How to Attract and Retain Next Gen Talent

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In our Leaders on Leaders series, Karen Greenbaum explores today's top trends impacting global leadership with leaders from the worlds top executive search and leadership advisory firms.

In this episode, Karen speaks with Bruce Raines, President and CEO of Raines International, about next-generation executive level talent.

KAREN: Welcome to the new Leaders on Leaders Series from the global Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants. I’m Karen Greenbaum, AESC President and CEO. In Leaders on Leaders, we’ll be exploring today’s top trends impacting global leadership with leaders from the world’s top executive search and leadership advisory firms. Today we’ll be discussing attracting and retaining the next generation of leaders.  I’m joined today by Bruce Raines, President and CEO of Raines International.  Bruce, why don’t we begin with you telling us about Raines International?

BRUCE: Thank you, Karen.  Raines International is an executive search firm with a global presence.  Our history spans back about 40+ years and we are organized by both industry and functional specialties. We have about five offices around the US and our percentage of international assignments is about 20% of our overall practice. Our client base is diverse [with] about 50% large multinationals. The rest are private equity and middle-market firms, and there are some not-for-profits as well.

In terms of functions, we cover most of them, but we’re most known for finance marketing and human resources as well as the supply chain and what we will call a management consulting-centric practice which is recruiting management consultants that are currently or formerly were with those firms in a corporate position.

KAREN: Thanks, Bruce.  I’d like to talk a little bit about that.  So you’ve developed and led your company strategy in corporate development practice and it specializes in identifying and recruiting the next generation of senior executives for management consulting firms.  Can you tell me a bit more about that practice?

BRUCE: We focus on both the current consultants and the former consultants that have now gone into private corporations, public corporations and private equity firms.  We got into that primarily because we felt that this was a leadership group in the making and we wanted to be part of that, but what’s most important is what do they bring?  What they bring is, in general, a high education factor.  These people are educated in some of the best colleges and universities and MBAs from some of the best programs in the country, and for that matter, around the world.

So our practice consists of recruiting current and former management consultants, the former while usually in major corporations throughout the world.  And these people are brought into the corporations to provide a holistic view of what they think a corporation needs and how they’re going to get there.  They provide the roadmap, the strategy for these corporations, and they are often very integral in the inorganic growth which is acquisitions and mergers for major corporations.

There are also other avenues that they go into which can consist of the supply chain or finance. But in general, these are people that the clients bring in to become their senior leaders at some point, either as a CEO or a COO, or in some level of the C-suite in a functional area which may be finance as a CFO, Chief Procurement Officer or something like that.

I think the main feature of these people is that they are highly educated. And while they are in management consulting, they receive a training to look at companies holistically. And for that reason, they’re able to assess a company in total and they are able to integrate the pieces of those companies together, bring them to maximal efficiency and set them up for both inorganic and organic growth.

KAREN: Sounds like a terrific source of excellent talent for your clients.  I’m imagining that many of those are what we would call next-generation talents.  Tell me a little bit about what you find are some of the leadership attributes of next-generation talent that you bring to today’s organizations, your clients?

BRUCE: I think there are several positive attributes from these next-geners. We believe they help accelerate the pace of corporate America, and for that matter, our global economy. […] I’m not sure we can exactly equate one to one the nine-year stock market expansion with these people taking over, but we do believe it’s at least part of the spectrum.  For one thing, we definitely live in an age where communication is both king and queen and these Gen-Xers and especially the Millennials live with and by the tools that facilitate everything through those avenues. And so there’s much more communication, especially in a written form, and it comes about much faster.  I think that’s a leading quality that has been part of these two generations and it helps speed up the process.

I think secondly, they have can-do outlooks.  They’re not afraid to try something new, and in fact, I think they thrive on it. And while technology is both a functional and an industry-specific top dog right now and they get most of the publicity, we’re making great strides also in healthcare and even manufacturing. But overall, these are half-glass-full types of people as opposed to conservative.

Expanding on that theme, I think there’s a major excitement for creativity, and these people are unafraid to put their new ideas and concepts out there to test them. They have more knowledge and they certainly have the ability to acquire it faster through the internet and other channels. They are very adept at disrupting industries and bringing fresh thinking to all the businesses.  I mean, you can start with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, but there are so many and they are coming from this generation.  I think those are three of the highlights that I would put at the top.

KAREN: So these are people that everyone’s going to want.  They’re top talent.  So how do you attract these top talents for your clients?  What’s important to them in terms of what they’re looking for?

BRUCE: I think that no matter what, some of the old things are still part of the equation – a compelling opportunity, strong company leadership – but I think there are three that I would put up ahead of the others.  First and foremost, they want to go to a company that’s exciting and growth-oriented.  Whether it’s a new wave startup or a more mature company, there has to be that kind of gleam-in-the-eye mentality that says “We’re going to be movers and shakers.”  That’s what these people want to go to—something that’s going to make their careers or start out their careers.

Secondly, I think they want to be mentored.  They want to feel that they can go to a place that they can learn and that’s part of the overall society of the company they’re going to  They want to be heard, they want to have impact. And maybe not right away, but within a few years they want to know that they will be heard and they will be able to do something impactful.

Third, I would say they want to go to companies that have state-of-the-art thinking, state-of-the-art methodologies and the best tools for the future.  So in that toolbox, we have to always consider digital platforms and I think that’s a big plus.

But outside of that, there’s one other piece, and I think this is very important.  There’s a softer side of the lure, and that is the work-life balance.  I think many of tomorrow’s star performers will value family as much as work. And a good company, a company that wants to attract these people, will have to have that work-life balance.  So that means, in many cases, remote workspaces, including working in the home, flexible hours, better technology to facilitate that, and a certain amount of perks at work.

You’ll see in the new tech companies, they have cafeterias, they have free cellphones, all kinds of commutation things that are pluses for them. This has attracted a lot of people because they’re lifestyle-oriented. And I think dress codes, as much as people don’t want to admit it, has really turned the corner now and so that is a plus if you have a relaxed dress code.

I think finally, and certainly not the least, all companies today must embrace diversity.  We live in a global economy and not only is it the right thing to do socially, but it’s actually good business.  Diverse people are plugged in better all over the world and can be the best representatives for their employers to cultures that they came from, so it’s good business and it’s good socially.

KAREN: Excellent.  Bruce, thank you.  In fact, AESC recently did research on next-generation talent, talking to 850 clients around the world.  What they said is so reflective of what you’ve identified here, completely aligned.  So you find these people, you attract them.  The last step is, what’s critical in retaining them?

BRUCE: I think there are two key words: learn and promote.  People want to learn.  They want to come into a place that’s going to improve them personally and from a work perspective.  They want to go to places that have good mentorship programs and that they have the ability to flex their wings and to create.  I think the second thing is you need to promote people.  You need to have a defined program within your company that says, “Well, you start here and you’ll get the opportunity to move ahead.”

Now, these programs have been in place for generations, but more so now than ever because there’s so much competition, that has become even more important.  People are afraid.  They don’t have that general hardwire to stay with a company a long time.  In fact, if you talk to them about being with the same company for 10 years, they’ll laugh at you most of the time. But that’s why they need to learn and to be able to get promoted.

I think the third piece is a good society, a good culture within your company, a little bit more tolerance for embracing the societal differences we have right now and offering a culture of inclusion are very, very important within companies today.

KAREN: ‚ÄčExcellent.  Bruce, thank you for taking the time to share your insights today.  Listeners, thank you for joining us for Leaders on Leaders.  For our next Leaders on Leaders discussion, stay tuned to AESC.org.

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