Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) have always been core values of Howard Fischer Associates. Not only is it the right thing to do, but studies have also shown that diversity provides a distinct competitive advantage and is good for business. It is no longer a question of whether diversity makes sense for executive leadership and boards – it does. Companies that are more diverse outperform their peer groups in many key business metrics.
While most companies have good intentions when it comes to hiring diverse leadership, they often fall short of their aspirations. In our experience working with C-level executives and boards, the root cause is that most companies tend to be reactive when filling senior-level leadership roles, typically waiting to initiate a diversity search until after an active opening exists.
Ten years ago, we developed our Leadership Pipeline Program (LPP), a proactive, anticipatory approach to executive search that enables companies to meet the best talent well before the need. Like everything we do at HFA, this program is rooted in personal relationships —relationships measured in years, not months. The Leadership Pipeline Program is driven by our belief that the most successful solution for attracting outstanding diverse leaders is identifying, meeting, and building a relationship with those candidates well before an opening exists.
Our founder, Howard Fischer, spoke on a panel about diversity and inclusion hosted by the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors. Moderated by Charisse Lillie, CEO of CRL Consulting LLC and former and Vice President of Community Investment for Comcast Corporation and Executive Vice President of the Comcast Foundation, it was an opportunity to showcase the work we’ve done for our clients.
Here are some of the top takeaways from the discussion.
Outside forces have totally changed the market. Because of a confluence of events over the past two years, we have seen an unprecedented demand for – and limited supply of – diverse board talent. Despite the best efforts of companies and boards across the U.S., it’s still shocking and disappointing to look at recent surveys of Fortune 500 corporate boards and see tremendous underrepresentation.
Due to these demands, our Leadership Pipeline Program offers a proactive, anticipatory, and effective approach. Nearly every facet of the process has changed to provide clients with a path to significantly (and more quickly and sustainably) increase the diversity of its executive and board leadership. Our Leadership Pipeline Program enables our clients to transform from a traditionally reactive, tactical, and transactional process to a proactive, strategic, and relationship-focused approach. To achieve diversity aspirations, companies are now integrating diversity into their long-term strategic plan and into succession planning for the board – this is where the paradigm is changing. When it comes to diversity, relationship building is of the utmost importance.
You can do it alone, but we don’t recommend it. In this hyper-competitive environment, you need an advocate. In addition to providing access to a much broader pool of candidates, HFA proactively seeks diverse talent and objectively evaluates them, a vetting that ensures the candidate is a good fit, in terms of qualifications and experience, as well as cognitively and culturally as well. We are constantly building relationships with strong, diverse leadership with the idea in mind that we don’t have to have an active position, but we are already starting to develop relationships for when there is an active opening, or in many cases, for an opportunistic hire.
As an outsider, HFA also serves as the point person, supporting the board, gaining alignment among the board, and assessing and evaluating candidates on a level playing field. We also vet candidates very carefully. Once a person joins a board, it is very difficult to have them removed or for them to choose to resign. Therefore, it is critical to have careful, thorough vetting. These factors are all critical to success after the hire.
We’re constantly building relationships with strong, diverse leaders – a must in such a competitive environment.
Great hires take time. Candidates want to get to know the companies before they commit or leave a role where they have been happy and successful. Similarly and just as importantly, companies want to ensure not only a fit in terms of skills but also experience and culture to greater ensure success after the hire. One or two meetings over three months are not enough; think nine months to a year instead. Additionally, we recommend candidates meet with both members of the nominating committee and most, if not all, of the board members. This serves both the candidate, as well as the company and board by identifying candidates who are most likely to thrive and be a good cultural fit.
This thorough, relationship-based process greatly contributes to the success of the hire.
Hiring through the LPP means hiring those who are most qualified and increasing a company’s competitive edge and potential for success through diversity – cognitive, cultural, race, gender, sexual orientation, and experience.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have always been core values of HFA. For organizations hoping to begin that journey with the greatest possibility of success, we invite you to learn more about our internal and external efforts here, and to contact us directly: EMAIL