Earlier this week, I attended a meeting of fellow recruiters sponsored by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) in Chicago to be updated on ACHE plans for the year and to discuss healthcare reform and how it is changing leadership competencies, job titles and scope of responsibility.

My very talented colleagues zeroed in on the various elements of the research and there were some good questions seeking to divine trends and validate their own feelings about the kind of people they needed to recruit for their clients.  Then there was a panel of Illinois hospital executives who shared how the makeup of their leadership teams has changed in recent years and posited that the future might alter the talent landscape even more.  The question and answer session was helpful but at the end of the day there was, I believe, a more important subject that was left unaddressed: What can search firms do to improve the value we deliver for the fees we charge?   

As we enter the most consequential time in healthcare in the last 40 years, what can we do differently to be sure we serve the clients needs?

On the flight home, I thought a lot about what was said and what was not addressed. I distilled these ideas into five important questions:

  1. How do we change the search industry’s 40+-year-old service delivery business to be more relevant?
  2. How should we address accountability for the work we do?  There are huge consequences when the wrong person is hired. How much ownership should recruiters have?
  3. How do we make the term “partnering” more than just another throw away sales phrase?
  4. Is game-changing innovation something that is possible or is it, too, just a marketing pipe dream?
  5. Why can’t we do a better job communicating with our clients during the process? This has been a complaint against recruiters, internal and those working in firms, for the more than 38 years I have worked in healthcare.

As a former candidate and a client of search firms, I always believed there was a better way, and I want to share some of my beliefs:

  • There are precious few industries in the history of man that have gone 40 years without a major transformation.  Executive search is one of those.  If you strip away email and the internet, not a lot has changed.  Why haven’t we embraced innovation?
  • The cost of an executive search, whether it is handled by a white shoe firm or an internal recruiter, is expensive.  If we make a mistake, the cost to the client can be significant.  How can we put more skin in the game without sacrificing quality in candidate research and assessment?
  • Partnering is one of the most over-used terms in the history of advertising copy writing.  What does that really mean?  What must we do to make it more meaningful to the client?  Can you be partners without putting money at risk?
  • While some firms are moving into candidate and client profiling, using any number of behavior and values profiling tools, it is still not widely used.  (Heck, there are a couple of major search firms who do not conduct background checks before they submit candidates.  That is the client’s job, they assert).  What can we do to ensure that the candidates we recommend are the best, and how can we help the client pick the best three or four finalists for site interviews?
  • What can we do to ensure that the on-boarding process is successful — that we help expedite the candidate’s ability to deliver leadership value without a prolonged ramp up period?

Most of you have worked with recruiters — either as a client and/or a candidate.  What would you like to see changed to make the process better?