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Many Executives are Really Bad at Hiring:  A 3-Step Fix

March 22, 2017


Did you know that as many as two-thirds of executive placements fail? Well, it's true. Given the challenges facing hospitals, that failure rate is unacceptable. While many hospitals have designed highly efficient and effective processes to hire nurses, just as many have failed to bring any structure or objectivity to how they hire senior leaders. For many, it's a poorly defined process that is NOT candidate-friendly and, more importantly, simply isn't good at picking the right candidate for the role.

Part of the problem is that many senior leaders believe they'll know talent when they see it - when in reality, their reliance on instinct is a recipe for failure. Yet, they continue to make the same mistake over, and over again.

Famous management guru Peter Drucker has said, "By and large, executives make poor promotion and staffing decisions. By all accounts, their batting average is no better than .333. At most, one-third of decisions turn out right; one-third are minimally effective, and one-third are outright failures. In no other area of management would we put up with such miserable performance."

Here's what Select International has found in our work with clients in all industries:

  • Executive turnover is costly - there is a hard financial cost and a harder to quantify organizational cost

  • The failure rate is particularly high with external placements

  • Executive exits are mostly related to poor relationships, lack of alignment, wrong 'fit' or lack of integrity

  • There is lack of rigor and process

  • Executives believe they should be able to 'read' candidates

These problems are particularly common in healthcare where discussions about 'talent' have begun and ended with physicians and nurses for decades. It's not a complicated problem or solution:

  1. Define the attributes you are looking for - those that are critical to your situation. DON'T dismiss this seemingly simple step; not everyone is looking for the same attributes and don't be surprised if your current team has differing opinions.

  2. Define an efficient and consistent process to evaluate these attributes - during the reference check, the interview, and incorporating proven leadership assessment tools (and we are NOT referring to generic, 'interesting' tools like the Meyers-Briggs or DISC).

  3. Stick to that process and evaluate the data objectively, fighting the urge to resort to 'gut instinct.'

Our work and research continue to show that this approach does a far better job identifying the candidate who will succeed, who will successfully engage his or her team, and who is more likely to be promoted.

Our leadership assessment and development platform is how we help clients achieve these goals. Whatever platform you use, we suggest making sure that the process:

  • Offers an objective and scientific view of a candidate's strengths and weaknesses

  • Provides data on potential derailers

  • Has a highly knowledgeable assessor on the selection team to offer insight

  • Identifies future potential

  • Offers insight into whether the candidate will 'fit' with your team and culture

  • Protects you from simple intuitive (and often incorrect) decisions

Here's a quick example to illustrate the point:  We've worked with a large manufacturing client for many years.  The organization's CEO ALWAYS defers to the results of the process we implemented for him. On one occasion, though, he called and said, "I know your process says Candidate A is the right one, but I just have a feeling about Candidate B." He hired Candidate B - who was gone after five months. The CEO is back to using and trusting in the process.

I recently co-presented a webinar with an organization that excels at developing and engaging leaders. Click below to view the webinar:

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Paul Glatzhofer Paul Glatzhofer is the VP of Talent Solutions based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI Services LLC. He works primarily with organizations that are implementing global assessment and development systems at the leadership level. Paul’s work includes leadership development, leadership skills training, coaching, leadership and executive selection, turnover and ROI analysis, and ongoing feedback development.