Feb 16, 2022

Jeff Hocking, a partner at ON Partners, shares his learnings from the past year on increasing the number of diverse executives in leadership positions across tech

While many executive search firms proudly tout their diversity practices, partner Jeff Hocking points out that all ON Partners searches are diverse searches. Jeff has made a priority of increasing the number of diverse executives in leadership positions, with more than 70% of his 2021 search assignments resulting in diverse executive placements. With a focus on placing senior executives in the notoriously white male-dominated technology sector, Jeff understands the challenges associated with placing diverse candidates – and how to overcome them.

“We approach every search with a commitment to presenting a client with a diverse candidate slate. We know that human nature is to gravitate toward people who are similar to each other, so we always skew heavily toward underrepresented, qualified candidates to ensure there is a diverse view of opportunities from the start.”

“It is widely known that the Bay Area has historically lacked qualified diverse tech talent. But with the pandemic shifting the workplace to remote-first, a much larger universe of candidates has opened up, allowing us to present qualified diverse executives who would otherwise not be considered,” Jeff says.

While ON’s commitment to diversity is important, client commitment is equally critical. For example, when working with a client to place a new chief product officer, Jeff met every week with the CEO, and every week the head of diversity joined them, sending a clear message about the client’s expectations. Diversity leaders are increasingly part of the hiring conversation, communicating a strong commitment to building as diverse a team as possible, and tech companies are holding themselves more accountable than ever before.

When a fast-growing global Bay Area-based software company was seeking to expand its marketing, technology, and customer success teams, Jeff worked with the company’s CEO to bring onboard three diverse executives, all based far outside of the Bay Area. Company leadership recognized that these senior leaders’ deep tech experience and diversity of backgrounds and diversity of thought made them more than qualified for the roles.

For diverse candidates to feel welcome at a hiring company, several key elements must exist there: a strong focus on the people, a clear purpose, and a feeling of safety – safe to be yourself, safe to grow. One way to provide that safety is through the element of belonging.

“Diverse candidates should not be meeting solely with a group of people that do not reflect their own gender, race, cultural or geographical backgrounds,” Jeff adds.

“They want to know there are other people who are more like them. Make sure you’re including diverse employees as part of the process or candidates could reject the opportunity. We in executive search are helping share knowledge – not just getting people to the table, but to a table where they feel safe and where they can feel a sense of belonging.”

The fact that Jeff himself is a white male is not lost on him.

“Regardless of the color of my skin, I know I’m in a position to make a difference in how companies hire senior executives, and I consider myself fortunate that my colleagues at ON and I are able to present diverse candidates to hiring organizations more than ever before.”

He adds, “It’s also personal. My daughter has recently joined the working world and I want to make sure she and her peers have the same opportunities I had in my 20s and 30s. If I can place females and other diverse executives, I hope this will eventually help the younger generation to have strong role models and mentors.”

Want more information on ON’s commitment to increasing the number of diverse executives in leadership positions? Check out our DEI in the ON community portal for more resources and recent diversity appointments.

Follow our work, updates, and recent success on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Find our related successful placements of leading executives here.

About ON Partners

Since 2006, ON Partners is the only pure-play executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams. We rebuilt the institution of executive search for the way you work. Our approach includes present partners who engage with their clients from the first brief to the final decision, individually crafted solutions that are unique to each client, and an easier experience all around. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists nine times, ON Partners is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S.

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