Finding the right people to make, manage, and run your investments is as important as investing your money.
It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for the search industry recently. It weathered the financial crisis well with revenues remaining pretty much at the same level as pre- 2008 figures. It seemed as though, with the challenges of the crash being safely staved off, it would be an industry in good health. There is, however, another challenge that is more profound, and deservedly so, which centres around how you view the people on your board: are they just filling a position, or are they adding value?
The traditional process whereby a headhunter runs through his or her black book of contacts, trying to persuade them to take on the role to be filled, is founded on narrow social interaction that reinforces the same narrowness throughout the industry and the boards who find their directors this way. Yet companies are operating at a time when we know diversity on boards delivers maximum performance. Boards appointing people to new positions need to break out of the confines of traditional search, and leverage the internet to access the broadest and most diverse pool of talent. That’s why I founded Nurole, a digital platform that matches the best people with the right roles – to challenge this model. Nurole offers an opportunity to disrupt the traditional paradigm and finally bring the search industry into the digital age.
The fact of the matter is that, for a portfolio company, the management team is as important to the value and success of that company as the capital invested in it. If you appoint the best person to be CEO, CFO, or chairman of the board and they are 50% better than their nearest competitor for that role, then you should create a commensurate upsurge in value.
When we talk about diversity delivering performance, there is not any one form of diversity at stake, but a variety of key factors: gender, function, geography, and age. If you are recruiting for a company that is looking for 50% growth from Asia, then you need Asian expertise on your board. Similarly, there are very few sectors that wouldn’t benefit from digital expertise, but time and time again these qualities are overlooked and fail to be represented at board level. Finding the right person at the right time for the right role can be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Nurole harnesses the power of social media and crowdsourcing to create the widest and deepest network of talent available for these positions and thereby ensure the greatest returns on your hire.
Just one case study shows how effective this technology can be in finding someone unexpected and ideal for a role. In 2014, the Landmark Trust, a charity that rescues historic buildings and gives new life to castles, forts, follies, towers, and cottages, was looking for a trustee with a digital background. Nurole posted the position and, at the touch of a button, notified 750 people with digital expertise; six applied. The successful application came from an executive at Amazon who chaired a very large museum and whose academic background is in maths and science. His passion for architecture is nowhere present on paper. A traditional search might have assumed that with his high-profile positions at Amazon and the museum he wouldn’t have capacity. Nurole’s process, however, reaches people that might have been overlooked and allows the individual to decide what is relevant and privilege their own interests. No shift in the way an industry works happens immediately. Amazon had to build up its global position book by book. But Nurole has the power and flexibility to deliver real change very quickly. It is elastic enough to be able to work alongside existing headhunters, augmenting their searches, or to stand alone and select applicants from our established global database.
One of the arguments against the opening up of recruiting is that it dilutes quality. Why would a board look in a place where it couldn’t guarantee the standard of the applicants? Nurole overcomes that problem by only taking on people who are recommended for the Nurole community, and there are safeguards in place to ensure that anyone who is not up to scratch will not apply for a role. The application of technology does not mean a drop in values or value.
Nurole is, in many ways, about power. It allows the organisation to uncover the right person for the role, someone they might not have heard of. It empowers the individual: the person looking for the role defines their interests; it is up to them to search for something they want to do. As they are a self-selecting group, you already have a more motivated, interested range of applicants. Furthermore, as they declare their own experience and expertise, you find out more about them than an hour-long conversation with a headhunter, overshadowed by a certain agenda, could ever achieve. Nurole also offers individuals the power to find roles in total confidentially. The Nurole database is invisible until the individual sends in their application for a role, and then it is between them and the organization. Up until that point no one will ever know if they are even a part of the Nurole community.
Part of empowering the individual is to give them the opportunity to perform these searches in their own time, sidestepping those awkward phone conversations that catch you out on the way into a meeting. One recent Nurole appointee was enjoying some downtime at home on a Sunday. During the adverts on TV, he started browsing through roles on the website. He thought that one looked interesting, applied, and got it. He himself said that, had a headhunter phoned, he would have turned them down before they’d got past their introduction. Such self-starters, however, are able to give the best of themselves because they join an organization starting from a position of interest.
All the lessons that the internet teaches about customisation, control, empowerment, and niche interests are being forced home to the traditional headhunting model just as much as they are to the entertainment industry. Nurole is helping organisations and headhunters to deliver a deeper, wider search cost effectively.
Susie Cummings, Chief Executive