Tag Archives: executive search

talent drain

Post Brexit uncertainty starts talent drain

The business world is trying to make sense of the implications of Brexit in a world now characterized by uncertainty. It was clear that this shock result, from which we are still reeling, was so unexpected that almost no one had a post Brexit plan. Against many unknown factors, businesses are trying to create strategies for changes which will significnatly impact the workplace. Practises related to E.U. rather than U.K. legislation, will be examined as new agreements are set up. Some experts are saying this could take up to 5 years.  One of the major elements will be the rights of E.U. workers in the U.K. and U.K. workers in the E.U. But what had not been anticipated is an immediate talent drain as skilled workers seek early voluntary repatriation or relocation to other parts of the E.U.

Yep. That’s right – some people actually want to leave now! Can you believe that?

Overall picture

The highly emotional and divisive referendum campaign and brexit shockthe subsequent leadership debacle, dealt a savage and damaging blow to Brand Britain on the global market. We now live in a new age of uncertainty. The CIPD reports that in general, 44% of working adults say they feel pessimistic about the future as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, while one in five say they feel their job is less secure. Unfortunately, in the wake of this, we have witnessed an astonishing and aggressive xenophobic backlash against non-UK nationals studying, living and working in the U.K. Many European nationals are now reporting “feeling unwelcome” in a country which they have made their home, some for many years.

The U.K. government has made some half-hearted attempts to allay the fears of E.U. residents in the U.K. With a lack of definitive statements, many are unconvinced. Head hunters and recruiters are reporting increased numbers of spontaneous CVs and applications from individuals looking to leave the U.K, – now, or as soon as possible. This is also my experience.

The Talent Drain

What seems surprising is that no one factored in a potential talent drain before the referendum.  It should have been evident that if politicians run divisive campaigns based on hate, specifically targeting non-U.K. residents, the U.K. will be perceived as (and even become) a less attractive place to seek employment for workers who have choice. By this I mean those with strong transferable or difficult to find and attract skills.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ (UKCES) Employer Skills Survey 2015 of 91,000 employers has already reported a chronic skill shortage even before the referendum.  The people who are reconsidering their positions are people who can go anywhere. In the mean time the talent drain has started.  Other E.U. nationals who might have had their eye on a U.K posting particularly London, are now re-thinking their career strategies.

What is behind this talent drain?  

These are just the comments I’ve had to indicate a potential talent drain.

  • Uncertainty: a Commodities Analyst with a Spanish based London bank suggested that “the U.K. is showing a post Brexit slow down. Uncertainty and a lack of confidence are damaging for everyone in the short-term. For my career, it would be better to move to another European financial services centre. I speak German and French so could move to Paris or Frankfurt. Dublin would also be a possibility. It’s anticipated that some Banks will move their whole operations so I may wait a while and see what happens , but I have sent my CV out. The current atmosphere is depressing and gloomy.”
  • Xenophobia:  a French strategy manager with a global logistics company said “there is definite backlash against foreigners now, which was whipped up hysterically before the vote and is being fuelled even now by a partisan press. I can handle it fine, but the kids are being targeted in school for their French accents and that’s not O.K. It’s not just against low paid Poles.”  A German account manager also reported abusive comments and being told to “go home.”   This is apparently rife. 
  • Fear of housing market collapse: others who have bought property in the U.K. particularly the South East at premium prices are concerned about a possible fall in house prices leaving them in a negative equity situation, especially as the pound has fallen to the lowest it’s been in years. They see an early departure as vital.
  • Concern about new requirements:  many would rather leave now voluntarily, than be made to go in two  or five years’ time. This would be dependent on the type of trade deals that are  negotiated and there are concerns.
  • More openings now:  there is a feeling that there would be more international openings in other E.U. centres now, rather than later. There might also be less competition for those jobs.
  • Concern about reduced conditions: a Marketing Director from Stockholm indicated concerns about employment conditions deteriorating “The only way the U.K can offer advantages to international organisations is to offer greater tax breaks (already happening) and greater flexibility with employment conditions. This will work in favour of the employer. I anticipate a loss of employment protection similar to the type of systems in place in the U.S. which would be negotiated with a T.T.I.P. deal. We could see a shift to very exploitive employment practises I fear.”           
  • Citizenship: with the question of  the right to work under investigation, perhaps requiring British citizenship, the uncertainty around this issue is a concern for some. They would want to maintain dual citizenship so they could work in the U.K. and Europe.

