While all recruitment decisions are important, choosing the right executive leaders or board members can be one of the most challenging tasks a company can face. Senior appointments can have a significant impact on the strategic direction of a business and on the levels of employee engagement and motivation to deliver the planned vision of success. In turn, this all influences an organisation’s employer brand and its success in recruiting and retaining high-calibre employees at all levels.
Through our Pure Executive division, we specialise in board and top-level appointments across a range of sectors and work with organisations ranging from privately owned through to listed businesses. We are known for our personalised, consultative approach where we provide a balance between listening to employer’s needs and challenging them to make the right choices for the long term. Here are just some of the things we support clients to consider when recruiting at this level.
Diversity and combined strengths
When recruiting to build a leadership team, diversity is widely understood to be fundamental. This is because all great teams display a diverse mix of qualities, skills, experiences and outlooks. The varied perspectives and a mix of voices which reflects the breadth of the organisation’s stakeholders results in stronger governance and better decision making. There are a range of ways to achieve this including through assembling a team of high performing leaders with a mix of gender, ethnicity, age and backgrounds.
Alongside this, look at the skills and experience you already have in place and examine if there are any gaps to be filled in building a team with the combined strengths needed to drive strategy, mentor and invest in staff, shape company culture, and ultimately work effectively with each other. This helps to evaluate prospective candidates for their respective abilities and aptitudes, not just their experience in a role or industry. Appointing non-executive board members can also be a highly effective way of achieving a diverse team with combined strengths. NEDs can provide not just relevant experience but also an external viewpoint as well as acting as a ‘critical friend’ to the business.
Relevant experience for growth ambitions
Establishing a strong leadership team, from senior management through to executive board, is critical to the sustainability and future success of a business. However, the search criteria for senior recruits will vary depending on the size and history of the business. The skills and experience needed to launch a business and lead it through its first few years of growth are different to the ones needed to manage an established company for example. Even when a business is well established, expanding and further strengthening the leadership team can support the organisation’s future growth by bringing in new ideas and experiences to help shape strategic direction. For example, we recently supported Treatt plc to appoint two new Non-Executive Directors in preparation for the organisation’s next phase of transformative growth. Already one of the Eastern region’s most successful companies, it was important for Treatt to attract more international business experience to its board to help drive its worldwide expansion, as well as to achieve a greater balance and diversity of thinking.
Authentic leadership qualities
The subject of authentic leadership regularly comes up when we are recruiting for board and executive roles. At this level, the focus shifts from looking to find specific skills sets towards an emphasis on broader leadership qualities. Employers talk about finding candidates who are genuine and open, and those who have the ability to bring a team together by inspiring loyalty and trust. Whether leading the business as a CEO or leading the board as the chair, a poll of the Forbes Human Resources Council revealed the top traits they looked for when recruiting for these types of positions were; passion, integrity, problem-solving, action and vision sellers. These traits are all more focussed on the skills needed to effectively bring together and engage a team in delivering on the organisation’s vision.
The right cultural fit
For a senior recruitment decision to be an effective long-term investment, cultural fit must also be taken into consideration. It’s not just about finding the right skills and experience but also about selecting those who will best suit the culture of the organisation. It is far easier for leaders to be authentic if they genuinely share an organisation’s vision, values and purpose. They are more likely to lead with the integrity, honesty and passion needed to gain credibility and trust among existing teams. They won’t feel a need to mask their true selves, will be able to show their natural style and unique strengths, and lead by example in developing and maintaining your organisation’s culture.
Developing your own leaders for succession planning
When planning ahead for executive recruitment we are often asked whether it is better to recruit externally or to nurture potential leaders from within existing teams. There are benefits to both options and various considerations needed, for example the cost to recruit versus the cost to train employees in leadership skills. Developing your own leadership talent is likely to mean a good cultural fit is already established and that relevant company and industry knowledge will be at a premium. However, you may not gain different perspectives, achieve greater diversity or secure new areas of expertise to strengthen the existing leadership team. In essence, the decision all depends on the role, the timings, the current business plan, the vision for the future and the skills and experience already in place. At Pure, we are committed to developing the talent pipeline of Executive and Non-Executive Directors in the Eastern region with a team of highly experienced executive recruitment consultants. Our Board Ready Talent Scheme and Women’s Leadership Programme both support businesses to progress their own talented employees and to develop a succession plan for when the right leadership opportunities arise.
About Gill Buchanan
Gill is a founding Director of Pure and has worked in the recruitment field since 1988. Gill’s experience is broad-based and includes eight years of specialist recruitment experience within an international specialist recruitment company including five years working within financial services recruitment in Sydney, Australia.