Interview with Lukas Nosek, leader of SpenglerFox’s practice group for Industry & Manufacturing
First, it’s important to say that industry is a really huge term. It can involve anything from producers of microchips to construction of airplanes or oil tankers. So depending on the segment, our customers face different or varied issues. Just giving an overview, I can say that some businesses I work with have been impacted, for example, by low oil prices. Then there is the rare metals and mining sector that faces different issues as concerns product demand. If we move on then to the automotive industry, I see a good outlook there. One client recently told us that based on the auto industry you can tell where the global economy is in the business cycle: when a recession starts cars sales drop, but when consumer confidence hits an upswing, car purchases are one of the first things to recover.
Similarly, if I give a further prognosis for the global economy, you can see a fixing of regional roles. I would say that high added-value production comes from the West. Meanwhile, what you might call low added-value production comes from the East. However, automation is changing this status quo. I have recently had conversations with customers who’ve talked about disruptions in this West-East production flow. For example, some American companies are now finding that it makes better sense for them to bring production back to the US. This might be for cultural reasons, for linguistic reasons, what have you. One customer, who had in the past outsourced roughly 40 jobs to India, recently decided to insource (or repatriate) these jobs back to the USA. They found that they could do the
same work with less people and a common language/cultural outlook and generally aligned expectations helped to streamline production processes.
Other companies are rethinking where they hire based on internal research into productivity. One of our clients, a globally-renowned coffee maker, recently decided to keep a majority of its workforce in Switzerland based on a huge battery of internal productivity assessments. Detailed research showed they got more bang for their buck from their Swiss team, despite the fact of higher wage expenditures in that country.
The rare metals and microchip production sectors are currently subject to a regional monopoly. Almost all the manufacturers/producers in this area are
Chinese-owned and the Chinese are very intent on keeping all related production in China. This is not without its challenges, however. New environmental and
ecological regulations and greater internal (domestic) demand for worker protections are slowly starting to make China more expensive than it used to be.
The current global outlook suggests continued growth. You see a lot more cost rationalization in various business sectors. In recent years this has translated to a boom in mergers & acquisitions. Recent purchases that come to mind can be seen across diverse industries; namely Boeing’s purchase of Lockheed-Martin, Siemens acquisition of Alstom, etc. Other industries where I see interesting growth include cosmetics. It is interesting that production and sales of chemicals that go into personal care products is growing fast. I think you could chalk this up to standard human needs: most of us want to look good. So even in lesser-developed markets, where consumers might have lower disposable income, you still see layouts for beauty care products (i.e. lipstick) the moment female consumers have some extra cash in hand. If I speak to a prognosis for global markets over the next 20 years, I think you will see a number of "new" trends.
Oil will get cheaper and producers will have to get used to prices at 60 USD/barrel. I think businesses also understand that they have to invest more in research & development and added value for their products to reap greater returns from product sales. In general, I think the industry segment will grow between 5-10% in the coming years: of course this will all depend on the specific industry and the specific geography. Depending on the evolution of local political-economic conditions in these markets, I can foresee Cuba, Iran and North Korea as rapid-growing economies (should their political regimes allow for this). Looking at growth from a global perspective though, I expect we will see more rapid changes in business cycles. I think the decade-long intervals are now gone: boom-ust periods will now shorten to a matter of 3-7 years and also will affect various global territories differently.
I see sourcing engineering talent as a key problem. The interest among students (potential job applicants) is just not there. A rigorous engineering degree programme is tough: not sexy. What to do with an engineering degree is less tangible for students looking to pursue university studies. I guess engineering is not as fun as politics, business studies (an MBA) or whatever. I’ve definitely seen a drop-off in interest in engineering and see a younger generation of students that has not kept up with studies in this area. This has resulted in an Industry sector where there is sufficient talent on the commercial side, but where the tech skills are lacking. It’s hard these days to find a match-up where talent has the necessary technological knowledge as well as the soft skills needed for leadership roles. This reality has also been influenced by the disappearance of apprenticeships. Those are gone. And what you see is a generation of graduates (job candidates) that lacks practical skills. A candidate may have 5 MBAs but completely lacks practical knowledge.
Technology is taking away the human touch in business processes. If I look at searches and recruitment, I think you need to see people and have human interaction. Technology does make people accessible. But companies are made of BOTH technology and people. You need human interaction to make valid assessments of people. You need to get a feeling or sense of who they are as candidates. I increasingly have a lot of business contacts, who say "send me an email; don’t call me."
