Chad Harrison International is a global executive search and selection consultancy operating in the cement industry. It provides headhunting services for management, technical, Director and Board level positions across the industry. Managing Director Luke Robbins-Wells offers his insight into headhunting in the cement industry and how his vision for Chad Harrison International has evolved over the last decade.

How has headhunting changed in the last few years?

As a result of social media platforms such as Linkedin, Xing and others, client expectations have changed. There is often an expectation that head-hunters can find and present every candidate in the market, and provide them to the client. Whereas the reality is that a good head hunter will find all available candidates, on the market not just IN the market, that meet the criteria and present those that are most interested. Head hunters are not miracle workers however a good head hunter should be able to consult and guide their client based on tangible results. If the candidates in the market do not meet the brief, is it the head hunter who needs to change their approach or the client who needs to reevaluate their expectations?

From a candidate point of view, they are expecting a higher level of service, a wider choice, a more detailed approach and a variety of options that they may not have been able to find themselves. Savvy candidates are using head hunters to help market themselves appropriately and make them stand out.

How has technology impacted the recruitment landscape?

A lot of organisations are using internal recruitment processes and technologies; building their own databases, talent pools and social media channels. Technology has benefited the cement industry tremendously. It has enabled the recruitment process to become more efficient as clients are able to interview candidates through a variety of online mediums such as Skype. Technology has globalised the industry and reduced the need for candidates to travel long distances for interviews, it has quickened the process making it more cost-effective and easier to manage for the client.

How is the recruitment landscape being shaped in the cement industry by head-hunters? 

We are providing a different dimension to the industry. It is a small market, a lot of senior level personnel know each other which can be difficult when looking for a new opportunity as the candidates and clients risk a conflict of interest and difficult situations. Head hunters are able to access the majority of candidates and bridge that gap that hiring managers cannot. As consultants, we do more than just bring the best talent to the table, we are helping companies to grow, become more efficient, manage costs and increase profitability. We are able to use our understanding of the industry and parallel industries to bring talent to the industry from complimentary industries and strengthen the talent pool. We have access to networks not everyone has as we spend every day, speaking to the very best in the international market

Would it be fair to say that head hunters are able to introduce senior level candidates from outside of the cement industry?

Yes, using Chad Harrison as an example, we have been able to introduce and successfully place candidates from the steel, packaging and paper industries. Candidates have transferrable skill sets that we can move into the cement industry, but it is also challenging to convince hiring managers who may have their sights set on an ideal candidate that can tick all the boxes.

Is turnover of senior level staff increasing or decreasing?

I would say the need for senior level appointments in a lot of cement businesses is decreasing as there is a higher level of expectations for those at the management level to take on more responsibilities. There is an expectation that more senior level employees become multi-disciplined and with the costs associated with the fall in oil price and other economic factors, companies are aiming to get more value from their senior level staff. As a result, it maybe that companies are expecting their Industrial Directors to be more commercial alongside the technical skill set.

How do you think that will play out in the future?

It may lead to more astute, well-rounded management and leaders in the business that have an all-encompassing understanding of the business and can add value in all areas. It could also reduce the need for the corporate technical structure and corporate commercial teams as these requirements spread out across the operational teams, therefore making the cement industry more streamlined and efficient.

How are companies reacting to that – do you find more senior level candidates are appointed for the first time from within? 

Historically, within the cement industry, there has always been the standard internal progression. I think a lot of recent mergers and acquisitions have created significant movement in a previously quite stable market. There are some changes in the top five cement manufacturers, so the current requirement for a lot of these businesses is in attracting the right candidates, who are actively seeking from those competitors while also attracting candidates externally to enter the industry.

What are the key traits Directors and hiring managers are looking for from senior level candidates?

What we’re finding is that clients are looking for candidates who are more commercially aware. It’s no longer befitting to be solely technically but being commercial and having an understanding of the end goals is important. Most of our clients are looking to test a candidate’s commercial awareness, for example, when optimising production, you need to understand not just how, but why. Candidates need to illustrate that they can improve processes that will save or make the company money.

A lot of hiring managers we work with are also looking for leadership traits, management experience, the ability to influence and knowledge sharing capability. Flexibility is key, particularly when entering emerging markets

How do cement candidates compare to those outside of the industry, such as packaging or steel?

A lot of vacancy briefings we undertake with clients demonstrate that at times, the cement companies can be quite blinkered in experience. There is a tendency to stick to the status quo within the cement industry, whereas in other sectors there are a wealth of commercially aware candidates that have transferrable skills. Cement candidates overall are generally very experienced and in high demand not only in the cement sector. There is a huge range of talent in the industry, however, the industry needs to also consider the extensive range of candidates from similar industries who could easily transfer to ensure it doesn’t become stagnant.

What are your important messages to candidates prior to meeting your clients?

Know your numbers and facts, make sure you’re aware of tangible results that you have achieved. When a client asks what has been done to improve operations, a candidate should be able to give a detailed answer with examples to demonstrate their ability.

What are your thoughts on opinions that there is a global talent shortage in cement? 

I would agree, there is a talent shortage. There are a lot of senior level profiles that are moving out of the industry as a result of M&A activity, and a large number heading to retirement age. There is a lot of technical expertise that is being lost with the exit of those profiles. As in every market, there is a global talent shortage in engineering in particular. The ability to find the full package within cement, for example, someone who is technical, operational and commercial who is flexible and willing to move is challenging. It’s why, in addition to strong, graduate schemes, training and development and succession planning, I think management need to look outside of the cement industry to attract those candidates with transferrable skill sets to fill the immediate hard-to-fill requirements.

How do you ensure that you find the right kinds of candidates in the face of this challenge?

We ensure that we are speaking every day to candidates and clients alike so that we have the knowledge of who is the best in the industry and who has strengths in certain areas not only those who are active but keeping close to the best passive candidates in the industry. We understand the best cement candidates’ skill sets. We are able to keep in touch with the best in the international market around the globe which means when a position becomes available we can go straight to market with that opportunity and select the right individual for the client. 

We hear a lot about emerging markets, how are you and your clients organising yourselves to ensure you’re are part of it?

Chad Harrison is working with a lot of leading companies in emerging markets already as well as companies investing in new locations. We’re working with private equity firms that are investing in emerging markets and we’re spending our time working with local candidates and expatriates looking to make that move or have affinities and capabilities within those regions.

What would your advice be to senior executives looking to make the leap to board level or CEO?

For any senior level executive looking to make a step up into board level or CEO it’s about ensuring that your external network is just as strong as your internal network. This ensures that you are able to bring the best opportunities to the business, to be able to support the strategic objectives and to have the right oversight across the market with your finger on the pulse.

To find out more about Chad Harrison International, visit our services page.