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.
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.