Spencer Stuart’s Thomas Daniels on discovering and developing top talent

June 2, 2022

Spencer Stuart’s Thomas Daniels on discovering and developing top talent

Thomas Daniels

Partner at Spencer Stuart

Thomas Daniels explores the importance of a company's willingness to adapt to promote employee retention and engagement.

On an exciting episode of the Walker Webcast, Willy spoke with long-time friend Thomas (Tom) Daniels, an executive at one of the world's preeminent leadership advisory services firms, Spencer Stuart. A graduate of Dartmouth College (Bachelor's Degree) and the University of Chicago (MSB), Tom sits on the Global Board of Directors at Spencer Stuart, the firm's audit and risk and cybersecurity committees, and chairs the M&A committee. In addition to his roles at Spencer Stuart, Tom formerly served on the Executive Committee of the Dartmouth Alumni Council, earning the Dartmouth Alumni Award, and acted as the Global Chair for the Association of Executive Search Consultants (ESC). When he is not working, he enjoys running, having completed 22 marathons, including all six World Marathon Majors.

Tom and Willy's conversation explores the importance of a company's willingness to adapt, particularly amidst the great resignation, to promote employee retention and engagement. In exploring this topic, Tom and Willy investigate methods of employee retention, cultural alignment enhancement, identifying ideal traits in C-suite and board candidates, return to office trends, and much more!

At the start of the webcast, Willy asks Tom to elaborate on how Spencer Stuart has addressed difficulties caused by the great resignation, given that there is more liquidity than ever in the human capital markets. In a post-COVID world, the increased popularity of remote and hybrid work has dramatically shifted employee values, emphasizing a greater desire for relationships and work-life balance. Trends have demonstrated that the most crucial components of employee retention are culture, purpose, career advancement, recognition, mobility, and pride. The top-performing companies in this area are proactive and forward-thinking corporations with desirable flexibility and hybrid work models. 

Throughout Tom's 17 years of experience, the landscape for discovering top talent has changed drastically, particularly regarding the introduction of digital and social media. To help clients adjust to this change, Spencer Stuart, whose primary mission is to discover and develop talent, stresses that explicit experience should not be the main factor in determining C-suite candidates. Tom reveals that 70% of S&P 500 CEOs have not previously held a CEO title. To guide clients in identifying ideal candidates, Tom reveals Stuart Spencer's top three methods for CEO assessment: skills and experience, self-awareness, and learning agility.

Tom next distinguishes cultural fit and compatibility. A company's culture emerges from the interactions between, and combinations of, all the individual style profiles present among employees. Because a company's culture is such a layered and fluctuating image, Spencer Stuart has developed a model that allows companies to assess their culture and progress. 

Compatibility explores how particular individuals interact with a company's culture and values and the ease with which a company's culture can adjust. For a company to ensure maximum success regarding culture and compatibility, a CEO must bring together the company vision. To ensure this, CEOs must lead by example and take time to actively and regularly work with all different types of employees, which in turn will develop a collaborative environment. Tom reveals that the best CEOs have an average tenure of 15 years, two times that of the average CEO in America.

While a CEO can certainly be invaluable for any organization, Tom recognizes that other C-suite executives are crucial to a company's success. Considering this, Tom discloses the skills and traits critical for CFOs, including the ability to and experience of responding to unexpected or adverse situations. Adaptability is also vital for this role, with top performers in this area often having had varied careers and personal experiences. The ideal CFO's skill set is vast; however, they should be technologically savvy, understand the power of technology as an enabler, know how to mine data, and actively consider the future of AI. 

For webcast listeners in the finance world looking to round out their resumes, Tom offers various pieces of advice:
One must emphasize what they do well and what they can do better than anyone else.
Seek stretch assignments to demonstrate one is comfortable leaving their comfort zone. Individuals can accomplish this by joining committees for broader enterprise roles, getting involved in external groups, and pursuing continued education.
Locate good mentors. 

In forward-thinking workplaces, it is important to establish developed and well-run ESGs. However, doing so is a significant issue C-suite executives, board members, and employees have faced. With that in mind, it is imperative to properly vet new hires to determine whether their objectives and morals align with the hiring company. For a company to guarantee this, Tom's team recommends conducting extensive background checks, and social media account reviews.

Considering the importance of progressive environments, Willy stresses that corporations have become more cognizant of board revamping, diversifying, and succession over the years. Willy informs listeners that 30% of S&P board members today are women, a significant step towards attaining board gender equality. From a diversity standpoint, 33% of new independent directors in 2021 were Black or of African American descent, an increase of 11% from 2020.

As the episode wraps up, Tom shares his upcoming marathon plans.

Read Transcript

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