How to attract and retain talent for senior and executive jobs

7 mins
Sellick  Partnership

By Sellick Partnership

In today's competitive business landscape, the main asset of any company lies in the people who lead and drive its growth. For senior and executive jobs, the impact of a single individual can be huge, shaping the company's strategic direction and influencing its culture. Attracting and retaining top-tier senior and executive talent is vital for businesses aiming to thrive in this dynamic environment. 

In a world where exceptional leaders are in high demand and short supply, the challenge is not merely to fill these pivotal roles but to inspire, engage, and empower these individuals to stay and contribute to the organisation's long-term success. Attracting top candidates is essential, but convincing them to stay is a different challenge entirely. However, with the right talent attraction and retention strategies in place, your business can assemble a dedicated leadership team with the skills to provide strategic guidance, generate innovation, and drive prosperity.

In this guide, we will explore the importance of hiring high-calibre candidates for executive-level roles and take a look at strategies you can implement to attract and retain top talent.

The importance of hiring exceptional talent for senior and executive jobs

Recruiting high-quality candidates for senior and executive positions is vital for businesses looking to secure long-term success. Senior and executive leaders are responsible for setting the strategic direction for their organisations and inspiring their staff to work together towards shared goals. Without effective executives at the helm, companies run the risk of poor decision-making, losing their competitive edge, and suffering reputational damage.

However, hiring outstanding candidates for leadership and senior jobs can be a difficult process, especially given the various challenges affecting the executive recruitment space. Due to an ongoing shortage of senior-level talent, sourcing high-quality candidates with the right skill set for your leadership role will likely be tricky. With data showing that 86% of the most qualified candidates are already in employment, the likelihood is that your ideal applicant isn’t actively seeking a new position.

In addition to a limited talent pool, businesses looking to bolster their leadership teams also have to contend with other key recruitment challenges, such as high salary expectations, competition from rival organisations vying for the same top-tier candidates, and a lack of diversity among applicants. The latter is a problem that has impacted leadership teams for a long time, with figures showing that only 28% of executive roles at FTSE 100 companies are held by women.

Given that Millennials and Generation Z are more likely to join an organisation that celebrates a diverse and inclusive culture, companies must address this issue if they are to attract the next generation of senior and executive talent. In fact, according to a Monster survey, 83% of Generation Z candidates claim that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is a key factor when choosing a new employer.

If you would like to learn more about the promise and potential of Millennial and Generation Z professionals in leadership roles, take a look at our blog: ‘What will the future of Millennial and Gen-Z leadership look like?’. 

The importance of filling your senior and executive jobs with high-calibre candidates cannot be understated. With a senior team of effective leaders capable of making key decisions and inspiring their colleagues, your organisation has a greater chance of overcoming the hurdles and emerging as a major player in an increasingly competitive, candidate-led market.

Strategies for attracting senior and executive talent

As we alluded to earlier, various challenges can affect an organisation’s senior and executive recruitment prospects. However, by utilising strategies designed to attract candidates with the leadership qualities you require, you’ll be well-equipped to conduct a swift and successful recruitment process. According to Gallup, effective leadership can increase a company’s profits by up to 29%, a fascinating statistic that underlines the significance of hiring top-quality executives.

Here are 3 valuable talent attraction strategies you should consider implementing to draw in highly skilled senior and executive candidates:

1. Strengthen your employer branding

If one aspect of a business influences a senior-level candidate’s decision to join, it’s their employer brand. It’s understandable that the best and brightest leadership candidates are far more likely to join reputable and financially stable organisations. Having a strong and compelling brand identity will show potential candidates that your organisation is a leader in its industry, driven by a clear set of core values, and, importantly, a place where people want to work.  

A significant factor to consider is that senior and executive candidates typically have a higher reputational risk than junior candidates when taking up a new role. From making operational decisions to managing the budget, those in leadership are responsible for a variety of critical tasks, so it’s unsurprising that they are more selective about the job opportunities they choose to pursue. By making your brand identity as unique and esteemed as possible, you’ll be able to attract candidates willing to lay their reputations on the line to support your organisation in achieving its strategic objectives.