And I understand that this can help cut down on costs, but the flipside is that it short-changes recruiters and HR consultants in getting personal insight. I think technology is important, but in our business we need to think carefully about how we use it. It should facilitate the communications process but not become the communications process. Consider the technological tools I use on a daily basis, I would say they are helpful. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to the people using them. For example, FileFinder is a great tool, but the value I get from it is only as good as the people entering, editing and handling the data we collect in it.
Technology is important, but the people factor (the human contact) is what is real, i.e. what informs and drives candidate placement.
I think differences are rapidly decreasing. We do live in a global village now. There are, of course, still some differences if you‘ve jumped from a small market into a global city. When you work in a small market, people are still much protected. But if we look at cities like London, New York and Singapore, those locations are what I would call global. I think placements in different global geographies also depend on the general view of that venue among candidates: simply put, it’s less of a problem to attract people to nice areas. So, understandably, we can still come up against problems sourcing people to Nigeria, Angola, Iraq, or perhaps even Nicaragua and Saudi Arabia. Ultimately, we really have to look to find the best talent for our clients: in some cases it’s "local" , in others the search becomes "global". At present it tends to be the Middle East, where we have the smallest talent pools.
However, I believe this will quickly change. I think the typical situation now, where the American or European goes to China to consult or provide insight, will decrease. I believe you will see more Eastern talent flowing into mature markets; namely to fill talent gaps.
In developing markets you can see people getting more or better education . Also, globally, there is the cost: value issue of getting an education. I see a change now where emerging or developing markets are gaining access to better skills and quality education with a lower need for investment. You also have the generational issue now where the "land of opportunity" concept has all but disappeared. Graduates have a rougher time entering the job market. For
example, when I started university as a student in engineering, we were drawing designs on boards with pens and chalk. My father (also an engineer) told me that, during his studies, it would take a team 10 weeks to design a gearbox. Every change had to be drawn on paper using ink – simply a nightmare. Now it takes one person a few hours to manage the whole process using 3D design software and tools. Or look at my grandfather, who worked as an accountant, he used to be part of a division that had 80 employees. Now that division consists of one person working with a SW solution from SAP. I think worldwide we see many
graduates facing the tough challenge of integrating technical skills with market demand. Some people may shout "I have an MBA!", but those degrees have been
largely commoditized. I think, besides technology, there are a number of issues that are causing a "big shift" on world labour markets. In the West, for example, you find you have to overcome issues of entitlement, which is a true challenge in Europe. With the EU’s single market for labour, you see competition getting tougher. Say you’re a logistics company recruiting drivers for long haul shifts across the continent, who do you work with: a driver from a more developed
market that requires a specially-fitted seat, air-conditioning and a max. work day of 8 hours? Or a driver from a less-developed market, who will run a 48-hour shift, needs no air-conditioning and no special seat. The post-Great Recession labour market has changed and it’s not clear when, and if, previous perks and benefits will get back to where they once were.
Be authentic and realistic. Before you launch a recruitment process, think about this one thing: do you know what you want? If the answer is "no", then don’t approach a search firm. I find increasingly that people from the corporate sphere have forgotten what it’s like to be on the other side of the table. Essentially, you need to treat your job candidates the way you’d like to be treated. Also, I think in many cases you know during the interview itself if a candidate should move forward or not. So I find it’s good to go with your instinct. In such cases, I keep thinking back to the book, Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. In that book, Mr. Gladwell notes that, as human beings, our gut feelings are right 80% of the time. So you don’t have to overthink the interview process. If you see the skills, if that personal connection is there, then go for it.
Unfortunately, I think we find ourselves in an era where we have too many choices and this leads us to think too much. Interestingly enough, I recently spoke with a group of clients and asked them who their ideal employer would be: none of them listed the company they work for. And I think that’s something we need to think about – both from the employer and employee perspective. It’s the small things that build relationships and that foster employee loyalty. I think as HR managers and consultants, we need to filter through all the noise and keep things real. We need to be genuine and speak realistically: in the future, the candidate will most remember, and likely appreciate, the recruiter, who was most frank and honest with him/her.
We need to relearn how to step outside ourselves (step away from our own needs) and think how our decision-making affects the other party or other parts of our
business. Mainly, we need to think about how it affects our company reputation. No feedback is no good. This is a message that I continue to emphasize with my clients. We live in a very hectic world, where we are increasingly losing sight of what’s normal and what isn’t. We can’t work solely based on a model or a paradigm. The world works differently and we need to listen to what the world wants.
