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Cultural Talent Searches at the Highest Levels

Germán Hernández - Spencer Stuart Mexico
Director General


Tue, 09/01/2015 - 12:41

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As a company that has been recruiting in Mexico for the last 20 years, Spencer Stuart is well-positioned within both the Mexican and global markets. Founded in 1956, the firm specializes in the identification of global executives, with a primary focus on C-suite, as well as vice presidents, directors, and boards. Spencer Stuart works on behalf of a variety of automakers and top-tier suppliers, providing support for functional roles or management roles at all levels. In Mexico, in fact, a significant proportion of the firm’s industrial business comes from the automotive industry, representing more than 35% of its revenue. Relationships are leveraged by enabling consultants to proactively visit the US, Europe, and Japan in order to understand the key transitions within the industry, and potentially anticipate changing trends. The firm aims to contribute the most comprehensive and reliable advice regarding candidates and industries, but the ability to assess those candidates relies on the experience of the consultants that perform the searches. “Consultants at Spencer Stuart are senior employees with considerable experience within the industry or within recruitment,” states Germán Hernández, Director General of Spencer Stuart Mexico. “This firsthand knowledge provides the firm with a comprehensive understanding of the talent gaps in the sector, as well as an indication of the direction in which the industry is headed, and the functional requirements and leadership skills required in today’s market.” As part of the recruitment process, Spencer Stuart carries out an extensive referencing process and works closely with clients in order to identify the perfect candidate. Moreover, due to the global spread of the company, it has the distinct advantage of being able to easily assemble a team of candidates on a global scale, a feature that Hernández believes will be key to the leadership demands of the automotive industry

Spencer Stuart measures its success as a search firm across three main areas: performance, durability, and cultural integration. In terms of performance, this is measured through KPIs, sales figures, and levels of growth witnessed within the company as a direct result of the candidate selection. Durability is gauged by the impact of the employee on the company over the course of their career, and a favorable balance in terms of recruitment costs, energy and training time. To measure cultural integration, the firm employs an enhanced methodology for assessing candidates, which examines factors such as the ability to work individually or in teams, and the ability to comfortably adapt to change. This process is important for measuring the way in which individuals align themselves with the prevailing company culture or cultures.

The firm works closely with automotive companies in order to find the best candidates to fit individual strategies, and spends significant time communicating with HR managers, hiring managers, and boards of directors in order to understand the potential duties and requirements of a CEO. “Searches like this are not simply about filling a vacancy, but finding leaders who will perform, and will ultimately constitute the correct candidate for the company,” says Hernández. With tremendous emphasis placed on the organization’s culture, a great deal of time is spent on measuring potential for compatibility. The way in which Spencer Stuart evaluates executives is unique, in that a case-based interview is carried out by specialized consultants, the insights from which can help the CEO in making decisions about employee roles, which can significantly minimize the risk of failure for the CEO.

With the arrival of new OEMs and suppliers in Mexico, the demand for qualified, high-performing talent in the automotive field has increased dramatically over the last few years, which puts significant pressure on companies like Spencer Stuart to find the correct candidate for a given position. The expansion of the automotive market has been rapid, but the talent pool has not developed at the same rate, meaning that many high-level positions in Mexico are occupied by foreign talent. R&D is a critical piece of this puzzle, according to Hernández. “Mexico is beginning to prepare for an era of R&D, product design, and advanced manufacturing, but the gap in the talent pool will hold the country back,” he explains. “Many OEMs, for instance, are opening their design centers in Silicon Valley because they understand that technology is driving most consumer decisions in terms of car sales. Mexico is not yet mature enough to develop that type of talent, which is extremely unfortunate since those kinds of roles can have a significant impact on a country’s landscape.”

The biggest change in automotive, however, is that companies are starting to focus on innovative ways to attract consumers. This is no longer simply driven by vehicle specifications, but considerable emphasis is placed on the customer experience while driving. CEOs must understand the importance attributed to the purchase of a car, in order to build automobiles that satisfy this customer need. In Mexico, focus should be shifted away from manufacturing, concentrating instead on the NAFTA market. However, this can prove problematic since existing momentum within an organization can sometimes hold back a new CEO’s agenda, and this is why time is essential, both to find the appropriate CEO candidate, and for the CEO to gain traction within a company

Spencer Stuart is currently undergoing a considerable development plan for Mexico, increasing its team while expanding to larger facilities. The firm also expects to enhance its capabilities to provide leadership advisory services such as executive assessment, board effectiveness assessment, and CEO succession planning. In such a robust market wherein Mexico’s businesses have an important need for advice, insights, and an understanding of the industry and its many complexities and opportunities, Spencer Stuart has identified a key opportunity for expansion.

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