Author: Karl Simpson, CEO, Liftstream – Feb 12th 2018
The UK government some years ago (2011) introduced a Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search firms, which was implemented by the Department of Business in the wake of the Lord Davies Review, an initiative, or pre-cursor to quotas, that targeted increasing the participation of women on FTSE 100 boards. It was also an effort to bring to the table an important group of stakeholders – Executive Search firms – in the battle to introduce more women to senior executive positions. However, by 2013 sign-ups to the code had been underwhelming and the then Business Secretary – Sir Vince Cable commissioned Charlotte Sweeney to conduct a review into executive search practices and why more firms had not pledged their support for the code.
At the time, as a member of the Associate of Executive Recruiters, I was very close to the discussions about the design and introduction of this code. Alongside this voluntary code, there is an Enhanced Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms.
I decided at that time, that Liftstream would not be a voluntary signatory to the code. I reached that decision for 3 reasons. Firstly, being a signatory to any voluntary code, of course, does not require you to have to meet the standards set out, albeit you should enter into it with the right spirit. At Liftstream, we have always taken a high-integrity approach to the service we deliver, and on diversity we have challenged ourselves to over-achieve client or market expectations. Secondly, the code had largely been drafted with only gender diversity in mind. It did not in its earlier manifestations, state any requirement for race and ethnicity, which I considered to be setting a rather low-bar. Thirdly, the drafting and administration of its contents were designed with strong influence from the larger global search firms, and the reward (approval to the enhanced code list), was aimed at creating an elitist list of approved search firms. Therefore, in my view, a code aimed at fighting the consequences of elitism and promoting meritocracy, was in of itself enabling the behaviours it was designed to combat.
However, 2017 bought another revision of the code, this time prompted by the findings and recommendations of both the Hampton-Alexander Review into women at the executive level in business, and the Parker Review which focused on race and ethnicity. For the first time, the code makes provisions for a commitment by search firms to fill their candidate-lists with a fully diverse range of candidates.
Because of this latest effort to raise the standards of the executive search industry, I am pleased to now sign up to this voluntary code of conduct, and to allow it to guide our activity henceforth. Like any code of its type, I recognise the imperfections, the possible impracticalities of some of the guidelines. Our hope is that we’ll continue to set our own standard for others to follow, however, to keep a check on these, we’re pleased to work to those set out by the Voluntary Code of Conduct.
To read the code to which Liftstream is now a signatory please read here the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms. https://ftsewomenleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/VOLUNTARY-CODE-OF-CONDUCT-FOR-SEARCH-FIRMS-NOVEMBER-2017.pdf