Is this an extended downturn or rather an exciting structural shift?

I’m in the camp that sees the whole global market undergoing a structural shift. This month Australians and in particular Melburnians awoke to the reality that Toyota in 2017 will join Ford and General Motors and do away with their local manufacturing footprint. Rumours are flying regarding Qantas significantly reducing headcount. Times are a changin’ to quote Mr Dylan.

Our own industry is reshaping itself too. Late last year I attended the Association of Executive Search Consultants Conference in London, where John Niland was a keynote speaker. Niland talked about how the market has changed significantly, including the commoditisation of service industries, how buyers have changed their decision making processes and how choices are often made by teams rather than individuals. Traditional sales messages and benefits statements no longer work.

All of this adds up to the fact that in the Executive Search sector we also have to re-frame our service offering and client engagement.

Changing perspectives requires adding:

  1. new options such as increasing or decreasing guarantee periods, psychological assessments and cognitive assessments;
  2. re-prioritising such as determining the real markers of high performance outside of industry experience and known track records;
  3. magnifying the potential (or risk) by using such tools as detecting lies in interviews and
  4. anticipating unforeseen barriers such as assessing the unexpected show stoppers such as salary, national or global moves.

This also means challenging a client’s thinking by offering unique perspectives. We can help clients navigate new alternatives, identify potential land mines, and generally provide new means to tackle tough problems.

It always surprises me how often we pick up an assignment, where the client says “I’d like to bring some fresh thinking with the person I hire” but then invariably falls back on the need for direct industry experience. Our challenge is to reshape and inform our clients’ perspective in line with defensible and supported evidence that counterbalances the accepted status quo.

What clients don’t appreciate is being fronted with fresh thinking where there is no supporting evidence.

John Niland’s talk made me think a little differently, and was very useful in my view in the context of global shifts in business practices. Incidentally if you’re interested in his book it can be ordered at Amazon and is called The Courage to Ask.

What’s happening in your industry? We’d like to hear your Point of View.