The Evolution of Assessment


AESC’s Leaders on Leaders podcast explores top trends impacting global leadership. Karen Greenbaum, AESC President and CEO, speaks with leaders from the world’s top executive search and leadership advisory firms.

In our latest episode, Karen speaks with Brett Stephens, CEO of RSR Partners.

Below is a brief excerpt.

KAREN: Thank you for joining us, Brett. Let’s begin with you telling us a bit about RSR Partners.

BRETT: Thank you, Karen. Love to. RSR Partners is an employee-owned executive search and leadership consulting firm. We primarily focus on board services, executive search, leadership assessment for Fortune 100 companies down to family offices, endowments, and even pre-IPO companies. 

Almost 25 years ago, our chairman Russ Reynolds, who was one of the founding members of AESC, created this firm [to be] solely focused on boards. And we believe we’re still the only firm in the industry that actually started from the top down. We began as a consulting firm specializing on corporate governance issues facing CEOs, chairmen, and board members. We’re best known for board recruiting and our leading corporate governance publication called Directorship which is now owned by the NACD. Since then, we’ve added executive search and leadership assessment.

KAREN: How has the information that executive search firms gather on candidates changed in the past decade and why has it changed?

BRETT: The information age is transforming our industry. I think everyone in the industry has seen this and I believe it’s for the better.

[…] As the rise of data intelligence will continue to elevate the amount of information our industry and our clients have access to, our business will have to change with that. I think the vast amount of information we have access to today will not only be helpful to us in the future but will force us to focus more on meaningful insights and knowledge for our clients. I think our clients continue to focus and [will] have us work with them closely to help them understand what this all means in making better decisions and filtering through the noise.

[…] We think that there are opportunities for us to all focus more narrowly in our scope on what we’re trying to ascertain for our clients to provide meaningful leadership insights that complement with the science and big data can provide.

KAREN: How do you determine whether a candidate is going to fit with a client?

BRETT: I think that’s the age-old question in search. We believe that talent is the only sustainable competitive advantage for our clients, and as a result, recruiting the right talent with the right organization […] can unlock tremendous value for the company…Fit is and will always be the most critical factor to maximizing the impact an individual can have in an organization. Even the most talented executives could only be successful if they’re aligned with the company’s culture and strategy.

KAREN: There’s a huge focus today on candidate assessment. Everyone has different approaches but how has it changed over the last 10 years and 20 years? And why?

BRETT: As I mentioned, that movement towards more science, data and the amount of information available to everyone, has forced us all to look for more answers through the noise of information that exists. And, with the fact that there’s more turnover in executive ranks which I think is estimated to be three to five times in executive compensation, […] search-related assessments help provide additional information on a candidate to help informed decision-making. The push towards more science and more data will help complement what we do in search.

We all spoke before about the importance of fit. This also pertains to executive assessment, we believe, and each client’s culture and objectives are unique. We believe we need the ability to customize and tailor to that, which requires you to have full access to the best products and services in the marketplace and that is continuing to be an evolving theme and trend.

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