Friday, April 05, 2013

Bonanza Column 277: Too Little, Too Late?

While most people consider it unseemly, the most human of vices is the urge to say “I told you so,” so I’m not going to say that.
Having not said that, it’s good to see that the IVGID Board has come to its senses and voted to hire a search firm to fill the GM position. While the Bonanza’s story on the meeting cast is as “Joe Wolfe getting his wish,” it was much more than that. A majority of the trustees now see that the catch-as-catch-can process of advertising and hoping is insufficient. Of 72 applications received, 11, or 15% were considered “A” level by the HR Director, with 26 “B” or fall-back candidates. Put another way, only about half of the applications were considered at least marginally acceptable. I’ve never seen an executive search firm provide such a poor showing for a senior position – almost always search firms create an interesting problem for their clients of choosing among 3 to 5 outstanding candidates, and that’s what I’d expect from Peckham and McKenny, the firm the Board has retained.
An aspect of last week’s meeting that continues to trouble me is the continuing seeming intransigence of Trustees Hammerel and Smith, on anything that touches on the GM, whether current or future. While Hammerel was quoted in the Bonanza ad being “unimpressed” with the candidates who have applied to date, he seems to think that doing more of the same process will produce better results, and that there is no need to hurry. Smith was, at least, favorably impressed with at least some of the applicants, a view apparently not shared by the other Trustees.
For those who are coming late to the conversation, it’s important to note an important difference between an advertising campaign and a recruiting effort by an experienced and expert search firm. The first will reach several groups of people: the unqualified (apparently about half of the current group), the currently unemployed, and those currently employed who are looking to leave their position. A search firm will reach out to the last two groups but will also have a network of contacts that will lead them to currently employed people who, while they may not be actively looking, might be interested in the opportunity. That will yield a much better selection of candidates.
The current GM has nine months left in his contract. Nine months is not a lot of time to recruit at this level when you take into account finding people, contacting them, one or more site visits, interviews, and the possible need for the candidate selected to give notice in their current job. It would be ideal, in my view to have some overlap so that the handoff is clean and efficient, which shortens the time even more. While I believe the Board should have taken this action in January, that’s water under the bridge and at least they’ve taken the action now, three months later. We can only hope this presages a more rational deliberative process for the Board going forward.
Aw heck: I told you so.

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