Losing a top executive is an anxiety-inducing situation even under the best of circumstances. You need someone not only to fill a need but also to fit with company culture and interact collaboratively with other executives and senior managers. When a critical role in the organization needs to be filled quickly, this is when the most hiring mistakes occur. And they’re expensive mistakes.
According to research from the Center for American Progress, the cost to replace an executive-level employee can run up to 213% of the employee’s annual salary.
Clearly, that’s not a decision you want to rush. But what can you do when you need to fill a mission-critical role and don’t yet have a qualified candidate in the hiring pipeline? Here’s how hiring a consultant can fill the short-term gap and save you from making a bad hire.
Serves as a bridge
Executive searches tend to take a lot more time than the average hire. Therefore, it’s critical to allow your organization time and space to do the job well. A consultant can serve as a bridge, giving you time to conduct a thoughtful search process while valuable work gets accomplished.
Access to world-class talent
Using a consultant provides access to talent that may otherwise be out of reach as a permanent hire. The Harvard Business Review calls them supertemps – “top managers and professionals – from lawyers to CFOs to consultants – who’ve been trained at the top schools and companies and choose to pursue project-based careers.”
They aren’t people between jobs or those who can’t get a full-time job elsewhere. They choose project-based work for the autonomy and flexibility it provides. In short, some of the best talent in the workforce, given a choice, pursues a stream of independent projects. You couldn’t hire them full-time at any price. But you can tap into their expertise for a season, where they can create an impressive impact in a short amount of time.
Added assurance you’re getting it right
Every executive has a particular leadership style that becomes a part of an organization’s culture. This is especially true if the executive had a long tenure. Over time, other executives, board members and employees become accustomed to the way that executive works, even when their style was less than ideal.
Filling the role with a consultant gives you a chance to try on a new executive style before you buy. Maybe the exiting leader favored an autocratic approach, but you want a more democratic leader who asks the team for their input before making a decision. Hiring a consultant gives you an opportunity to test drive a new leadership style before making long-term hiring decisions.
Avoid other executives playing dual roles
When faced with a last-minute C-suite vacancy, some organizations with task other company executives with playing dual roles until a replacement is hired. This isn’t always the right move.
Consider a CEO filling in as CFO or vice versa. Those roles are distinct. A CEO’s job is to drive the company forward. The CFO oversees its financial planning, reporting and managing financial risks. Someone with a CEO mindset might miss some of the details on the financial side while a CFO might not be ready to push the envelope. Bringing in a consultant ensures goals that would likely be second or third priorities for other executives remain top of mind.
Consultants provide much-needed support when an executive leaves unexpectedly. Or when you need a fresh perspective on how to take the organization forward. This allows the board and remaining leaders to focus on identifying the right person to provide long-term leadership and avoiding the pitfalls that come with hiring a permanent replacement too quickly.