A strong employer brand will also help attract more diverse senior candidates, particularly if it sends a clear message about your business’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. A study from PwC revealed that 80% of candidates pay close attention to an organisation’s diversity, equality, and inclusion policy when choosing whether or not to apply for them, an eye-catching figure that demonstrates the importance of showcasing your dedication to diversity in your employer branding efforts.  

There are various methods you can employ to bolster your employer brand, including:

  • Clearly define your employer value proposition (EVP)
  • Leverage social media platforms to ensure that your brand reaches a wide audience of potential candidates
  • Encourage your employees to share stories about what your company culture is like
  • Get involved in your local community to demonstrate that you’re committed to making a positive difference

Exceptional employer branding not only helps attract outstanding talent but also plays a crucial role in talent retention. In fact, research from Officevibe revealed that companies that invest in employer branding can reduce staff turnover by 28%. Employee turnover at the executive level can have profound implications on a company, such as a loss of institutional knowledge, uncertainty, and additional hiring costs.

By paying close attention to improving your brand identity, you can rest assured that your business will be able to attract and retain the senior-level talent you need.

2. Utilise executive search firms

Another effective strategy for attracting senior and executive candidates is by utilising executive search firms. Many companies looking to recruit top talent for management positions are often hampered by limited talent pools. This is especially the case for smaller, up-and-coming organisations that may not have the vast talent networks that bigger businesses typically have. By partnering with a firm that offers executive search services, you’ll gain access to a much wider pool of potential applicants, many of whom may be passive candidates who aren’t actively looking for new roles.

Executive search firms usually employ staff with significant senior and executive recruitment expertise. They’ll have in-depth knowledge of identifying outstanding senior-level talent, approaching them, and negotiating with them. In addition, they’ll understand how important privacy is to executive-level candidates, so they’ll be well aware of how to handle a recruitment process with the utmost confidentiality.

Here are the key tasks that executive search specialists can perform:

  • Identify prospective candidates
  • Conduct assessments and confidential interviews
  • Check references and work background
  • Offer guidance with the negotiation process

Although there are some considerations associated with using executive search services, such as finding a firm whose offerings are within your budget, the right service provider will be able to overcome these pain points and gain a thorough understanding of your business. By choosing a firm with exemplary executive search services, you’ll be well-equipped to find an executive professional with the skills to drive success at your organisation.

3. Offer competitive compensation and benefits packages

Given the sheer number of rival organisations competing for the same senior-level talent as you, offering appealing compensation and benefits packages is a crucial talent attraction strategy. The executive jobs market is extremely competitive right now and with compensation packages being a crucial element when considering a job offer, it is very likely that providing executive candidates with stand-out pay structures and benefits will make your company all the more appealing.

However, designing competitive senior-level compensation packages is a far more complex process than merely bumping up the salary. You should adopt a cautious and understanding approach to refining your executive compensation plan, not least due to the fact that many companies have drawn criticism for overpaying their leadership teams. There are many factors to consider when outlining your packages, such as the executive’s prior experience, the company’s financial outlook, the base salary, and long-term performance incentives.

Other elements that typically feature in executive compensation packages include severance pay, golden parachute payments, and non-cash benefits such as company cars, memberships, and personal financial planning services. Before finalising your packages, be sure to get in contact with a compensation consultant to get expert advice on whether what you plan to offer aligns with your company’s goals. Another top tip is to regularly review and update packages, ensuring that they remain competitive.

4. Implement inclusive policies 

Thinking, not just about the package you’re offering, but the policies you have in place for all employees will go a long way in boosting your recruitment and retention efforts with executive hires and beyond. 

The key is that everyone is considered in creation and application of the policies, even if they may not have a direct impact on some groups. For example, having a menopause and/or menstruation policy in place could impact many people in your organisation, but also training those that aren’t impacted such as male senior members of staff who may have conversations about the policy and need to be comfortable having those discussions. 

Other examples of inclusive policies include: flexible working, mental health and wellbeing, and disability and reasonable adjustments, to name a few.

3 strategies for retaining senior and executive talent

Successfully attracting and recruiting high-calibre candidates for executive jobs is no easy feat, but achieving this is only half the battle. Retaining exceptional talent is of paramount importance, particularly at the executive level, especially considering the high costs involved with replacing an executive hire. If you want to guarantee that your new executive hire feels motivated enough to remain at your organisation, putting the right talent retention strategies in place is vital.