Sourcing Talent in in an Evolving Africa. A white paper on executive recruitment in African regions. Executive Summary The following document is the first in a series of white paper documents prepared by consultants at SpenglerFox Executive Search to provide our clients and business partners with insight into new developments on African markets. We focus primarily on changes taking place in four key regions on the continent: Northern and Maghreb Africa East Africa Southern Africa West Africa This issue of the comprehensive white paper looks in particular at the market in Southern Africa and addresses a number of key issues: growth markets in the region and how businesses plan the location of hubs and headquarters; the HR outlook and how talent sourcing occurs in the region; regional specificities related to finding talent that might not be obvious at first glance, and standard salary packages for executives and upper-level managers. Picking up on the regional specificities point mentioned above, we feel it is important to point out particular regulatory measures on hiring implemented in various countries in the region: namely, in South Africa. These countries have strict quota systems to equalize the hiring of both white and black citizens as well as men and women. Such quota systems, with their noble aim of trying to integrate historically-discriminated populations and afford new opportunities to disadvantaged groups, do have an impact on how businesses hire in the region and how they plan incentive and career advancement programs. To make the document more timely and relevant for readers, we have also included an interview with a business partner who has first-hand experience managing operations in the Southern Africa region. This testimony highlights what areas are most difficult for sourcing talent; what successes have been achieved with programmes for finding talent (best practice); what mistakes have been made and learnt from in recent years and what advice the interviewee has to offer on succession-planning. The interview provides added value and real-life examples of how a business has addressed issues that impact a number of organisations in the given region: sourcing expat vs. local talent; promoting worker mobility; setting up attractive remuneration packages and talent retention programmes; and managing long-term talent development programmes. We hope this text proves both informative and useful. Africa_Southern_Africa_2018.pdf Size: 3.35 MB
Sourcing Talent in an Evolving Africa. A white paper on executive recruitment in African regions. Executive Summary The following document is the first in a series of white paper documents prepared by consultants at SpenglerFox Executive Search to provide our clients and business partners with insight into new developments on African markets. We focus primarily on changes taking place in four key regions on the continent: Northern and Maghreb Africa East Africa Southern Africa West Africa This issue of the comprehensive white paper looks in particular at the market in Northern and Maghreb Africa and addresses a number of key issues: growth markets in the region; the HR outlook and how talent sourcing occurs in the region; regional specificities related to finding talent that might not be obvious at first glance, and standard salary packages for executives and upper-level managers. To make the document more timely and relevant for readers, we have also included interviews with business partners who have first-hand experience managing HR operations in all the Northern and Maghreb Africa region. Their testimonies highlight what areas are most difficult for sourcing talent; what successes they have had with programmes for finding talent (best practice); what mistakes they have made and learnt from in recent years and what advice they have to offer on succession-planning. The interviews provide added value and real-life examples of how businesses have addressed issues that impact a number of organisations in the given region: sourcing expat vs. local talent; promoting worker mobility; setting up attractive remuneration packages and talent retentionprogrammes; and managing long-term talent development programmes. We hope this text proves both informative and useful. Africa_NorthernAndMaghreb_2018.pdf Size: 3.65 MB
Mis Güleryüz, Regional Practice Group Leader of SpenglerFox, talks to Talentpolitan magazine about her career that brings new talents to the business world. In a few sentences, tell us about yourself and your business. I was born and raised in Istanbul where I studied to become an electrical and communications engineer. I ended up working in the executive search sector; most recently in the Industrial and Manufacturing Practice Group at SpenglerFox. When and how did you begin working in this field? How did you choose this profession? I worked in sales and business development for 25 years. I was eventually approached by the SpenglerFox executive search company to come work for them. Their contacting me happened at just the right time, for I was considering a career change and a role with less travel. It took two years and five rounds of intense meetings, but I ended up here. Is there a difference between headhunting and executive search? Generally, the processes are the same. In both roles, you are looking to find the right person for a specific role. “Headhunting” is more of marketing term that had been previously used to reflect the challenge of finding highly-skilled people for critical professional roles. That term tended to reflect the perceived aggressiveness of the process. In executive search, we tend to deal with C-suite level positions that focus on company strategy and leadership. How is the executive search process evolving? What are the critical points in the process for finding talent? And what methods do you use: from beginning to end? The process has evolved mainly based on how clients perceive the market. The market for placing new talent is now more global. So, we address all projects from a global perspective working with