Rafael Yturbe
Country Manager
Russell Reynolds Associates
Jaime Padilla, Head of Automotive Practice at Russell Reynolds Associates
Jaime Padilla
Head of Automotive Practice
Russell Reynolds Associates
View from the Top

Finding a Fresh Generation of Executives

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 11:30

Q: When searching for talent, how does Russell Reynolds identify forward thinkers who can address and resolve problems in the industry?

JP: It is important to differentiate between the two different profiles of executives. In an automotive company, the same person will rarely be in charge of both operative and commercial areas. Operations in the automotive sector are all about having the right skills to improve productivity, efficiency, and timeliness. In the commercial segment, candidates have to be aware of what is coming next, as well as understanding the ever-changing trends and consumer needs. The local market is growing, but chocolate cars are absorbing most of the growth, therefore a commercial executive needs to be creative, bold, and disruptive. There are some excellent professionals in the industry, but the market is looking for individuals who are more than just good executives with a passion for cars; it is becoming increasingly important for applicants to have a broader, more comprehensive background. An individual who has climbed the corporate ladder in one company, in the same industry, and in the same country, might not have the right experience to be a top player in a new and changing environment. The right executives are those who understand the complete strategy of the company worldwide, but also understand the local market and have a strategy of their own.

Q: What proportions of Mexican and international executives are you placing in the automotive industry?

RY: As opposed to other executive search firms, Russell Reynolds is able to work across borders without any major difficulties. In fact, while our Planning and Logistics, Human Resources, and Accounting divisions are all managed by our headquarters, we still look for candidates abroad and bring them here when needed. We do find that there is a shortage of talent for higher level positions, but it is more expensive for companies to bring candidates from abroad, since they usually require an expensive expat package. As an example, if a Mexican company tells us that it wants state-of-the-art innovation in terms of digital and mobility technology, we will try to source someone from Silicon Valley, California, but then we will face a challenge since the candidates must speak Spanish.

JP: Within the automotive industry the majority of our candidates are based in Mexico and around 80% of them are Mexican nationals. If one of the requirements of our clients is extensive knowledge of the Mexican market, then the best candidates are likely to be based here.

Q: How does the Mexican work ethic and culture differ from that of foreign OEMs in this country?

JP: The differences in work culture are a general concern, and the leadership skills that are required from a director or a vice president must address this. In general, the stereotypical Mexican work style tends to lean toward following orders and not questioning them as much as most other cultures. Yet, since many foreign OEMs and Tier 1 companies have established operations in Mexico, it has spawned a sizeable workforce that knows how to work with them. European and US work cultures favor transparency, clarity, and collaboration when needed, which is not typical in Mexican culture. Companies are not only looking for individuals who can follow orders, but for people who can work independently, get things done, and be culturally flexible.

RY: Every Japanese company has its own culture. They are very organized and hierarchical, and they will need people who are result-oriented. Soft skills are not their priority demand; they focus on detail orientation, quality, good organization, clear results, and respect.

Q: What kinds of incentives are OEMs offering their employees in Mexico in order to retain talent?

JP: Some people are motivated by being able to go abroad to either work for a couple of years or to receive training. While people appreciate the efforts that are put into expanding their capabilities, a compensation increase of 20% may still be enough for an executive to migrate to another company. We recommend having a holistic program that is tied to compensation, but at the same time considering all other factors as well.

RY: We have seen a trend in the automotive industry where companies export executives. Executives will be sent abroad to return a few years later with a wider vision and more international experience. Right now, young, talented people are looking to have mobility; they want a career path that will take them to higher levels down the road. We are seeing an increase in demand for our leadership and succession services, which include executive assessment programs.

Q: How is Russell Reynolds showing OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers that it understands the needs of the automotive market better than its competitors?

JP: We combine international expertise, functional expertise, market knowledge, and insight to properly consider all the conditions of the industry. We take time to get to know the company, focusing on quality and quantity to become true advisors for our clients.

There is a large pool of people who have worked in the automotive sector, but it is true that increasing demand from automotive and its adjacent industries will tighten the market for experienced talent. Some amount of talent will be imported from other countries and other industries. However, this should be done strategically and the companies that will win are those that get this balance right