Talent acquisition, retention is a team sport

Any successful company is only as good as the people working for it. Finding, hiring and keeping qualified employees require a group effort. So how does a company’s management team acquire and retain top candidates while competing with other companies for their services?

Smart Business had the opportunity to sit down with John Semyan, a founding partner of TNS Partners, which is a nationally recognized retained executive search firm.

Who is most responsible for building a successful company?
Talent acquisition is a team sport. As a senior leader, you absolutely need to be a player-coach. It is very difficult to build a successful organization without the involvement and effort of the entire leadership team.

How many times have we been told that the secret to success is surrounding ourselves with great people? Since the team with the most talent wins, bringing the best talent into an organization clearly has to be a top priority for everyone involved. That means — from the board to the peer level — everyone is a recruiter for the company. The best organizations in America understand that, in the end, talent trumps everything else. They make attracting that talent a critical part of all of their management performance objectives, including compensation.

Talent trumps everything?

Over and over again, it certainly does. The best products, plans, services and programs fall flat and often fail miserably without the focus and skill applied at a precise moment by superior talent. No industry is immune from it, and no technology can replace it. In the end, if an organization isn’t proactively managing its talent stream, it’s losing ground to the competition.

By proactively managing the talent stream, can companies really plan their talent acquisition?
The world-class companies not only do it, they do it extremely well. And it isn’t simply a matter of basic succession planning, either. Great companies, both large and small, have succession plans that encompass contingency plans as well. ‘What happens if Mary leaves before Joe is fully ready to take over?’

When you do need to conduct a critical executive search, the best organizations begin with a solid recruiting plan. The front-end work of evaluating and defining business needs and translating that into the desired candidate parameters is critical to the success of any search project. And planning extends through the interview process and into the on-boarding process.

Talent acquisition is no different than any other business strategy; it must be broken down into its tactical initiatives, planned for, and executed vigorously.

Can companies effectively plan diversification into their hiring strategies and tactics?
Through leadership, they certainly can. The talent stream is diverse, and you don’t have to be diverse to lead this effort any more than you have to be an engineer to lead an engineer.

Diversity programs need to be part of an integrated talent acquisition program. Great organizations make diversity integral to all the planning processes related to talent. Too many companies try the short cut of simply doing a ‘diversity search.’ That is a tactic that can be leveraged, but you have to have a culture and strategy that it fits within. From a leadership standpoint, the strategy must have the senior management team’s attention and focus. Additionally, there must be incentive to accomplish specific goals to support it.

You mentioned planning the recruiting process from start to “on-boarding.” Can you cite an example?
Every part of the candidate experience makes an impact on how an executive views the new opportunity.

If the executive has to travel to meet with you, then handle everything: travel, transportation, lodging, meals. Think it through — and this separates the best from the rest. Look for opportunities: dinners with peers, a breakfast meeting that shows off a different part of the corporate campus, or simply picking candidates up at the hotel rather than having them make their own way.

Is the candidate a runner? Does he or she need a guide or running partner before the big interview day? How is the candidate getting back to the airport after the interview? Sometimes, the smallest gesture is what opens the door to seeing the attractiveness of the opportunity.

Why is the recruiting process such a hands-on process?
Talent acquisition is competitive, and there are many opportunities available for successful executives. This can be a key point of differentiation that often provides a ‘window’ into your organization’s culture, processes, responsiveness and decision-making. When clients are willing to invest the time and attention to the smallest details in their recruiting efforts is when they have the best opportunity to win the war for talent.

JOHN SEMYAN is a founding partner of TNS Partners Inc. in Dallas. Reach him at (214) 369-3564.