Executive search and recruiting have changed rapidly over the past decade. Most of these changes stem from a deep restructuring of client needs. Whereas, some 10 years ago, businesses were asking executive search firms to fill top leadership and sales management roles, clients, in the past half-decade, started asking for placements in the fields of Market Access or Medical Affairs. The way larger pharma companies approached their business had changed. Many went from a commercial sales view of doing business to adopting a more scientific approach to bringing goods and services to market. Demand for leadership with deeper technical know-how grew.
In emerging markets, the situation is not that different. Compliance issues have had a big impact on how corporate HR picks new leadership hires. The expat vs. local approach to hiring has come full circle. Initially, expats were brought in to emerging market countries to mentor and help with transition and economic restructuring, then local talent hires gradually replaced them. However, during the last five years or so, the environment in many emerging markets (i.e. Brazil, Russia and Turkey) has changed. Markets have become more regulated and subsequently ways of doing business have changed. Market buzzwords no longer include “expansion”and “adding headcounts”; instead, headquarters for multinationals in these markets now speak of “compliance” and “rational growth”. Because of new regulatory demands, company leadership teams are generally more cautious and calls for expat-influenced management have once again grown: due to their more extensive experience in handling compliance-related decision-making.
Management and Leadership Skills
Candidate skills have always been important. However, businesses (as our clients) have gone through significant evolution and this has changed their demands. If you go back a decade, it was very likely that a German company filling an executive post abroad preferred to, and did, hire a German candidate. This is no longer the case. Also, mobility is an increasingly important factor. More businesses seek people for leadership roles who are willing to relocate. This fact breaks with previous industry standards where business executives and upper-level managers focused primarily on career development. They took on a position expecting to advance within that specific worksite (geography). Today, however, markets like Germany are opening up to foreign talent: businesses are putting knowledge and skills at the top of their recruitment qualification wish lists.
Key Skills in Demand
Soft skills have grown in importance. This is particularly true for the pharma industry, and this stems from the fact that regulatory norms have changed a lot over the past twenty years. Previously, sales teams (and their leadership) had much more freedom in their approach to business. However, this has all been halted by regulations that look to curb potential corruption. This means that companies have had to look for new ways to build relationships with healthcare professionals. Businesses need leaders that keep an eye on compliance and work within the letter of the law and focus on sales team monitoring. Alongside that, pharma businesses now also place greater importance on executives’ ability to manage multicultural teams and to work within so-called matrix organizations. This means leading and providing guidance not only for local business units, but also therapeutic divisions, which can be a challenge.
A further critical skill is executives’ ability to optimize production processes. Business leaders now look more at efficiency alongside improved production. This has been the case for the past few years: businesses are looking to minimize waste and focusing on lean management tools. The Great Recession did much to push this trend. Prior to the economic slowdown, there had not been such a big need to focus on efficiency. Now, this has all changed. Clients have excellence centers for lean management in pharma production. This, in turn, has changed pharma companies’ approach to talent sourcing. Previously, businesses had been more conservative, i.e. they hired talent with pharma backgrounds for pharma roles. Yet in recent years, they have switched up their search approach in the quest for efficiency. Now, it is common that a pharma company will look, for example, to the automotive sector to find the efficient leaders it needs.
In emerging markets, retention and development of executive talent is just as important as the search process. Businesses increasingly focus on leadership development and use of assessment centers. Executive HR teams have moved from mass recruitment of new employees to intense development of existing teams; businesses are moving away from operational approaches and focusing more on strategy. They put more effort into strengthening the teams they have in place, rather than running external searches. One could say that companies have moved from an expansionist view of doing business to a strategist one.
Impact of Technologies and External Influences
Businesses increasingly talk of pushing forward with technological advancement; for example, as part of phenomena like Industry 4.0. However, the key ask organizations now have for their leadership at present is greater creativity. Businesses want their executives to be more flexible. You also see a greater push for a bottom-up approach to leadership versus traditional top-down models. Company leadership increasingly feels that customer-facing team members have a more direct relationship to the consumer: they have direct feedback on what the market wants.
A specific reality impacting emerging markets involves local manufacturing. This is the case in Brazil,
Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey. Governments now have requirements that businesses invest in local manufacturing in order to get approval for price reimbursement for medicines and medical devices. Essentially, companies must localize production or they get booted from the market. This creates a further dilemma for multinationals as the talent for managing production is not always readily available on local markets. Overall, this is part of a broader cycle involving the expat/local/expat-hybrid recruitment cycle mentioned earlier. Some businesses have looked to bridge the expat-local talent gap by recruiting via national diasporas. They put together special packages to bring their countries’ expats back to their home markets. This has been a preferred recruitment strategy for emerging markets in recent years: businesses search among talent that has relevant, important cultural ties but who have also worked in different cultural environments and can offer a fresh perspective.
The Future Executive
Executive talent must increasingly be people-oriented. Businesses are shifting away from hierarchical leadership; these days, the focus is more on the team. This also stems from generational changes within businesses where younger leaders place greater importance on meaningful work assignments. Meeting this need has also become critical due to a lack of talent in many areas: need for retention is a key motivator. Leaders also need to focus on the needs of their teams and what younger generations now expect of work environments. For example, perks like home office have become standard. Whereas, a decade ago this was rare or unthinkable, most businesses now offer a mix of on-site (workplace) presence coupled with home office days.
