UPfront Using ESP to track executive talent

The traditional model of executive search has had its day – in fact the word “search” is anathema to the process of successfully putting people into leadership roles, according to Stephen Langton – Australia-based partner of recently launched management recruiting firm rentonjames.
“The future of executive search,” he says, “has to look more like management advisory.”
In other words, you don’t just find someone to match the job description, drop them into the client company and walk away. The new “search” model involves much more intimate understanding of client company’s culture and business objectives, says Langton.
“It’s not ‘give us the job description’ but ‘give us your five or 10-year business plan’, turn that plan into set of tasks, then let our expertise break that down into set of executive competencies you are going to need.”
He describes this model as “embedded” executive placement because the involvement extends beyond filling individual holes in executive ranks into building overall leadership capability within the client organisation. It includes succession planning and “maintenance” of placed executives.
“It’s bit like servicing Rolls Royce,” says Langton. “You’re buying something that has high value – you could expect to have regular check overs to ensure nothing breaks down in the first year.”
Typically, if an executive is going to have problems, it’ll happen in the first six months, at which point clients often request another search, says Langton.
“That should not be allowed to happen. Our task doesn’t end with the hire, it’s case of carrying out due diligence around whether they’re coping, perhaps coaching them on how to deal with the change in climate, and continuing their leadership development.
“The contingency theory of leadership says there are almost no cases where executives who’ve been headhunted on performance are able to do it again – and there are plenty of examples of that. So you need to look for talent in different way.”
That involves not just looking at ‘whether’ someone has succeeded but ‘how’ they succeeded – what were the circumstances, what was the organisational culture?
“It takes lot more work, lot more science and different skill set but if executive search is to survive, that has to be the model.”
This need for new approach is why Langton has teamed up with two New Zealand executive search professionals, Gary Dick and Simon Monks (both former directors of TMP Worldwide’s Executive Search Division) to launch rentonjames. Described as boutique operation, it will track executive talent both globally through string of similar consultancies with local knowledge, and internally – within the company’s own ranks.
Langton describes this as the ESP-ISP approach. “ISP is internal succession planning. How we see it is that it’s our job to worry about the future leadership of your company and we can’t do that just sitting in an office. It’s about being involved internally, identifying, assessing and developing talent.
“Where there are gaps in that succession plan is where the ESP or external succession planning comes in. As well as building internal strength, we can simultaneously identify and track potential external candidates – put beacon on them, if you like. That way you’re already half-way through the search before it’s needed.”
The ESP would include keeping tabs on Kiwi talent that’s gone offshore, says Langton.
Other services will include management talent audits (assessing how good senior executives are in their appointed roles), ‘due diligence’ solutions for companies during mergers and acquisitions, and customised management investigations for identifying talent pools, profiling culture and assessing external benchmarking.The traditional model of executive search has had its day – in fact the word “search” is anathema to the process of successfully putting people into leadership roles, according to Stephen Langton – Australia-based partner of recently launched management recruiting firm rentonjames.
“The future of executive search,” he says, “has to look more like management advisory.”
In other words, you don’t just find someone to match the job description, drop them into the client company and walk away. The new “search” model involves much more intimate understanding of client company’s culture and business objectives, says Langton.
“It’s not ‘give us the job description’ but ‘give us your five or 10-year business plan’, turn that plan into set of tasks, then let our expertise break that down into set of executive competencies you are going to need.”
He describes this model as “embedded” executive placement because the involvement extends beyond filling individual holes in executive ranks into building overall leadership capability within the client organisation. It includes succession planning and “maintenance” of placed executives.
“It’s bit like servicing Rolls Royce,” says Langton. “You’re buying something that has high value – you could expect to have regular check overs to ensure nothing breaks down in the first year.”
Typically, if an executive is going to have problems, it’ll happen in the first six months, at which point clients often request another search, says Langton.
“That should not be allowed to happen. Our task doesn’t end with the hire, it’s case of carrying out due diligence around whether they’re coping, perhaps coaching them on how to deal with the change in climate, and continuing their leadership development.
“The contingency theory of leadership says there are almost no cases where executives who’ve been headhunted on performance are able to do it again – and there are plenty of examples of that. So you need to look for talent in different way.”
That involves not just looking at ‘whether’ someone has succeeded but ‘how’ they succeeded – what were the circumstances, what was the organisational culture?
“It takes lot more work, lot more science and different skill set but if executive search is to survive, that has to be the model.”
This need for new approach is why Langton has teamed up with two New Zealand executive search professionals, Gary Dick and Simon Monks (both former directors of TMP Worldwide’s Executive Search Division) to launch rentonjames. Described as boutique operation, it will track executive talent both globally through string of similar consultancies with local knowledge, and internally – within the company’s own ranks.
Langton describes this as the ESP-ISP approach. “ISP is internal succession planning. How we see it is that it’s our job to worry about the future leadership of your company and we can’t do that just sitting in an office. It’s about being involved internally, identifying, assessing and developing talent.
“Where there are gaps in that succession plan is where the ESP or external succession planning comes in. As well as building internal strength, we can simultaneously identify and track potential external candidates – put beacon on them, if you like. That way you’re already half-way through the search before it’s needed.”
The ESP would include keeping tabs on Kiwi talent that’s gone offshore, says Langton.
Other services will include management talent audits (assessing how good senior executives are in their appointed roles), ‘due diligence’ solutions for companies during mergers and acquisitions, and customised management investigations for identifying talent pools, profiling culture and assessing external benchmarking.

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