What did they expect?

A Belgian research scientist told me “There is no doubt that a hostile environment has been created by the politicians and press during the referendum campaign against multiculturalism. Beneath the British veneer of outward civility, it’s obvious now there is a seething layer of resentment towards foreigners which has become clear to non-Brits in the last month.  Although I am not a direct target-(yet) the U.K. is just not an easy place to be at the moment for overseas workers or students.” 

Over the next months we will find out how things play out. Currently everyone seems to be carefully treading water. A more cynical H.R. analyst suggested that those E.U. nationals with strong skills will eventually be able to command premium salaries in the U.K.. “Most politicians have no idea of the true level of skill set shortage in the U.K. Brexit was not expected and almost no one had a plan.  Individuals should just bide their time. By 2020 if anyone leaves the U.K., they will probably be able to return at even higher salaries. And for anyone currently paid in Euros or dollars – they are already ahead.”

Interesting thought. What do you think?

Interviews with H.R. are the gatekeeping process

Meaningless interviews with H.R. Really?

Why do so many underestimate interviews with H.R?

I’ve heard some comments recently from candidates or job search clients related to interviews with H.R. I’ve selected two, because the others carried the same message, they were just phrased differently.

  • Comment #1 – From a job seeking client:  “I’ve only attended a series of meaningless interviews with H.R.”
  • Comment #2 – From a candidate I was interviewing who was woefully unprepared: “Don’t worry, I will be better prepared for the decision-maker”   

Sadly for him, I was the decision maker. His process ended right there.

Gatekeepers

It is true that the calibre of some H.R. individuals, may not be high all the time. But regardless, they are the gate keepers to the process.  Candidates, this is your wake-up call. Interviews with H.R. are not meaningless, even if they seem that way. They are the first decision makers. If H.R. cut you, it rarely happens that the line or hiring managers go back and ask to see the thousands of CVs and telephone screening notes of unprocessed candidates. Many pundits encourage candidates to bypass H.R. totally and locate the hiring manager. That can work, but usually offers are made via H.R. so they can still nix your application. It is only very rarely you can leapfrog interviews with H.R.

And sometimes you don’t know you are encountering H.R., as one candidate found to his cost with #HRTechWorld colleague Matt Buckland

Attitude and aptitude

How you interact with H.R.,recruiters and anyone else in the process is measured, monitored and judged. You are then compared to other candidates or the benchmark  for the position for that company. An overview centred around cultural fit and expectations will be made. Your attitude matters as much as your hard skills. If you are rude and entitled then it’s factored in. I interviewed a senior manager for an executive role in a very conservative organisation.  Let’s be clear. It was not a junior coding role in a tech start-up.  He was not professionally attired.   I simply made a note of the facts and the company President commented on it as a sign of a certain attitude. He was processed further, but that same attitude surfaced in other ways further down the line. It was a red flag.

If the hiring manager trusts the H.R. Manager or the recruiter, he will rely on their judgement. She doesn’t have time to micro-manage the search process.  I can understand process fatigue setting in because candidates can go for many interviews. But somehow job seekers have to prepare and be courteous and remember everyone involved counts, especially those interactions and interviews with H.R.

That’s why the gentleman had so many “meaningless interviews with H.R.”  It’s the candidate who has to give those interviews meaning and make the right first impression. Because like the saying goes, there are rarely second chances.