Here are 3 key methods for retaining senior and executive candidates:

1. Conduct an effective onboarding process

Effective onboarding processes can be decisive in achieving talent retention goals. When properly onboarded, senior leaders are more likely to feel valued, connected, and engaged in their new positions, which can lead to longer-term retention. There is a strong correlation between successful onboarding processes and talent retention, with research indicating that positive onboarding experiences improve long-term job satisfaction by more than 2.6 times.

The main goal of any well-structured senior and executive onboarding plan is to ensure that the new leaders quickly integrate into their roles. If they are made well aware of the expectations early on, they are more likely to develop a sense of purpose, making them more inclined to remain at their new organisation.

Your onboarding plan should also include plenty of opportunities for them to work with and get to know their new colleagues. Senior and executive jobs typically involve a high amount of collaboration, so it is vital to help them establish connections with their team early in the process.

Here are the best practices you should follow to improve your senior and executive onboarding strategy:

  • Ensure that your new executives spend ample time with their colleagues
  • Provide your new hire with plenty of chances to provide feedback about the process
  • Create a personalised onboarding plan that includes a variety of relevant activities, such as shadowing other executives and meeting with key stakeholders
  • Give them access to resources that enhance their knowledge of the company’s products, history, and competitors  

2. Offer professional development and growth opportunities

Providing senior and executive talent with an abundance of development and growth opportunities is an excellent strategy for reducing employee turnover and boosting retention rates. Professional development is particularly beneficial for senior executives, as their expertise in subjects like people leadership, business management, and systems thinking is a pivotal factor in guaranteeing success for their organisations. In fact, a study by Training Industry found that companies that invested in leadership development training had an ROI of 29% within 3 months.

As a part of their onboarding process, you should provide your new executives with custom development plans that address their career goals, strengths, and areas for improvement. To assess their strengths and weaknesses, you can pair them with experienced mentors who can evaluate their skills while providing guidance, insights, and advice on navigating complex leadership challenges. Other helpful techniques include regularly collecting feedback through 360-degree reviews, encouraging your new hires to engage in discussions with board members, and hosting frequent executive roundtables.

To make sure that your new seniors and executives are given a chance to develop their skills, it is worth setting time aside for them to complete courses, complete assignments, and attend industry seminars to learn about the latest industry trends. Several online and in-person executive education programs are available all over the UK, offered by business schools such as the Imperial College, the London School of Economics, and the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

3. Be flexible and accommodating to their needs

Being accommodating to the needs of your senior and executive staff is essential for retaining them at your organisation and maintaining a productive work environment. Senior and executives often have busy schedules, so providing them with the flexibility they need to perform their important duties while striking a balance between their work and personal lives is a must. Fostering a work environment that promotes open and honest communication via surveys and one-on-one meetings is an important step, as it provides them with the platform to voice their needs and concerns.

Facilitating flexible working arrangements is a great way to make it easier for your executives to carry out their responsibilities. With increasing managerial and senior jobs advertised as flexible, not implementing a hybrid work model or flexible working hours will put your organisation at a significant disadvantage. By embracing flexible working options such as remote work, compressed workweeks, or flexible hours, you’re likely to see a substantial uptick in talent retention. Research from the TUC suggests that 82% of workers in the UK are in favour of flexible working arrangements.

Attracting and retaining executive talent: key takeaways

Exceptional leaders play a valuable role in shaping a company's strategic direction and culture, and their efforts are fundamental to securing long-term success. It is crucial to implement effective talent attraction and retention strategies to navigate executive recruitment challenges, such as a limited pool of suitable candidates and high remuneration expectations.

By prioritising the recruitment and retention of high-calibre leaders, businesses can position themselves for long-term success and sustained growth in a competitive, candidate-driven market. Outstanding leadership is integral to an organisation’s prosperity, and with the right strategies in place, companies can build dedicated leadership teams capable of guiding them to new heights.

Experts in senior and executive recruitment

Since forming in 2002, Sellick has been at the forefront of providing Senior & Executive recruitment services. Connecting top talent with managerial and executive jobs throughout the UK, our consultants have an in-depth understanding of how to support companies with their executive hiring needs. Whether you are looking to recruit a senior-level candidate on a permanent or interim basis, we provide market-leading support.

Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your recruitment ambitions.