all the experts in our team to provide input. The most critical aspect of search is communications. There has to be chemistry between ourselves and the client. A successful search process always starts with a very good brief: we sit down and talk to the client about what they want and what they need. The client has to trust us: they need to see that we understand their business, how leadership interacts with employees, and that we can deliver the right talent to execute the given role. The process is not just about one-off assignments: businesses grow and change and, for us, this means we need to monitor our clients' evolution and develop relationships and care programs that are responsive to their changing needs. Does successful recruitment require specific skills? Communication is critical. To be a good executive search consultant you need a strong level of social and emotional intelligence. You have to view assignments from a global perspective, sometimes taking a deeper look at what clients need just as much as what they want. Success in our industry involves having a superb network of contacts and knowing our clients’ businesses from back-to-front. What are your favorite questions used when interviewing candidates? Do you feel that any specific questions are either loved or hated? Do you have a favorite trick question? My favorite question to ask is “What makes you happy?" I ask this both generally (about life) and specifically (about career). Other questions I like to put to candidates include “Can you define an ideal leader?” and “What does success mean to you?” These questions usually give me good insight into the candidate and help me get an idea of their work process, what metrics they use to evaluate other employees’ success, as well as their ability to manage and delegate work. Have you ever experienced failure in life? When and how? For me, failure is a relative term. I think we all have different measures for where we think we “should” be at any given moment in our careers and this defines how we feel about success or failure. I can remember a time at a former company when I really wanted to move to a role at the company's offices in Switzerland. I had delivered on my work, executed well but, in the end, I didn't push hard enough. I later realized that perhaps I didn’t want the move as much as I thought. If I had, I would have pushed myself much harder. What defines your ability to succeed in your business? I think I’ve been successful because of my openness and my honesty. Plus, I am very eager to learn. I think my approach to our business as a positive, but analytical, thinker has helped a lot. So much of what we do is about how we speak, how we approach people and how we deliver on client requests. I think my biggest success has been learning how to engage with clients and deliver specific messages. This has helped develop trust and personal bonds over the years. Do you follow up with people after you’ve placed them in a job? How do you feel watching their personal development? The key thing here is that we’re not selling a product. We are changing peoples’ lives. That’s why we integrate follow-up tools into our placement support processes. We have a multi-phases review scheme to monitor how candidates are doing and to discuss their satisfaction. As a rule, I also make calls to candidates right on the first day. I want them to know that we care how they do in their new role and are willing to pass relevant information back to their bosses so that management can work to improve onboarding processes. Finally, follow-up with candidates is definitely an investment that pays off, because many times over we’ve received very good referrals from people we’ve successfully placed. They trust us and know their colleagues will be in good hands with us. Let’s talk about your customers? Why do, or should they, choose to work with SpenglerFox? I’d say because of our commitment to candidates and our thoroughness in managing the placement process. We do client feedback reviews and most often they compliment us on our communications process, our support programs, speed of response and our integration of coaching services into our search process. There are many other businesses out there that do what we do. However, we invest a lot in relationship-building. We place emphasis on our trusted advisor role. We also focus on a borderless approach to doing business, where we leverage the contacts and know-how of experts in our global practice groups to find clients the best talent available on the market. How does someone follow in your career path? How do they begin and how do they advance? Essentially, there are two routes. Either you join the business as an intern and then gradually move to a consultant role. Or, in other cases, people move to this business after having worked for several years in a specific industry segment. I think that, afterwards, to thrive in our business you have to have a strong interest in people: in building long-term relationships. People in our business advance and succeed because of a willingness to learn and take on new skills. Our business is constantly evolving and we increasingly see impact from sector overlap (i.e. integrating disciplines like tech and psychology) and the need to learn continually. How would you define a talented candidate? I think your best talent comes from people who are willing to engage. You want someone with people skills as well as emotional and social intelligence. It truly depends on the situation though. Some businesses may feel that the top talent is the executive that performs best; the one who meets quarterly targets. Others may define success as the manager who finds the best solutions to problems. At SpenglerFox, we do our best not to pigeon-hole talent or insist on working within the paradigm of traditional roles. In some cases, we help clients define and place candidates in jobs that hadn't existed in the past. Top talent is able to work across disciplines and inspire and motivate colleagues and teams with their problem-solving skills.