
Rather than trying to halt progress, I think the key to succeeding in this dynamic environment in which we now live, requires you to embrace change and try to move on quickly. The time and energy you waste in trying to ebb the flow is a sunk cost, just let go. The quicker the better. I have seen how people who have outgrown their function but love their colleagues, hold on with both hands until projects aren’t completed properly anymore, attention to detail is lost, their motivation stalls, and they don’t even realise. Likewise I have watched as employers try to keep their top performers happy with projects that aren’t quite big enough, increasing bonuses they can’t really afford, time in management meetings. None of this works.
The truth of the matter is that we are all human, and over time we come to believe in people, but moreover, we come to rely on them. It is not easy to see someone good leave, someone who has always given you another point of view, a great insight, fantastic sales, or support on your numbers. You realise letting this person go you will lose, and by no means am I advocating losing good people. But if the time has come to let someone move on, you should keep in mind the potential this could bring into your business as well. You might not realise at the time that this person has actually felt un-challenged for some time, and as a result has unconsciously started to underperform. You may be unaware that they have not been as focused, or cared as much as they did before, albeit subconsciously.
Most of the people who talk to head-hunters are not happy with certain aspects of their jobs. Yes, we approach them, but if there wasn’t something that was missing or causing issues in their current work-life do you really think they would take the time out of their day to talk to us? To send us an updated CV? It is a complete myth that people talking to head-hunters are only tempted to talk to us for an increase in salary. As I mentioned in my last blog, (Predictions for 2014, why I believe salaries will decrease…), salaries and offers are actually going down in most areas of the market right now, so the people we are talking to are not being sold on price. The truth is that people are motivated by opportunity, challenge and future potential. We can only open doors, and it is up to them to take the choice of walking through them.
The magic 6 months
At Funds Partnership we call it the magic 6 months. We know we have most head-hunted candidates on file for about 6 months, sometimes less, before they are actively looking for a new job. Yes, actively. When we have counter-offer situations, (this is where the current firm changes the conditions of their contract, while the person is trying to resign, in an effort to keep them) and the person stays at the company, they also typically leave within a year afterwards, often independent of our involvement.
So, why do they wait for us to call?
When you have been in a business for several years, and if you are good, you will be looked after. You will be clever, adaptable, knowledgeable, and straightforward to work with, companies would not want to lose you. This peak in professional capacity is also the time in our lives where many people are ready for a bit more stability, and focus shifts to family and more personal pursuits. In Luxembourg, this is the time when many well-to-do people in the finance industry decide to build their own house. At Funds Partnership house-building is a widely accepted synonym for a candidate who will not consider a move under any circumstances. Stability is what people need at this time in their lives. As a result, being in a role that you know well, where you have security, is the priority. This normally lasts for a few years, or at least until the person can no longer prioritise personal over professional, because they are feeling unfulfilled. The trouble is that by that time, it has been so long since they focused on where they wanted to go, that they aren’t really sure any longer, and they don’t even know what’s out there. By talking to head-hunters in confidence, they realise they can unlock their potential again.
Unseen and unbiased
As a head-hunter, you get to know a lot about different companies, and sometimes even the kind of things that people wish you wouldn’t know. If you are any good you recognise your position of trust and learn to keep this information to yourself. Over time you build an understanding of the market, its nuances, with the kind of depth that can seriously benefit other people, companies and candidates, because you build a picture, using more than companies will openly tell you about themselves. There are a few handy sayings for why this discretion is required; there are two sides to every story, don’t judge a book by its cover, and even, the world is full of good people who do bad things…. It is human nature that we are dealing with after all. If you can build an understanding of the market with this kind of unseen and unbiased depth, without comment, over time your recommendations become very well-rounded. It is the small things over long periods of time that will tell a person’s character, since a person’s behaviour rarely changes throughout their lives. It is not the things they say when you are asking them to pitch their product that are important, but rather the things they do when nobody else is looking. Good head-hunters use this background to make matches that are extremely strong for both businesses and individuals.
Things always work out
The thing which has stuck with me over the years, is that the right thing always works out. While it may not seem obvious at the time, the catastrophe of someone leaving could be the opportunity to fundamentally improve an area, a team, the client service levels. By looking at things with fresh eyes, you realise there are better, quicker processes. You realise you could hire someone who wants the career path you can provide, and will grow with your firm, and push new boundaries, better than before. They turn up every day full of energy and motivation. Experience is wonderful, but it can also become the enemy of innovation. Fresh, unbiased thought is what drives innovation. Energy and enthusiasm make it a reality. Try to see this as an opportunity. Turn a bad thing into a good one.