As you consider a new opportunity, there are different risk levels based on the type of organization.
Here are descriptions of organizations and the risk levels I see in the communications positions they are filling.
Low Risk Public Company
In this situation all the factors that lead to stability are in place (as described in the prior post) with one critical exception.
The position has become available due to dissatisfaction (leading to a resignation) with the performance of the prior incumbent (and it may take some sleuthing to confirm this is the case.) The leadership position is redefined with the objective to reorganize the function and possibly the team to meet new goals/metrics. Hiring a replacement may focus on the qualities and capabilities (that the prior incumbent lacked.) That can be a problem rather than looking objectively at the current business issues that the communications team should be addressing. Also, be aware that there can be an issue if the hiring team lacks a clear picture of what they can realistically expect to accomplish by hiring a new leader. (How much was the mistake in hiring the fault of the organization? What have they learned since?)
Moderate Risk, Public Company
In this situation, the company is attempting to compete more effectively and looking for new approaches. This is an organization under stress. The communications position is newly created and defined through a process led by a communications professional in conjunction with Human Resources and approved by the leadership team. The concerns in this situation are:
- Are the expectations realistic?
- Has the timetable for the new hire to succeed been established?
- Has the job been defined and are the priorities agreed to and understood by the leadership team?
- Are the level of the position and the salary range in line with market conditions so that the hire is appropriate for the work? How strategic is the role? Is there a clear understanding of the scope?
- How will the organization determine if the new hire is performing successfully?
High Risk, Public Company
The highest levels of the company’s leadership team have determined there is a need to upgrade the communications function due to substantive issues affecting the organization (beyond market share to overall reputation, for example.) They do not have a history of thinking about communications as a strategic function and their efforts to date have been entirely tactical.
The new hire they seek will lead efforts to establish a vision, values and plan of action to meet the obvious challenges. The leadership team does not know how much of a commitment is involved on their part and what resources and help they will be tasked with to meet their goals. The organization is in a change mode due to outside pressures. While the company can describe their challenges, there is no one in-house with an understanding of the effort involved to refocus/redirect the organization.
High Risk, Public Company
A major company with a well-established brand that is undergoing severe challenges as consumer habits shift, has decided to restructure the communications department that has been ineffective. The head of the comms group has plans to retire and a successor is hired to refocus the function. Rumors of change at the President/CEO level have been circulating in the industry but nothing has been announced. A new leader does take over as head of the company. As the newly hired communications officer waits to assume the #1 role, s/he receives no support from the legacy incumbent. The agreement to assume the #1 role fades (the former head retires) just as there is a restructuring. The #1 job is eliminated. The circumstances under which the new communications leader was hired are completely changed.
Extreme Risk, Private Company
A privately held highly successful company where the founder is running the company, decides to hire her/his first communications leader at the officer level. This role is at the same level as a long-tenured leadership team. The founder/CEO has some understanding at a high level about hiring a strategist/business savvy comms professional but her/his team has a very limited knowledge of what the leader is hoping to accomplish. With the help of an outside consultant, the new job description is written and the CEO is pleased with how the role is defined.
As is appropriate for a CEO with major business initiatives to pursue, the hiring process is delegated to the leadership team. A hire is made who fits the culture and style that is compatible with the CEO, which is a major achievement. After several months of outlining the challenges and receiving limited support from the leadership team, it is determined that the building blocks of a communications program have stalled and that the commitment required to accomplish the goals of the CEO cannot be met. No one had an understanding of what their obligation would be to develop a communications program. The job is eliminated. A decision is made to create a tactical role to implement specific internal and external projects.