Give those interviews with H.R. meaning:

  • be courteous and respond appropriately and in a timely way.
  • connect with the person on LinkedIn
  • prepare and research information about the company
  • prepare questions
  • thank them for their time
  • refer other candidates if you are not interested

If you have established a good rapport with the H.R. contact, you are more likely to be considered for another role if you are not successful and given performance feedback. That will help you reduce those meaningless interviews with H.R.

Do you want to improve your interview performance and job search strategy – contact me 

Do headhunters exclude women?

The Glasshammer in a recent post has written about how executive search companies and headhunters serve to exclude women. I read it with interest and the report it was based on  “And then there are none: on the exclusion of women in processes of executive search,” which appeared in Gender in Management: An International Journal in 2013.

As an executive search consultant myself it seemed to give me a significant amount of influence,  which I’m not sure I really have. I wish I did. Headhunters are successful the world over, when they identify, attract and place first-rate candidates with their clients, who add sustained value to their organisations. In the sector we talk about finding purple squirrels and five legged sheep. If that’s what clients wanted, trust me, we would try to identify them.

If corporations wanted to hire women do you really think any consultant in the interests of their businesses would walk away from that opportunity?  I don’t think so.

Many of the sources for the report pre-date 2009 and the sector has been revolutionised in the last five years. A large number of the “old boy” headhunters have retired and corporates are increasingly sourcing candidates themselves via alternative networks especially online platforms.

Is there gender bias in the search and recruitment sector? For sure, just as we find every other sort of bias.  Adverts are male coded, interviews unstructured and illegal gender based questions are shamelessly asked at every stage of the process.  Recent E.U. research  suggests that different emphasis is placed on the same criteria between and men in the interview process. A woman’s appearance is the third most significant element where a man’s appearance it is in eighth place. This issue is compounded in sectors where there are fewer women to be found.

head huntes

Both corporate and our general culture is riddled with conscious and unconscious bias. Headhunters are consistently asked to make what I call “copy paste” placements  – providing an indentikit of what the client has asked for, usually the profile they had previously. The profile will quite often correspond with the prevailing culture which more often than not will be male dominated. The document itself will be heavily  male coded. Quite often the previous incumbent will also have been male.  Headhunters should at least have an awareness of their unconscious bias, be seen to be politically correct at all times especially in leadership roles. They should certainly not pose outlawed questions.

Occasionally there will be a rare manager who would be willing to consider or even insist on non-template options.

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What women can do to position themselves on the radar of any hiring manager and headhunters is to:

  • Create relationships with headhunters: many start this process too late waiting until there is a crisis when they become reactive, not strategically pro-active. Become an industry source or sector expert so any achievements are known to head hunters.
  • Establish a strong online professional presence especially a complete LinkedIn profile.  Although this has shifted over the years, men still predominate on this platform with women preferring to socialise on Twitter and Facebook.  90% of headhunters search LinkedIn for candidates so women need to make themselves more visible on this site.
  • Network: over 85% of jobs are not advertised and the hidden job market is a strong source for candidates for open vacancies, particularly at a senior level. Women are reluctant strategic networkers but need to find ways around that to make sure they are well positioned inside their target sector.
  • Create a career strategy: this has been identified as one of the main barriers to career progression for women. Taking steps to plan ahead is important not to get caught off-balance at any point in their careers. Although it is impossible to anticipate every contingency. Many women don’t even have a general guideline to how they will achieve their notion of success (whatever that maybe.)

What have been your experiences in dealing with headhunters?

How divorce impacts executive search strategies

Does the traditional nuclear family facilitate our talent management strategies?

One of the areas that anyone involved in the hiring process is not allowed to explore is the marital /relationship status of  any potential candidates. I am completely supportive of this, but with the caveat that it is impossible to separate a significant part of someone’s life and assume it doesn’t exist. It does, and in most cases, any difficulties will usually surface somewhere in the career transition process. Life issues do eventually become workplace issues.

Rise in divorce rates
I have noticed recently how the rise in divorce rates is impacting executive search. Last week alone, a significant number of potential candidates expressly cited divorce as a reason for not engaging in the search process.

