Headhunters forced to go global

by James Douglas,EMA Partners UK,  EMA NOVO 2007

This was a recent headline in a UK newspaper. James Douglas, MD of EMA Partners UK, discusses the reality of Global Recruitment.

We are constantly hearing about diffi culties in executive recruitment, “the talent shortage”, “the war for talent”, “the global marketplace”.

How real are these issues or are they just excuses by head-hunters to justify their fees?

Well, from our perspective within EMA Partners International, these are very real issues that we and our clients face today. The reasons for talent shortages are varied and I should like to highlight a few and illustrate these with some recent examples from our recruitment activity. As internal markets can no longer provide the growth required by investors, companies have had to expand their operations overseas. This has been the case for many years in established multi-nationals such as BP, Siemens, GE etc, but what we have seen now is much smaller concerns developing their international operations with a consequent demand for staff who have an international dimension.

Industry and commerce have seen remarkable rationalisation in their structures no matter what the sector, from aerospace to banking. Mergers and acquisitions lead to cost savings and increased market share. The corollary is that there are less experienced staff in the “pool” as companies “rationalise” their staff. Training and development opportunities are fewer.

To illustrate this point, when EMA Partners International was founded in 1988, in the UK there were 4 major UK Defence Electronic companies; GEC, Ferranti, Plessey, Thorn - EMI. Now there is one – BAe Systems.
Emerging markets are generating their own demand for experienced executives.

For instance, Indian companies are no longer satisfied with their own national market and are actively expanding on a global basis. This drive to become multinational creates further demand for experienced executives.

There are, of course, many other factors involved such as demographics, lack of investment in training, the re-shaping and loss even of traditional industries but they all lead to a dearth of talented people who can make a difference to a company’s performance. After all, technology and physical resources are readily available to most; the differentiators are the people who make a company and that’s where we become involved.

To illustrate these points, I would like to highlight 3 recent projects that we have undertaken. The fi rst was to fi nd a Global Supply Chain Director for a UK multinational manufacturing company. Regrettably, the UK’s manufacturing base has reduced substantially over the last 20 years or so, and the number of potential sources of suitably experienced individuals was small. Eventually the person we located, and who was successful, was based in Geneva.

The second was to find an Engineering Project Director for a major infrastructure project in South Africa. Local recruitment had not produced any results simply because the relevant experience base does not exist in the country. Two EMA Partners were involved in the search, the UK & French offices, and candidates were sourced as far apart as the UK, France, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Venezuela. Eventually, the candidate from Taiwan – a Frenchman – was recruited.

The third project concerned a major food and beverage manufacturer that was relocating its beverage manufacturing head office from the USA to Ireland. The client needed to staff its office with senior managers covering a wide variety of specialisations, who would have global responsibilities. Clearly, the Irish market has limited numbers of such qualified staff with the multi-cultural background being sought by the client. We handled a number of positions for the client, searching for suitable
 candidates in Belgium, France, India, Ireland, Romania, South Africa, Spain and the UK.

These examples show just how far we have to go to meet our client requirements. Finding such candidates does demand considerable effort as well as having an effective global structure in place, staffed with  consultants who know their market.

However, I should also sound a note of caution. There are many people who simply cannot or will not move country for work. The concept of the global executive is still in its infancy.



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