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It takes a lot more than money to recruit and retain high-caliber executives. They’re like hot items — tough to find and subject to rapid turnover.
This story first appeared in the November 18, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“If you have the financial resources, and you truly believe that people are the differentiating factor, why would you let dollars stand in the way?” asked executive search professional Kirk Palmer, who is ceo of the agency that bears his name. During his presentation at the summit, Palmer outlined the “five truths” about companies that succeed in retaining extraordinary executives, and the “five traits” those executives have in common:
Define the qualities, attributes and/or characteristics that are unique and most important to their company. “This sounds like a no-brainer but very few companies actually do it,” Palmer said.
Have people who understand and believe the ‘must haves’ of the business and culture. “They drink the Kool-Aid, walk the walk, talk the talk,” Palmer said. “How does this happen? It happens when the leader or leaders in the business communicate core values that come to define the culture of the business, and transmit these values down and throughout their organization.”
Opportunistically hunt for talent. “It’s not just based on openings,” Palmer stressed. “It’s not just lip service, but time spent. CEOs of these companies spend significant portions of their time speaking to prospective candidates from other companies.”
Have a continual and conscious process of getting the right people “on the bus and the wrong people off the bus,” Palmer, quoting from the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
Pay top dollar for their talent. “Frankly, companies that don’t pay often have an unrealistic perception of themselves. If your company makes the statement that you pay at “market averages” in your compensation program, your implied statement is that you have and desire to acquire ‘average’ people.”
The five traits that extraordinary executives possess are, as Palmer sees them, great interpersonal skills; a passionate curiosity with a love of learning; they’re proactive; they have unyielding tenacity, and they possess a “purposeful passion” and ability to find the right home to fully exploit their passion.