growth of the executive search business points to the need for more sophisticated services and knowledge about the available talent pool and its relation to the current challenges of the organization. Inventorying available human talent to fit strategic challenges may one day be as practical as inventorying for just-in-time manufacturing processes.
The task of selecting the right leader for the right situation is often left to executive search firms, boards of directors, or other parties who do not have the tools or experience to differentiate among the varying characteristics necessary for executive success. As Hollenbeck (1994) aptly notes, the process is often carried out by novices. We need to broaden our perspective, from focusing on improving selection and planning techniques to ensuring that the data generated from these processes are appropriately applied.
We have suggested a number of actions that will result in more effective choices for an organization. Begin with a clear understanding and differentiation between performance, potential, and suitability. Have clearly defined and behaviorally based performance expectations. In this way, decision makers can focus on the critical skills and experiences needed in a target assignment, which in turn will enable them to focus on comparing a talent pool on the basis of key dimensions that will be essential in the leadership role to be filled. Finally, a long-term strategic process for harvesting executive-level talent will enable all parties to understand and prepare for a continuously changing and dynamic future rather than rely on static data driven from past experiences that may no longer be relevant.
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