Filtering Executive Elite to Find the Best
The demand for manufacturing talent is advancing by leaps and bounds within the automotive sector but in R&D it is lagging. For executive search firms, when demand for R&D operations begin to rise, opportunities follow, says Germán Hernández, Office Manager of global executive search and leadership advisory firm Spencer Stuart.
“We conduct searches for OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers for management-level talent in commercial, operations and manufacturing positions,” says Hernández before adding that he and his Mexico City colleagues have not been asked to search for large numbers of researchers or designers. “In R&D, there have been no large-scale R&D operations in Mexico to date but we believe that once Tier 1 and 2 manufacturing companies are consolidated, demand will grow.”
In the long term, research opportunities will be generated where assembly plants and Tier 1 companies begin to strengthen their capacities and generate products on global platforms. “The automotive industry will continue to grow because its cost structures are strong, it benefits for the economy and Mexico’s proximity to the US and Canadian markets gives an extra advantage to automotive companies,” says Hernández. When recruiting for a company in the automotive sector, Hernández’ team looks for Mexican talent but also widens the search to nearby countries. In those instances, the search takes on a higher level of challenges. According to Hernández, this is due to the fact that few countries enjoy the same level of leadership experience found in Mexico’s automotive industry.
The Brazilian market is not an ideal source of talent for Mexican positions because the country’s area of expertise is different, explains Hernández, making it more complex to import talent. Because of this, Spencer Stuart often looks to regions such as the US and Europe, where leadership roles demand similar characteristics to what Mexican companies are looking for in their senior positions. But for expats, adapting to a new country’s culture has its challenges: learning the local language, understanding how business is done and how to interact is generally difficult for executives. “Problems in Mexico arise from how things are done locally and the organizational culture. A company’s Mexican operations differ from those in the US or Japan, which makes the adapting process more complex for new recruits,” says Hernández.
Finding the perfect candidate for a position means it is essential to make topics like compensation, desired previous industry experience, training offered, languages needed, international experience, teamwork and management variables clear to candidates. “We partner with the client to define each competency and skill set required to create a document that serves as a navigation chart to complete the search swiftly and efficiently,” says Hernández.
As for what makes a search swift and efficient, Hernández points to those companies that have a formal succession process in place. “Those companies with a thoughtful succession plan have the ability to move at an appropriate pace, regardless if the need is immediate or long-term,” says Hernández. “Some organizations develop these plans only for high-level positions but the reality is that a number of companies still fail to truly plan for succession.”
Hernández’s team must be flexible to adapt to the needs of its automotive clients, often leading them to look at other sectors for potential sources of talent. At this moment, Spencer Stuart’s team sees an intersection between automotive and aerospace due to both sectors having similar supplier chains.
Spencer Stuart performs 80 to 100 searches per year in Mexico, 10 percent of which are related to the automotive sector. “Finding someone to lead a major industry player is a difficult job that takes preparation, experience and a selection process with filters that ensure candidates meet the requirements of the position,” says Hernández. “This is key for executive positions, which must be filled with someone with a demonstrated record of success who will generate long- and short-term value for the company and a have a genuine understanding of the company’s culture.”