Life events
This information is based on candidates willingly and voluntarily sharing very private and sensitive information with a total stranger. There are possibly others who just have just cited location, travel requirements, timing and all the other reasons candidates give for not being interested in a position. I have no idea if they are the real reasons. Given that (depending on the stats you read) roughly 50% of marriages end in divorce,  it’s perhaps possible that divorce underlies many candidates reluctance to engage.

Changing jobs is also one of life’s major challenges, especially to a new company, in possibly a new location.  Having these two major life events occurring simultaneously is too much for many. Even if the opportunity is a perfect fit, they have to turn it down.

Psychological impact
As anyone who has been through the process will tell you, the effects of divorce can change virtually every aspect of a person’s life including where they live and with whom , their standard of living, their emotional well-being, their financial situation and liabilities and time spent with children. For many their social group will change and perhaps the needs of new partners and their children will also have to be factored in, as modern family life becomes ever more complex. Almost all would describe it as a challenging and stressful time.

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Time issues
The divorce process saps enormous amounts of both time and energy. It involves meetings with possibly lawyers, counsellors or therapists, real estate agents and financial advisors. Stress can lead to health issues requiring medical treatment. James, an ideal candidate for one particular search told me ” There is no way I could focus on changing jobs right now. I am struggling to keep all my balls in the air currently as it is. I have been depressed. Looking for somewhere new to live, dealing with lawyers and seeing my children at weekends, as well as my job, is all I can cope with at the moment. My manager is cutting me a lot of slack”

Childcare
For one or both parties it will mean moving house, itself a life challenge. Child care arrangements will need to be set up as more and more children (50%) split their time between two households. This places a greater reliance for any professional person on local support networks,  which might include grandparents, day care or help at home, if it can be afforded. Quite often the current employer has been sympathetic which fosters additional and strong employee loyalty. Sometimes those same flexible arrangements cannot be replicated with a new company, especially at the start of a new job.

Joint custody
I talked to Annick in France whose employer had agreed to her travelling only during the weeks her ex husband was responsible for the care of their two children. This time was fixed by the court and was not flexible. But additionally, professional input suggests that fixed routines for children under these circumstances are best for their well-being and have to be strictly observed. Annick felt that her hands were tied at least for the next 10 years, until the children (ages 6 and 8 ) became more independent. Her future career she believed  would now be limited to local opportunities with limited travel.

Remote working
Many potential candidates in these circumstances ask about remote working. Most companies are reluctant to afford that facility to new employees at the beginning of their careers with their organisation, except possibly those in the sales force. There will usually be a certain period of onboarding, where it’s important for the new employee to be physically located with the people he or she is working with or managing.

Re-locating
Relocating as part of a family unit has its own stresses (I’ve done it), but relocating as a single person, or even a single parent, is not straightforward. Pieter in Holland, in his early 50s with 2 adult children told me ” I’ve just gone through a divorce and chosen a house to be within easy distance of my kids. It has taken me time to rebuild my life and a social network. I just don’t want to start over in a new place. I am happy to travel so if the company would agree to some element of home office working – I could be open”

Travel
Saskia, is a senior executive I contacted for a position based outside her native country, with a reasonably high level of travel. With the ink barely dry on her divorce papers she felt that she may not even be allowed to take her children out of the country on a permanent basis by her ex husband or the courts. With the high level of travel, she would have to hire support to cover any extended absence in addition to daycare. She didn’t want to do that, not just for financial reasons, but she simply didn’t want to put her children in on what would be at times 24 hour care, in a foreign country. In her current job and location their grandparents stepped in to fill the gap.

Trend
This significant trend is already having an impact on workplace dynamics. In the talent management sector we have become reliant on the existence of the traditional nuclear family, as a way of facilitating the movement of talent and supporting career transition. But it seems that is changing, so we have to find ways to adjust our strategies to make sure we are not losing the best talent because of circumstances which now a high percentage of the population are experiencing .

So what do we need to do to adapt to those changes? Ideas anyone?