Interview with Mary Kramer, Global Service Group Leader Human Capital Solutions at SpenglerFox
If we speak specifically about the key services SpenglerFox offers as part of its HCS package, there is strong interest in leadership development across all geographies. If we look at career transition counselling, then there is higher demand for that service in Central and Eastern Europe and Southern Europe compared to other markets, i.e. such as the Middle East and Russia. At present I see that the current wave of M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions) processes drives interest in career transition advisory. Overall, it depends on companies‘ individual situations and the overall health of the local economy.
What we do find though, in the Middle East, is that clients are increasingly asking for team building and team effectiveness development services. This is because, in that region specifically, ompanies work with a lot of diverse teams of expats: as concerns nationalities, religions and cultures. There are a lot of mixed backgrounds. So company and organizational management is looking for smoother leadership styles and greater fluidity in team leadership processes.
In our day-to-day advisory we focus, for example, on management style. We had one project in the Middle-East, where we worked closely with an expat GM, who felt his leadership team to be slightly dysfunctional. So for that company we launched a specific tool analysis project: examining how each person’s individual leadership style fit within the style needed for the overall management team. We ran a series of workshops analysing a) how people work in teams; b) what conflicts might arise due to different points of view/levels of experience across the team and c) how to work with and leverage the team members‘ diversity to benefit the entire management team and its common goals. This resulted in our defining a list of actions that could be taken to promote acceptance of diversity and differences in management styles.
Overall, I think it’s a willingness to invest in people. To look at their personal traits and dive below the surface. To be successful, businesses need to look at management team effectiveness and the leadership traits of persons running these teams. At present, I see a lot of our clients expressing interest in competitor benchmarking. This is a service that SpenglerFox has offered for the last 3 years now. Basically, our clients want to know how their business, their organizational structure, their leadership and their employer branding holds up against their competitors. Our clients want business intelligence (BI) data so they can learn how to compete best in the market.
It’s also important to note that businesses’ subsequent approaches to competitor benchmarking processes are as varied as the customers they serve. For example, we had one client come to us with a request to analyse its talent organizational structure. It needed an analysis of the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) business to see how companies treat and work with their employees so as to foster innovation: how do companies motivate employees and business teams to drive innovation. The project involved extensive talks with employees on the topic of innovation and related issues. We did a broad battery of interviews with talent throughout a range of FMCG-oriented organizations.
The degree of our (SpenglerFox’s) input varies according to the situation. In some cases this depends on how far along a client is in a particular process. For example, our counsel could go as far as to recommend stopping a process or, alternatively, working with the client to determine how to make the best of a process that it has already implemented.
Another project we’ve been involved in required a partner for mapping overall candidate and talent perceptions of the regional pharmaceuticals market. The client asked us to look at candidates’ views of different pharmaceutical companies: i.e. what is the company known for? what is its reputation? Some companies are known for innovation, some for career development potential (i.e. job assignments and job rotation), some for compensation packages and some, unfortunately, may have a negative positioning, i.e. be known for something negative such as an autocratic management style for instance.
With the above-mentioned competitor benchmarking projects, it is important to note that penglerFox succeeds in this area, because of the access we have. If you look at leadership and development or career transition services, those projects are usually self-motivated, i.e. the client approaches us with a specific need. However, with competitor benchmarking, tat type of support evolves from good, long-standing relationships and internal discussions of client needs. We usually sit down with clients to discuss and assess how decisions are taken within the company and how the company analyses what it expects to happen on the market. We work through a number of question sets to determine how benchmarking services might ultimately benefit the client.
I’d like to wrap up my answer here with a mention of our Time to Perform (Executive Onboarding) support services. I think this is an important part of our HCS offering and it’s something that might not be familiar to everyone. What we look to do with this service is support new talent in a company or existing talent, who have recently undertaken a new role. We take on the role of career coach for these executives. We help management teams to understand where the new recruits are coming from, what challenges they see for the business, etc. Meanwhile, we also work to liaise with the onboarding executive on the company’s vision for their leadership role (i.e. based on our long-term experience working for the given client. We provided this type of coaching for two General Managers recently in a leading multinational beverage company.
Although it’s not a new service per se, it is a new form of support for executive roles and can be offered as an add-on service to executive search projects. We adapt our onboarding counsel to the specific needs of our clients; in most cases focusing on mutual understanding (executive to business and vice versa) of business needs and on further honing new executives’ soft skills where necessary.
