All too often, search firms compare themselves to the professional services offered by a law firm or management consultant. The firm wants to offer, then reap all the benefits of a trusting (and at times, confidential) client relationship, but assume none of the related responsibilities.
In order to offer a similar high-caliber suite of professional services as an expert in the executive search field when it comes to talent management and selection, it is imperative to step up and acknowledge a fiducial duty to present diverse candidate pools to clients.
As leaders of human capital management, it is incumbent upon us to not expect nor wait for clients to request or mandate this goal, especially during diversity searches. In fact, we, as the talent selection industry, must become the driving force in reflecting within the workplace the diversity already found within our society, stakeholders, and customers.
In short, the time is now to deliver diverse candidates as a standard default, not by initiative.
Search firms are retained to find the unobtainable, the unfindable, the rare, and uniquely qualified, and yet many keep perpetuating the narrative that it is difficult to find minority leaders qualified for the job, resulting in the fact that we must settle on one or none.
As an industry, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our clients, their shareholders, and our society to provide a diverse candidate pool.
It is time to get creative, upend the status quo, and no longer accept past excuses for “business as usual.” The goal is not to assume expertise in diversity, but, rather, exhibit cultural humility in our policies and actions for not just ourselves, but also for our clients.
Candidate representation must be equally representative of our society, saving our clients from the very public shaming that occurs all too frequently in the press. We have all seen large and well-known public companies make the news for their lack of diversity, or unfair/misrepresentation of minorities.
This is not a new problem, but taking stepping forward to shoulder responsibility for offering and implementing solutions is a new approach. Acting as thought leaders and leading the way by providing actionable steps on how to improve candidate sourcing, we eradicate previous mindsets and fulfill diversity promises with equal minority representation.
The tools are all there; it is our commitment to using them to their fullest potential that will help us meet those benchmarks. It will also require getting creative by identifying industries, fields, or regions with minority candidates.
If it happens that qualified minorities are in short supply or nearly impossible to find, the next step is to know and understand unique sources of alternatively qualified minorities. Additionally, digging deeper with the client to fully explore the position demands, then developing a progressive candidate profile can help with augmenting sourcing efforts.
Former CEO and corporate director at multiple public companies, Colleen Birdnow Brown says that when it comes to director searches, “Broadening the scope beyond the traditional CEO and CFO backgrounds by recognizing the complexity and needs in the boardroom have grown and changed over time. For example, by considering CMO, CRO and CHRO positions, the number of female candidates can grow significantly.”
These are simple concrete steps we can all take, without being asked or directed, but doing so by default because it is our fiduciary responsibility to our clients.
Diversity recruiting can be a powerful strategy for building innovative, dynamic teams that strengthen organizations while making them more agile. Organizations that practice diversity recruiting tend to see better business performance and higher employee retention rates. In fact, research shows that companies with diversity recruiting practices are about 35% more likely to enjoy greater financial returns from their efforts.
Yet, fewer than 1 in 5 executives are racially diverse, according to a Standford study. While that could mean that some organizations are still figuring out how to adopt diversity recruiting practices, it may also indicate that companies are running into challenges finding a highly qualified pool of diverse candidates to select from. That’s where executive search consultants can be critical.
At Cowen Partners, we have deep experience in diversity recruiting, sourcing the best talent to step into our clients’ C-suites. Discover the difference our top diversity executive search firm can make when it’s time to find your company’s next leaders.
When company leaders sit down to plan diversity initiatives for executive recruiting, several objections often immediately bubble to the surface. The first centers on the pool of potential candidates. The consensus is that diversity recruiting is particularly difficult in executive search because there simply isn’t a large enough pool of qualified talent. The thinking goes that even if a company wanted more diversity among the executive ranks, finding a qualified executive who fit the bill would be nearly impossible.
Another objection is related to company size: smaller businesses that want to hire diverse executives often struggle to compete against larger entities in the executive talent pool. They argue they may not have the resources, cachet, or prestige to convince enough executives from diverse backgrounds to join their firms.
Finally, there may be apathy and intransigence when it comes to doing the difficult work of diversity recruiting. Companies recognize that executive diversity should be pursued, but the perceived immensity of the task can cause them to take a more passive approach than is advised. They will fulfill their obligations under relevant laws, but they will only do the bare minimum they must do to avoid legal trouble. Diversity recruiting goals become nothing more than lip service to satisfy shareholders, customers, and regulatory authorities. This is the most troubling perception of the three, and it would be naïve to think it does not happen.
Some of the objections above may have some merit. For instance, some smaller businesses really do struggle to pull in top candidates. Larger companies like Google or Nike can easily identify and attract diverse talent from all over the world, but a small or medium-sized enterprise not located in a major city may find it much more difficult to capture those candidates’ attention.
That said, board- and executive-level diversity cannot be ignored. Company leaders cannot bury their heads in the sand and try to ride out the trend toward more diversity with minimal effort. Instead, companies have to take practical steps to improve their odds of finding game-changing candidates from diverse backgrounds.
Our hands-on diversity recruiters have deep experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEO, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and include vice president, general counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.
Discover more about executive diversity search — and find out why Cowen Partners is a leader among the nation’s best diversity and inclusion executive search firms in New York City, Anchorage, Miami, Boston, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and beyond: