Purpose-driven search firms specializing in placing senior-level executives offer up candidates who can foster innovation with meaningful impact. It is a relatively new recruiting specialty that is now in hot demand.
Venesa Klein, one of 11 partners at Calibre One, an international search firm with offices in San Francisco, Menlo Park, London, Singapore, Sydney and Shanghai, was put in charge of a new practice this fall that aims to align candidates with the right desire, personal values and skills to drive both positive financial and social impact with client companies focused on empowering employees.
As a growing number of companies look beyond their traditional bottom line, said Ms. Klein, “they are trying to incorporate a higher purpose into their success.” To that end, she said, “they are pursuing executives who can fulfill those requirements.”
The Race for a New Breed of Leaders
Once the domain of non-profits, companies of all sorts now find they can engage their workforces in different ways, resulting in a race for executives who focus as much on mission as they do on profit. “Leading with purpose can create a new path toward economic success and build value across all stakeholders,” said Ms. Klein. “It is critical within mission-driven organizations to understand their culture and then to find the right executives to match.”
Recently, she’s met with executives and founders of companies who’ve decided to change the paradigm of how business is done in the world and that resonated with her. “At a very personal level, I realized I would be more satisfied as a professional search consultant working with companies that make a profit but that also make a personal impact.”
Recruiting for Nuances
Relating her experience with a current client that she declined to name, Ms. Klein detailed how a professional relationship can turn personal. “We work with profit-driven corporations mandated to be profitable and make a positive impact,” said Ms. Klein. “We’re currently working with a company in grocery delivery allowing people to purchase holistic organic food online and having it delivered to your door. The mission is to make natural healthy products available to everybody at a price most people can afford.”
Ms. Klein said searches with purpose-driven mandates are more time-consuming. And while she agreed that more recruiters are being asked to fulfill them more often, not every recruiter comes to the party fully equipped to handle their nuances. “A typical search can take three to four months. I would expect we’re going to bump that timeline out by a month with these sorts of searches,” said Ms. Klein. “They’re more involved in the sense that we’re getting to know people in a more holistic way. We always do reference checks, we always talk to people who have worked with someone in the past. But for these we now find talk to people who are not necessarily colleagues who know them well and have never worked with them, but they have a point of view. It’s just another layer of understanding who that person is.”
Without the proper alignment at the executive level, the drive to make an impact becomes diluted. Ms. Klein said it’s therefore critical that purpose-driven organizations understand their culture and find the right executives to fit their specific needs.
But in the end, many of the pressure points seem to reside with the recruiters themselves. “How do you identify a candidate? Everybody’s going to say they share that passion, or they have demonstrated it,” said Ms. Klein. “We recruit VP and C-level executives. Many quote success in their careers. But when they talk to us about a side passion, something they’re really called to do, that really translates into, ‘I want to keep doing what I’m doing as CFO, CEO, operations officer etc., but I also want to do it for a company that I’m passionate about outside of work.’ So, we’re seeking people who know where their passions are.”
A Balancing Act
Venesa Klein focuses on placing senior level executives in organizations seeking to create innovation with meaningful impact. Here, she describes clients maintaining a healthy balance between making a profit and being purpose-driven.
Is the line becoming blurred as companies weigh the benefits of recruiting purpose-driven leaders and maintaining the bottom line?
I don’t know that the line is blurred. Businesses today are not only trying to make a profit, they’re also trying to make a positive impact. It’s more of a shift that you can do good and make money, more of a defined line. Historically, you could only do this if you were a non-profit. That’s changed now.
Describe your work with companies that are passionate about the causes they support.
I recruit for companies that are passionate about what I’m also passionate about outside of work. So, we like to focus on providing our search expertise to profit-driven companies mandated to be profitable and that make a positive impact. We’re currently recruiting for a C-level position and seeking candidates with a high level of proven success, of course, but we’re also looking for someone who shares the client’s passion for providing
healthy foods to the masses.
Are there a sufficient number of candidates in the talent pool?
There is no supply and demand problem. There is simply the need to find skilled executives who are in alignment with the purpose of the company and who are like-minded. The Millennial generation already represents the bulk of our workforce. In order to attract and retain that talent now and in the future, businesses have to be more than they’ve been and offer more than just profit. I see companies shifting over to the newer model of creating positive impact while doing everything else that they do.