On-site vs. home office arrangements also place a new set of demands on executive leadership. Directors need better communication skills and they have to invest in developing trust across teams that may not be physically present on a daily basis. Executives have to check in regularly with their managers and lower-level teams and agree on reporting schemes that satisfy both sides.
In emerging markets, executives increasingly expected to focus on effectiveness and efficiency. For example, you see pharma companies moving to an FMCG mindset. As the market for OTC products begins to grow more rapidly, sales demands a more aggressive approach. Pharma companies are looking for consumer-empathetic (consumer-minded) talent to drive and manage operations.
Moving Forward: Take-aways
As has been summarized in the text above, global economic forces are rapidly changing what businesses need from their top executive management. Our view at SpenglerFox is that clients must consider leadership placements within the framework of ever-changing business environments. Top executives will need to put together teams that can work within new regulatory structures, run flexible organizations that react quickly to new production needs, and introduce management styles that accommodate multi-generational employee teams. Investment in the development of forward-thinking and strategy-focused executive talent will ensure that your business succeeds on global markets in the coming decade.
For more information please contact Xenia Becker
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SpenglerFox are pleased to announce a strategic alliance with Cowley Brown Recruitment which will see both companies look to grow and expand their retained executive search business in Ireland. Cowley Brown is based in Dublin with a mix of retained and contingency search business mainly in the Irish healthcare sector and as a consequence, also in the UK and Middle East. SpenglerFox is a leading retained global Search & HR services firm, with Irish heritage, across multiple territories serving both the mature and emerging markets. This new alliance will target the retained executive search business in the Irish market with an initial focus on C-suite roles in Life Sciences and related sectors, but will also create an opportunity for Cowley Brown to engage with SpenglerFox jointly on assignments in other countries around the globe. Through this strategic alliance both companies will bring considerable added value to their respective domestic and international clients, Cowley Brown having successfully built up a considerable local footprint in Ireland and SpenglerFox having a strong international brand as a retained executive search expert, with a wide international reach for sourcing the best talent for their clients. Jens Friedrich, CEO of SpenglerFox, added ‘’Following our Management Buy Out in 2017 we have been focussing on increasing our specialised expert industry knowledge as well as expanding our geographical reach and Ireland has been a priority market on our radar. We are delighted to form this new alliance with Ken and his Team at Cowley Brown. Such an alliance will give SpenglerFox the executive search exposure in the ever improving Irish market, while also continuing to strengthen our Life Sciences practice and serving our international clients who are expanding into the Irish economy.‘’ Ken Cowley, Director of Cowley Brown, is very excited about this new alliance for his firm, and says; ‘’We feel this was the perfect time for us to strike this arrangement with the team at SpenglerFox due to the continuing growth in the Irish economy and our own growth over the last 12-18 months. We have seen an ever increasing demand from our clients for assistance in helping to fill key C-Suite roles, so we are very much looking forward to the prospect of tapping in to the resourcing strength, market-specific expertise, and the global reach that our new business colleagues at SpenglerFox will provide. Also, we feel that the values of our two organisations are highly aligned, with a massive level of enthusiasm for finding top talent and for putting our clients at the centre of everything we do.’’ Both companies feel that there continues to be significant opportunities in the Irish market, as both FDI and indigenous Irish companies continue to expand. The combined set of strengths of both teams, as well as the level and quality of existing contacts and candidate-reach, means that ambitious targets are being set by the new strategic alliance, and both companies are very much looking forward to an exciting future, collaborating on multiple assignments together, both in Ireland and internationally in the best interest of our respective clients.
The Budapest Business Journal – Book of Lists 2018/2019 is an industry guide unique to Hungary and provides company data of 2,500 of the largest companies in more than 70 fields. We are pleased to share that SpenglerFox ranked 3rd amongst Executive Search firms in Hungary. I am delighted once again by this recognition of our services to the Hungarian market. Since our Budapest office first opened in 2005 we have been continuously identifying the very best senior executive talent for our clients businesses. As we now enter the second year of our MBO in 2017 our team in Budapest is continuing to grow and our Research team strengthened to further support our client and candidates as they evolve. Jens Friedrich, CEO
Delighted to gather our entire company in Frankfurt one year post our MBO for two packed days of relationship building, learning and fun. Since our MBO in July 2017 this was the first All Staff event, there was an incredible atmosphere and energy, we certainly needed the energy to help us through the networking, workshops and of course the party! No event is ever complete without an award ceremony, so we presented our staff with more than 10 years tenure travel vouchers, we’re really proud that 50% of our Foxes have been with SpenglerFox between 5 and 14 years! Damien Stork, Chris Beedle and Dan Godsall from Chamonix Hard Cross joined us on day two to take us through their Personal Eco System program. Showing and reminding us why our environment, sleep, exercise and nutrition can help our mental performance, and find more time for that work/life balance. It was great to get the family together once again, so many friendships strengthened, already looking forward to the next. Jens Friedrich, CEO.