Technology has facilitated the practice of virtual teams. I’ve seen a strong rise in the number of virtual teams; it’s getting bigger and bigger. While virtual structures used to apply to specific business areas, they are now going broader. I think you have to be careful how you manage use of technologies though: you need that initial focus on face-to-face encounters. It’s important to have personal contact before letting management teams evolve into virtual set-ups. Also when working in teams driven by technologies allowing for virtual presence, you need to bear in mind generational factors. Younger people may take online chats or video calls as a given, while older generations may lack a feel for how to communicate using these products.
It’s clear that the cost-cutting aspect of tech is valuable for companies, but management teams do need an awareness that these same technologies change how negotiating is done; how people act and behave. They require greater levels of awareness and a need to notice nuances or subtleties in conversations. Then there is the issue of managers and their employees never “turning off”. Businesses have to weigh the potential negative consequences of that new reality.
Generally though, I think the proliferation of tech inside businesses affords management teams many opportunities. We see more managers going virtual, which allows them to expand their teams and to work in wider groups. We also see more talent being brought to management teams from remote areas; thanks to the connections new technologies make possible. Technologies also help businesses (in some cases) work around relocation issues. Overall, I think technologies are a benefit to business growth and management processes. But they can be difficult to use properly, provided the strong, good, underlying personal relationships are not in place. You need to build the personal behind the tech to make it work.
SpenglerFox wraps up the summer with discussions on talent motivation and agility with clients in the Czech Republic On Thursday, 30 August, SpenglerFox consultants led by Michal Vajskebr met with between 20-30 of the firm’s top clients in Prague to wrap up the summer holidays with some good food and drink and exciting discussions. The event took place in the Černá labuť (Black Swan) Gallery with its splendid view of parts of Prague's Old Town and Letná Hill. The main draw for the event was two very successful and interesting speakers, who came to share their experiences in executive leadership teams throughout the region. The topic of the evening was how to inspire and motivate good talent with a focus on retention. The expert discussion panel, moderated by Michal Vajskebr, included Martin Horčička, COO at Wüstenrot and Ján Čarný, managing director at COFACE. Comments by the panelists led to some interesting discussions and delivery of insights on what attendees’ personal leadership experiences and challenges they faced in the past taught them about team-building and motivating managers to perform. Martin Horčička (Wüstenrot): Martin’s experience is specific in that he has done a lot of interim management consultancy and worked in teams where he was brought in to manage a business turn around. His biggest challenges related to building and nurturing trust among members of the teams he managed. He pointed out in his remarks that the best first step, when new to a leadership situation, is to find the commonalities that you have with your team; specifically, when working in multicultural environments. One issue that Martin pointed out is that many managers, workers, team leaders, etc. are looking for a higher purpose in their day-to-day jobs. They want to be part of something bigger. He noted that when discussing difficult operational changes with teams he led in Western Europe, there was greater comprehension and respect from his employees once he convinced them he shared their concerns and passion for the future of the company. He noted that during his time in Belgium, the workers in the team he led had a personal investment, feeling-wise, in the company they worked for and wanted to ensure its viable future. Martin pointed out that one way to involve team members and secure their commitment to business plans was to seek their input in defining the company's business strategy. On the executive leadership side, he recommended taking the time to evaluate managerial talent and measure their personal investment in or commitment to the company vision or strategy. He noted that team members are more likely to deliver better results when they know they are trusted and company leadership is willing to give them the freedom to be creative. He underscored the need for executive leaders to foster constant dialogue with their managers and team members: help your talent understand there is no shame in asking question or seeking assistance. You'll be surprised at the results you can achieve when you set talent free to be creative and engage. Ján Čárny (COFACE): in his opening remarks, Ján reiterated Martin's comments that people really should like their work. He noted that local and regional markets have evolved quite a lot since his first years working in the Czech Republic in the investment banking industry. He pointed out that during that time most business leaders in Central Europe had yet to come across the concepts of corporate vision or company mission. Ján mentioned that, for him personally, one of the key motivators for excelling at work is the challenge that a given job or assignment poses. He had worked on finance-related projects on the Czech market, but then moved on to take on regional roles in Poland and later Ukraine. He noted that managing teams in diverse markets in the CEE region was fulfilling for him, because he got to see how corporate structures function in other regional markets. He also had the opportunity to contrast leadership roles in corporate vs. more family-style businesses. Over the years and across various national teams, Ján has come to see understanding of a company's business model as being mission-critical. He is constantly speaking with managers and their team members to find out what they do and why. He noted that problems most often arise when people do not understand their role in the business. It is important that executive leadership support teams in the creative aspects of defining