Fostering Face-to-Face in a Digital World

The impact of Big Data analytics and strategy on the modern business world is as profound as it is pervasive.

From increased insight into customer bases and a better understanding of the real-time costs and benefits of specific programs, to quantitative metrics measuring workforce productivity, data sets and their ready accessibility can help C-suite executives both manage day-today operations and shape their longerterm strategic and tactical planning.

The advantages of leveraging dataderived insights extend beyond the industries for which one would predict it to be most useful - and executive search is no exception. Specialized recruitment firms have adapted well to this revolution and now embrace data as an integral part of their work. Using access to public and private databases, social media sites and other online resources, consultants can often gain insights on prospective candidates and clients - and the probability of their success post-placement - well before any informal or formal contact is made.

But as the ease of gathering large volumes of data increases and the tools for evaluating that information continue to improve, astute executive search professionals will bear in mind that quantitative insights still only comprise part of a candidate’s story.

Much of the value in having the face-to-face conversations that have long been a foundation of this industry lies in their distinct capacity for accelerating relationships and lending perspective to a candidate’s demeanor and presence. Alignment with company culture and team dynamics are other evaluations best made in-person and for the search professional, building the ability to discern these characteristics and nuances among a group of candidates requires this setting.

From a networking and business development perspective, data again can be a valued resource but will never completely replace in-person communications as a way to position the search consultant as both a trusted advisor as well as service provider.

That means that even as search firms invest in new technology and increasingly rely on data to help streamline the evaluation process, they also need to explore new avenues where those vital face-to-face interactions can take place.

Today, those efforts require more resolve than ever before. Parties on both sides of the executive search process routinely forgo the business lunch where personal bonds can be nurtured and formal meetings are often conducted via video or web-based conferences instead of in person.

As a result, consultants who see the value in connecting with business executives in person - and are diligent about seeking out those occasions - have an opportunity to establish an identity as a uniquely engaged and reliable resource for their networks and clients.

Finding worthwhile engagements with targeted audiences requires a new degree of diligence. Just as industry influencers need to be discerning when it comes to deciding which events they will devote time and attention to, so does the executive search professional who hopes to encounter them. Executive conferences where global business and political leaders assemble to discuss high-level issues that impact the industries and markets of the world offer opportunities to infiltrate a self-selected pool of talent that would be wise to target.

The Wall Street Journal’s executive conferences are moderated by Journal editors and reporters and feature wideranging discussions by top business leaders and policy makers on the trends and issues most likely to impact global business and politics. As a result, sponsorship of WSJ events like the upcoming CEO Council in Washington, D.C., or the business and environmentthemed ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, California, this coming April provide access to hundreds of CEOs, CFOs and executive business leaders from around the world.

Executive conferences, even those held in locales far from where the search consultant or firm is based, can be a great catalyst for new lead development and candidate recruitment. Of even greater value, perhaps, is their consideration not only as an end unto themselves, but also as springboards that turn face-to-face interactions and connections made into longterm, carefully cultivated business relationships. Utilized as a supplement to emerging digitally-driven strategies, in-person business can help propel leaders of the executive search committee to well-rounded success.

by David Ward, Wall Street Journal

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