Consolidation, healthcare reform and a slow economy has challenged most middle market health & benefits consulting firms in adjusting to the new normal of doing business.  Doing more with less has become the new norm to remain profitable today.  Investing in more “boots on the ground” still remains the traditional strategy to create visibility in the marketplace from a client acquisition perspective.  However there is a more critical battle being fought, but this battle is being fought with a very passive strategy; and the results are undermining the effectiveness of the client acquisition strategy.  The critical battle is the competition for the limited resources that all consulting firms need to survive.  That limited resource is the available pool of trained consultants; and the passive strategy is the in-house talent acquisition model.

Why is a passive talent acquisition strategy utilized?

Advancement in technologies has leveled the playing field, and the same tools used by their outsourced recruitment partners are now directly accessible to consulting firms.  The result is that the cost gap between recruiting talent in-house and externally has narrowed.

If you are utilizing an in-house talent acquisition model, these are the things that you should know.

Recruiting a consultant from a competitor is not an easy task.  On the surface it might appear simple because you can easily learn the names of the consultants in a particular city that work for your competitors.  To find names of consultants, you can simply ask for recommendations from vendors or the folks on your present staff; or you can do a quick search on social media platforms such as LinkedIn.   And if all else fails, you can advertise your job vacancy on the Internet.  So technology has made finding names of people very easy, but the recruiting part still remains a challenge.

How do you strategically extract someone from a competitor to join your team?

Before we discuss a successfully strategy; let’s take a look at the three reasons why recruiting consultants from competitors is a difficult task:

First of all, consultants are not accustomed to job searching or applying on-line for jobs.  Their skills are a valued commodity; they are on the revenue generation side of the table and historically, great job opportunities have found them typically through headhunters or colleagues.  Unlike the unemployed, consultants know that they are in high demand; they are the most important asset of their employer.  Their employer also knows that the knowledge and subject matter expertise of the consultants is the product that they sell to customers, to solve a problem or satisfy a need.  Consultants truly expect to be courted by the interested employer and presented with an offer that is too good to pass-up, in order to leave the proverbial devil they know.

Secondly, from the consulting firm’s perspective, consultants are like chips in a poker game where the objective of this game is to weaken the other firms by enticing away their best players.  In a poker tournament, the player with the largest chip stack can easily bully around other players with a smaller chip stack and take their chips. In the consulting game, the firms with the best consultants win and retain more clients.  Do not expect the competitor to willingly allow others to weaken their brand by enticing away one of their goose that lays the golden eggs; they will put up a fight.

The third reason why consultants are hard to recruit is because they are busy.  That’s right, they have so many things on their plates, and no one connects with them until they come up for air.  They are wedged tightly between their clients, the vendors and their own internal support system- zoned in on completing assignments, putting out fires and at the same time trying to win more business.  They won’t return recruiting calls; they won’t read job postings-they are essentially hiding from anyone who will distract them from their tasks at hand.

Now that we know recruiting revenue generating type talent is a very difficult undertaking, here is the headhunter’s secret to recruiting the top consultants:

Recruit ahead of the need and hire strong recruiting talent!

If you start your recruitment process after a job has become open, the time-to-fill metric will be a lengthy one, for the reasons mentioned above.  A long time-to-fill can be deadly to your organization.  It is similar to plaque building up in your arteries which can lead to a massive heart attack or a stroke.  It will also put increased pressure on your remaining staff as they try to pitch-in and help each other. When that occurs, little things start to fall through the cracks and create bottlenecks in your operation; which will lead to missed critical deadlines and the staff will end up having to re-do work previously done.   It can also lead to a toxic work environment which will lead to a loss of clients and additional staff members.

Recruiting ahead of the need involves developing relationships and engaging with the consultants that you would like to hire in the future.  Developing relationships in this case means that the recruiter needs to know the consultants on a  personal level as well as where they are in their careers and the type of roles that would advance their careers.

It is also important to know that top consultants only work with recruitment professionals they know and trust.  The risk of confidentially in a tight niche Industry is too high.

Closing Thoughts

A successful client acquisition campaign starts with an effective talent acquisition strategy.  And a successfully in-house recruitment strategy for recruiting the revenue generating type talent must start with hiring strong recruiting talent.  Strong recruiters are industry specialized professionals that has hands-on knowledge of the technical issues of the consultants and are able to speak their language in providing guidance and feedback. Settling for limited recruitment skills specifically to post jobs and search resumes within a database is sacrificing quality over cost.

You will not win in the major league with minor league quality players; your in-house recruitment strategy should be designed  to strategically extract the talented consultants away from your competitors.