and implementing business plans: executives should empower their teams by saying what to do, the team then says how to do it. Remarks from the two main speakers were followed by contributions from local and regional business leaders contributing to an open discussion forum. Some key points raised included the following: it’s important for executives to assess and define what existing operational systems work and not just pursue slash-and-burn policies (what to keep vs. what to discard); executive leadership increasingly appreciates how value for the company was achieved over the mere creation of value (teams should achieve results based on honest, transparent business plans); observe your talent, especially among younger generations, and find a way to balance their need to create and achieve with the results your company needs to deliver; focus on inter-personal relationships and building trust and mutual respect among your employees (corporate life produces a lot of unforeseen and sometimes unpleasant situations; you may perhaps have to fire your colleagues but, with politeness and respect, you can nurture those relationships and build new ties in the future); foster an environment that supports openness, honesty and authenticity (even regional cultures that have a tradition of operating based on 1:1 or closed-door meetings can be rebuilt). For further information please contact Michal Vajskebr. Image : Pixabay
Even though the Middle East emerged much later than Europe and the US on the international business scene, numerous conglomerates and multinational companies have established some kind of a set-up in the region. Attracted by the promising growth potential, many multinationals have built large local and regional teams in the main cities such as Istanbul, Cairo, Dubai, Casablanca or Riyadh. Just like anywhere else on the planet, the progress of telecommunication, the increasing interconnectivity of cities by plane and the hiring of the first millennials, have shaken the established organizations to their core. Working space is expected to be friendly of modern design and even a place where you can have fun in. Permanent email and phone connectivity blurs the boundaries between home and work space. Businesses in the region are now challenging the traditional office space, where employees worked a rigid 9am to 6pm shift sitting at their desk. Video conferencing, informal meetings, and work on a project-basis require additional facilities. One of the growing trends in the Middle East, which is gaining popularity day by day, is the flexibility for employees to work from home. Some of the cities in the region, more particularly Istanbul and Cairo, face horrendous traffic. It is not unusual for employees to spend 3 to 4 hours a day commuting. It is thus no surprise that home-office flexibility becomes as important as remuneration, benefits and job content, when it comes to attracting or retaining talent. In the recent years, multinationals have started to adopt an open space set-up to reflect their values of transparency and teamwork. Directors and Managers are now invited to join their teams in an open space. Meeting rooms offer the required confidentiality for conferences and sensitive conversations. This is sometimes hard to digest in a region where a private office stands for position and status. An even more advanced form of this trend is desk-sharing. The idea came as a solution to reducing office costs, which may well be the second largest expenditure after payroll, while desks are often underutilised. Consultancy firms whose teams often spend most of their time at client sites, lead that initiative, which enabled them to improve their P&L significantly. Newly-founded businesses are early adopters of nomadic work habits. Co-working is booming in cities like Dubai, a hub for regional start-ups. Flexible desks and meeting areas are offered by well-known global players in flexible workspace solutions, however independent co-working spaces are flourishing. Even the government-managed free-zones are now offering workspace to newly registered companies. This whitepaper attempts to highlight trends on the workspace evolution in the Middle East region, and how the latter impacts on international businesses. We believe the best way to explore these trends would be through testimonies of people that have led and/or coordinated their implementation in their business environment. We selected key note speakers, each one representing one of four key markets in the region: Dubai, Egypt, Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA) and asked them the same questions for consistency. We hope that our exercise will provide you with interesting insights and perhaps some food for thought. Africa_MiddleEast_FLEXIBLE_WAYS_OF_WORKING.pdf Size: 2.98 MB
We are delighted to announce the hire of Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology “Based in Dubai, Eva will support our clients in both Executive Search assignments and Human Capital Services projects (Leadership Development, Assessment Centres, HR organization…). Having worked in multinational enterprises and family groups (Unilever, Amazon, FANUC, Lindab, Wadi Group), Eva has gained a broad cultural and professional expertise while working in Germany, Luxembourg, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Egypt and Kuwait. Along her career, Eva grew her expertise in Talent, Change and Performance Management and Recruitment/Talent Acquisition. Eva holds a Master degree in Economics from the University of Passau, Germany, and an MBA General Management from the European University of Economics and Management in Luxembourg. She earned a Doctorate of Business Administration from Surrey Business School, UK, with the doctoral thesis titled “Talent Management in Luxembourg”. Eva is a fellow of the University Forum of Human Resource Development (UFHRD) and the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM). Eva speaks German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese.” Says Cedric d'Halluin, Partner, Emerging Markets - Middle East, Africa, Russia, Turkey. “I am thrilled to join a multi-cultural team of Executive Searchers and HR professionals in a company that is grounded on high ethical values and family spirit with a strong customer-centric approach.” Says Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology.