TheXecutives’ case studies are developed to illustrate the wide range of practice areas, the expertise and deep knowledge. Each case study outlines the challenges and opportunities our client was facing, our recruitment strategy to successfully complete the search and the results achieved.
REVITALISING THE BUSINESS THROUGH RECRUITING FUTURE LEADERS
Our client is one of the world’s leading suppliers of construction materials with European headquarters and a turnover of more than 20 billion EUR.
After the acquisition of the biggest local producer in an emerging market, our client took over the organization that was very old-fashioned, with employees who did not possess skills and expertise needed to make changes that were necessary in order to raise it to the level of other subsidiaries of the Group. As the company’s policy was not to lay-off experienced people, a newly appointed General Manager decided to bring new “blood” to the organization – 20 newly recruited high-potentials who would be able to implement changes required by HQs, and at the same time learn from more experienced colleagues.
The idea was to revitalize the business through getting talents and future leaders in the company.
Our client was interested in getting talents who would be
- On-boarded, trained and further developed by the company
- integrated in various functional departments in the local organization
- helping the respective department to overcome the transitional period and
- raising the organization to the level required by corporate standards
Departments included in the project: Finance, Marketing, Sales, HR, Business Analysis.
Our analysis of the local market showed that the market could provide high potentials with good education, knowledge of foreign languages and other skills required.
The aim was to get a pool of candidates with different educational background, coming from different cities/regions of the country, and to select talents that will fit to the organization of our client bringing not only relevant education, but also personality, skills and motivation needed in the sensitive period of the transition.
We targeted young high potentials through several channels:
- Direct contact with Professors/Assistants at major Universities in several big cities in the country.
- Direct contact with different post-student and professional circles, in different cities in the country,
- Placement of advertisements on major online portals and in relevant print media.
- Industry of our client was not very attractive to young people who preferred IT, telecom or consumer goods companies.
- Location of the company was in a rural area, meaning that the majority of people would need to relocate when starting the job.
- Candidates were not bringing specific professional experience, but were mainly top level graduates with limited experience in the business environment, therefore the selection process was even more challenging (huge number of applications, and no behavioral indicators in a similar environment that could be assessed).
From about 1.000 applications of young people that were having interesting but very similar profiles, we pre-selected about 700 people and then organized several selection steps including personal interviews and business games.
Finally, we presented 48 selected candidates, which resulted in 21 permanent placements.
An additional challenge was to satisfy all members of the team at client’s side. Not only the General Manager, who initiated changes in the company, was member of the selection team, but also Department Heads from the local organization, who would work with the newcomers. After the first presentation of 20 people we successfully closed the assignments, making happy all team members at client’s side.
Our client hired very talented young people with very good education, who brought some international or practical experience. After some time we got feedback that our candidates took over managerial roles in the local organization, some were even promoted to international assignments within the group.
TURNAROUND BY NEW CEO APPOINTMENT
Our client is a leading European retailer with more than 50 billion EUR turnover and more than 300.000 employees. We have been working together since 2012 and have successfully completed management board searches.
In 2008, our client launched a new operation in one of the Eastern European countries. General deterioration of the business environment in 2009/10 and internal difficulties in adjusting store size, store location and assortment policies resulted in a quite poor initial performance. Consequently, the result and the overall brand image among consumers, employees and competitors suffered. A newly appointed interim CEO immediately implemented a first level reorganization plan, stabilized the situation and stopped further bleeding of the local organization.
In order to finalize the turnaround program in a mid-term period, the company was looking for a new CEO who would bring the business to the next level – reaching the critical size through sound expansion and innovation in customer communication, assortment and sourcing. Strong leadership skills and highest professional competence in a comparable retail environment were the prerequisites for success!
Our experience and analysis showed that
- the local market did not provide sufficient expertise, neither in terms of quantity nor in terms of quality of candidates
- The few potentially skilled local candidates were successful in their current organizations and by no means interested to take the challenge of this kind
- Suitable repatriates were rare and not keen to return neither to the country nor for the specific project.
In our search we therefore focused mainly on candidates from retail companies in the overall Central & Eastern European region with needed knowledge in
- a comparable emerging but also more developed market,
- with advanced retail industry know-how,
- with cultural sensitivity for the country’s consumers and employees
A previous search of another provider that was executed before our search led to a limited number of candidates that we could consider for the assignment. In addition to this, our client already excluded many people from different markets.
Countries that we targeted were mainly Central-Eastern European, but in order to get an additional pool of candidates, we also considered executives from Western Europe who bring experience in some of the emerging markets. Countries covered were mainly the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
During the six-week search, we considered 167 qualified candidates from different countries, targeting candidates on N and N-1 level.
During our search main challenges were:
- Country of assignment was not attractive to candidates; therefore, only few approached candidates were interested in discussing it.
- The client required specific language knowledge; therefore, a very limited number of candidates could be considered for the assignment.
- The client required specific skills and experience; therefore, not all retailers could have a candidate with the required expertise within their organization.
After six weeks of extensive market screening and evaluation of candidates, we provided our client with a pre-short-list with eleven candidates from eight countries.
In addition to the pre-shortlist of candidates, we provided our client with information of the basic structure and organizational charts of targeted retail companies in the region.
Our client decided to meet with four finalists from three different countries. The result of the presentation was the successful placement of a matching candidate within the agreed period.
Along with the successful placement, our client was interested in hiring one additional candidate that we recommended for placement in another country.
BOOST THE GROWTH BY AN INNOVATIVE MARKETING APPROACH
Our client is an international, leading FMCG Group, which is present on the Russian market since early 1990s. Undisputable market leader locally, strong growth above market for the last years. Products sold not through standard channels (distribution and modern trade/ retail) but through specialised channels only. Premium segment, strongly regulated industry.
In order to boost further growth and implement a new innovative approach to the marketing of its products, the company tasked us with the search for a qualified and seasoned Marketing Director. The company’s marketing function – for historical reasons – was divided between the Marketing Department and External Communications, with no ATL marketing.
The underlying, second theme in this strategic search was that the successful candidates should have strong “GM capabilities”, in order to be part of the company’s top management succession pool.
Since the position had a dual reporting line, to the local General Manager and to Regional Marketing, and since the search was high profile, the regional HQs were fully and actively involved too in the search. The candidate selection by the client was performed in multiple stages.
As a first step, we requested feedback from all involved stakeholders in the process, namely HR, local GM and HQ, in order to develop the ultimate ideal profile, matching expectations of all parties.
Our initial assessment and market mapping showed that the local market should be able to provide the required level and expertise. The search primarily focused on local professionals, seeking past successful experience in the following areas:
- Innovative, “thinking out-of-the-box” approach
- Strong experience in new product developments and launches
- Bottom-up approach to marketing initiatives (Russia vs. HQ/Corporate), where Russia acted as a pilot-project country prior to global or regional roll-outs
- Strong and proven people-development focus as well as strategic agility
We mainly targeted N-1 marketing professionals from international FMCG groups, predominantly from food as well as non-food and other consumer segments. Several relevant companies were in off-limit, following our client’s request.
During the intensive research and interviewing period, which lasted approximately eight weeks, we identified and screened close to 80 relevant candidates. We observed three principal challenges:
- The specific job content (only BTL and special channels to professional communities) was an attraction issue, as most of the seasoned marketing executives would have preferred to work in a “full-fledged” top marketing position at a FMCG company, e.g. including ATL/Media, market communications, etc.
- Specific product category and narrow niche
- Besides strong functional competencies, the readiness to assume GM-level assignment in three to four years was not always the case
However, our client had a strong employer brand, which enabled us to attract the critical amount of long-listed candidates.
Our methodology included structured competence-based interviews combined with personality tests supporting our findings as well as reference checks at the ultimate stage.
Altogether eight shortlisted candidates were presented locally; four of them were taken further and were presented on regional HQ level. The finalists’ last round included face-to-face meetings with the Corporate/Group HR and Regional Business Directors for final approval.
UPGRADE OF CFO ROLE
Local subsidiary of a top-10 global pharmaceutical groups with 20 years of presence on the local market. Mixed portfolio, consisting of Rx, generics and OTC products. Company business strongly focused on in-licensing of new molecules and/ or co-promotion of drugs, working closely with their partners. Multi-national group with adherence and full compliance to both local and international standards.
Following the new strategy of the company, the client decided to replace the then current CFO, who had assumed this post for approximately one year, promoted internally. The company sought to find a qualified replacement with a strong finance and accounting expertise from the external market, but they also intended to retain the out-going CFO in a new role. As by client’s request, the search process was fully confidential, which means that client’s name was to be revealed only to short-listed candidates, prior to face-to-face meetings with the client.
The client wanted to use this opportunity to upgrade the position by bringing in a mature and experienced executive with international experience. The position also reported to the Regional HQs, therefore they also served as a stakeholder/decision maker, besides the local General Manager.
Market mapping and research later validated our initial assumptions, which suggested that it was feasible to attract the required professionals locally. We researched in the pharmaceutical industry (being the most relevant); however, we also screened and identified relevant and competent candidates from similar businesses, such as consumer goods companies.
In particular, we were searching for successful experience and a record of accomplishments following the below principal criteria:
- Local person but with a very strong international background, with a very clear preference for a successful international assignment
- Sound functional expertise
- Strong leadership/ management abilities
- Delicate combination of “corporate person vs. people person”
During the research and selection phase, we identified and screened around 100 candidates. We used competence-based interviews to gather factual evidence for the most important criteria and reference-checking during the ultimate steps of the assignment.
Working on the search, we encountered the following challenges from the market:
- Since the search was confidential and the client’s name could not be revealed, we experienced slight issues as to attracting the potential candidates’ full interest and commitment, especially with candidates coming from the pharmaceutical industry
- Most of the candidates did not have international assignments during their career
- Searching for an established mature manager meant that we had to attract a candidate from a similar level (N-1) and this did not always match with candidates’ expectations
Altogether, seven shortlisted candidates were presented to the client and two semi-finalists were taken to the next level to meet with HQ personnel with the subsequent decision about the finalist, which was followed by a successful contractual negotiations phase and the placement.