Diversification Of The Executive Search Industry

Diversification Of The Executive Search Industry

The IIC Partners Global Conference & AGM, attended by approximately 90 executive search consultants representing over 40 firms and nearly 30 countries was held recently in London.

The programming, discussion and trends that surfaced during the event, reveal a dynamic industry that is constantly evolving to meet and exceed the demands of an ever more sophisticated talent management marketplace. Below we cover three of these trends.


Often a topic of focus in the talent management and executive search space, Diversity & Inclusion were particularly dominant themes this year. We had two presenters speak on the subject, and it organically entered into a lot of other discussions that took place during the course of our meeting.

While we held several sessions on the more usually considered types of diversity – gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and disability – we broadened our discussion of diversity to consider topics that transect these segments. It is important to consider diversity of values and beliefs – the different ways that people think, perceive and make judgments, and how people behave and interact.

Executive search consultants are in a unique position to advise and influence the dynamics of the selection process, and to recommend diverse candidates that may fit in with their client’s hiring needs.

It is clear that this is a topic that will continue to be a large part of the recruitment dialogue.


The search profession has been in operation since the 1950s. Since that time, we have seen the industry change to adapt to the demands of clients, the global marketplace and to new areas of business that have developed as a result of the digital revolution. As we head towards 2020, we are seeing a significant amount of merger and acquisition activity take place, changing the composition of the industry.

Long an industry buoyed by the movement of individual consultants between firms, acquisition is becoming a major factor in the search industry. Larger firms are now acquiring smaller and mid-size entities wholesale in order to expand quickly or develop a presence in a previously underserved geography, or within a particular industry or function in order to gain a competitive advantage.

The second trend is that of the joint venture or partnership of two similarly sized and focused firms. This is often designed to create a bigger firm but one that is still offering search in a specialized sector. This may enable the firm to more effectively compete against the global search firms by pooling resources into a larger entity that may still be considered a boutique, but with a larger database, bigger research team, and more consultants providing search with a deeper industry or functional focus.

A third emerging trend is the acquisition of leadership advisory firms, allowing executive search firms to diversify their service offerings for clients, who are demanding more than traditional executive search services from their search consultant partners. Offering these services often requires specialist consultants who can execute on specific talent management projects such as the assessment of an entire senior management team. By purchasing and integrating a leadership advisory firm, search firms are able to provide a more robust suite of talent management services to their clients.


While a lot of discussion has taken place around the value-add services that search firms can offer their clients, offering these services in a way that complements and does not conflict with the core offering of executive level recruitment is critical.

The relationship between client and search consultant is sacred. A client relies on a consultant to help steer them towards hiring decisions that will benefit the organization as a whole. In the process, a search consultant will come into contact with many stakeholders, and will get a unique and holistic view of the operation, culture and dynamics of their client.

A good search consultant will analyze the information and knowledge they have acquired, putting them in a position to not only advise on the most capable individuals to fill a specific role, but also to assist the organization with other aspects of their talent management. This deepens the relationship between a search consultant and client, and builds the role of the executive search consultant as a trusted adviser.

At IIC Partners, a number of our firms are providing services such as leadership assessment, Board advisory, executive coaching, interim search and succession planning to their clients. This broader base of services is being offered, because clients want search consultants that are already intimate with their business to provide these solutions. Our firms are moving beyond offering only executive search in order to be the partner that their client needs on human capital strategy.

The IIC Partners Global Conference was a great platform for IIC Partners firms from around the world to share information and discuss opportunities to leverage these trends in order to better serve their clients. If you are a search firm interested in joining IIC Partners, or a client seeking a search firm to help with your hiring or leadership needs, I look forward to hearing from you.

Written by:

Christine Hayward
Executive Director
IIC Partners Executive Search Worldwide