Hong Kong Meeting

10/22/2015 02.46 EST

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I’ve just returned home from a global IIC Partners meeting which was held in Hong Kong this year.  We had three days of meetings with our partner firms from around the world, and spent a lot of time talking about talent, leadership, executive search and executive assessment.  There were 35 firms participating in the conference from around the world:  18 from Europe, the Middle East and Africa; 6 from Asia Pacific and 11 from the Americas.   I’m always struck by both the similarities and differences in our work across the globe, and I learn a great deal from our discussions of best practices, industry trends and new developments in our field.   Here are some observations and takeaways gleaned from the three-day meeting:   The Rise of Digital. One of the presentations focused on the explosion of digital tools that impact the executive search industry. Although our firm uses every one of the ten tools discussed, over 40% of the firms report that they don’t use social media resources at all.  That was a shocker to me. The world of retained executive search is diversifying. Many firms spoke about their executive assessment practices and the development of market mapping tools.  This is particularly true of firms in Europe, where retained executive search seems to be a bit less prevalent. While every firm is obsessed with how to provide the highest quality services in the shortest amount of time, there is a growing sentiment that excellent work...

Emerging Issues in Executive Search

04/29/2015 03.16 EST

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Last week I attended the annual Global Conference of the AESC – The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants – in New York City.  This is the sole organization that represents the $11 billion global executive search industry.  The mission of the AESC is to serve as the voice of excellence for executive search and leadership consultants worldwide.  This year’s conference was attended by about 200 search professionals from 23 countries, and it was organized around three themes – innovation, inclusion and intuition.   I have attended this conference for many years and served on the Americas Council of the AESC, so I have a rather good sense of where our industry has been and where it is going.  Here are some observations about things that have changed – and some that have stayed the same – over those many years.   When I first began to attend this conference in the late 1990s, there were only a handful of participants from outside of the US, and a handful of women attendees as well. It was truly the land of old, white men.  This year, about 40 percent of the participants were women.  The average age was far younger, and I spent time with people from Brazil, Ireland, Dubai, South Africa, Venezuela, Canada and Belgium. In my 20 years in the executive search industry, the word “innovation” has rarely passed my lips when discussing our profession. Last week’s meeting didn’t change that.  The basic foundation of...

Why are we Working in the Summer?

08/05/2013 12.44 EST

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Our firm is a member of IIC Partners, one of the top 10 retained executive search groups in the world with 46 offices in 35 countries.  Several months ago, I volunteered to lead a work group to conduct IIC’s first-ever global survey.  The topic we chose was succession planning and we will be able to share what we believe will be some very interesting results in the fall.   The survey was drafted, vetted and ready to go by mid-June.  The plan was to invite participation during July.   Throughout this project, I have learned quite a bit about cultural differences, language, gender bias and various other nuances of trying to get a group of 10 people from 10 different countries to agree on survey questions.  Let’s just say I understand now why the United Nations needs such a big building in New York – and a peace-keeping force.  But we soldiered on and the survey went live.   That’s when I learned about another cultural difference:  working in the summer.   Some of our partner firms flat-out told us that they essentially close their businesses for the better part of either July or August.  Business slows to a trickle over the summer months and most of their clients are gone.  That’s just the way it is.   Then there are the people who are on holiday/vacation/leave – call it what you like.  They have messages that say that they will be out of the office until...

4 Ways Companies Can Fix Succession Planning in 2013

01/29/2013 04.15 EST

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Succession planning is a bit like flossing your teeth or going on a New Year’s diet – you know it is a good idea and that it can only make you healthier, but it is difficult to muster the discipline necessary to follow through on the commitment.   Most companies take a similar approach toward building a succession plan – or not building one.  The majority of organizations today lack an adequate pool of internal candidates ready to replace the executives who are slated to be promoted to the next management level or retire.  By first addressing the shortfall they have of candidates for key positions in the organization, companies can then begin to develop a comprehensive succession plan.   To stick to that New Year’s resolution of finally mapping out your organization’s successors, follow these four simple steps to get started.   Find out who cares about succession planning.  If the Board, the CEO or division leaders don’t care about succession planning, don’t waste your time trying to drive a program.  If you want to get them interested, remind them of some spectacular successes (or failures) in succession planning that had a real effect on the company.  If they still aren’t interested, update your resume and start looking for a new job. Conduct a “succession audit.”  Don’t panic – this does not have to be a big deal.  For each critical position in the organization, identify two types of employees who are already on staff: those...

What Companies Are Looking for in their HR Leaders

11/28/2011 02.45 EST

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In the executive search world, I often hear several “ideal profiles” when companies are looking for new human resources leaders; however, most companies have one thing in common: they want a solid human resources generalist who “knows their stuff” across a variety of functional areas.   In addition to broad-based human resources skills, talent management, leadership development and sometimes executive compensation expertise are critical.  While the most frequently discussed traits in the ideal description include business-oriented, passionate, trusted advisor, emotionally intelligent and high-energy, the importance of these competencies vary based on the business – is the company global or domestic?  Growth-oriented or contracting?  Publicly or privately-held?   Some questions you may want to ask to help clarify the ideal human resources profile for your company may include:   Do we need an executive who will be a confidante and advisor to the CEO and senior team? Will the leader need experience in evaluating potential mergers and acquisitions as well as being engaged in integrating new businesses? How involved will the leader be in increasing the level of engagement with the workforce to ensure the company retains its talent? Will this person inherit a seasoned team or will they need to develop employees and identify new team members? How much building or reshaping of the organizational structure will be needed? Will benefits need to be scrutinized to ensure there is a balance between quality of offerings and cost efficiencies? How much time will this individual spend on major...

When Gaps in Succession Planning Turn into Chasms

09/21/2011 10.43 EST

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When we are asked to conduct a search, more often than not, it is the result of a gap in a succession plan. Often, the situation is inescapable and, hopefully, due to the fact that our client’s growth is outstripping their ability to fill all of the gaps in the organizational chart through its own talent pool.  Recently, however, we are seeing more systemic problems – ones that are hindering the development of talented pre-executives into senior leaders capable of managing a set of broad strategic responsibilities.   Much can be attributed to the downturn in the economy as organizations are asking all employees to take on more responsibility in order to drive down costs.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the senior executive ranks where spans of control have grown significantly.  A byproduct of this drive for efficiency is that the gaps in responsibility between management levels are growing so wide that it becomes more and more challenging to promote from within.    The problem is exacerbated by the fact that when lower levels of management are asked to do more, they generally assume responsibility for more of the work of their subordinates.  On the other hand, when senior executives are asked to do more, it is related to the tasks of their peers.  Thus, the mid-manager is doing more with less by becoming more tactical and hands-on, while his or her senior-level boss is doing more with less by going broader and more strategic;...