A Continuous Line: The Journey Of Executive Search From The Past And Into The Future
Executive search refers to seeking out highly talented individuals to occupy skilled positions within organisations. Senior-level jobs or executive roles have potential candidates struggling against fierce competition since only top talent is chosen. Enter head-hunters, whose job is to discover the best of the best and then send them to occupy critical roles within companies and enterprises.
Over the past few years, the business ecosystem has continued to develop, given the external pressures to keep up with competitors. The post-pandemic conditions, including high market volatility and economic unpredictability, call for higher innovation rates, as well as more agility from teams to support sustainable development.
That’s why many who either work directly into the landscape or are adjacent to it have begun wondering where the industry is headed. Where is the market expected to go in the following five or ten years? Perhaps nobody is better equipped to answer this than the senior team members at executive search companies, who have witnessed the rise in competition, the emergence of internet and tech tools that provided a new angle to the recruitment process, as well as the introduction of flexible workspaces and the virtual meetings.
We are celebrating our 20th anniversary at Novo, meaning it’s time to look at what kept the business resilient for so long and what will help it thrive in the future.
The performance figures can offer a comprehensive perspective regarding where a business has been going and where it’s headed. We have achieved a lot so far and have much to talk about, including conducting business in thirty-five countries and retaining clients for eighteen years. 90% of executive search assignments enter the offer stage within a period of six weeks, and 95% are completed. 70% of client projects include international executive search, and 75% are with existing clients. On average, it takes only two weeks for an assignment to reach a client interview.
Our consultants working at Novo have a median working experience of over fifteen years. We believe that “Our growth and stability has been achieved through the dedicated focus and professionalism of our team” and that “Our purpose is to help our clients achieve their growth ambitions through the appointment of the best possible leaders”. “One of Novo’s greatest assets is the depth of experience of its long-serving directors”, as well as our commitment to continue learning and developing.
During this time, the team’s skills have been honed and developed side-by-side with the business. This has led to the creation of a company culture based on integrity and trust, as well as a dedication to maintaining a high standard and seeking to meet and even exceed clients’ expectations. Based on that ethos, “Novo’s investment in online research tools has revolutionised our ability to identify and speak with the best people for our clients”.
Being able to make insightful decisions is crucial in this field, as it offers a competitive advantage over companies providing the same or similar services. The growth of our company is set to continue as we take on even more tasks to expand our repertoire “Whether it’s successfully searching for a Managing Director to run a niche mining company in West Guinea, a Geotechnical Director from New Zealand to work in mainland Europe, a Nuclear Programme Manager in Dounreay or a personal tax adviser to ultra-high net worth clients in the city, we’ve done it. Our research capabilities and rigorous processes are second to none!”
Taking Pride In The Work
To perform well in a role, there must be a staunch determination that one’s work is a crucial part of the overall result. That creates a sense of responsibility that contributes to performance enhancement. So, what does our team feel proud about achieving so far? Founding Director Dale Perrett states that the most significant accomplishment is “Longevity, successfully trading through global financial crisis, a pandemic and multiple economic ups and downs.”
“The friendships formed with colleagues that have lasted outside of work. The progress I’ve made in the company. From being a graduate to Research Director. The great delivery teams we have created over the years.” are the reasons according to Jonathan Shepherd.
Ryan Mills, whose experience includes recruiting board-level professionals for numerous sectors, including engineering, technology, aviation and construction, takes a similar approach, believing that “Relationships built over a long period with other employees has always been a key reason for staying with Novo.”
Division Manager Susannah Mallaghan says that “I’m proud of the service delivered to our clients. I think the staff go above and beyond to deliver that great service, despite the many obstacles that can impact a recruitment process.” For Jon Hollier, the most important aspect is resilience, the fact that “Despite external challenges, we always find a way to build to the next stage.” And for Peter Tucker it’s all about knowing how to deal with the times, so that the biggest reason to be proud is the ability to drive “Commercial success over a long period including very challenging times. We’ve worked hard to nurture colleagues and allow them to succeed and progress.”
Our team at Novo has had straightforward progress and currently benefits from the expertise of one of the longest-running expert teams in the industry. One of the key aspects that allowed us to enjoy this success is the ability to remain unafraid and unbiased in the face of change. As technology develops and extends its use cases, a lot of innovation must be included in procedures to maintain a competitive edge.
Automation and technology have been the most considerable changes, and the pandemic has accelerated our inclusion in the business space. George Woodward discusses how “90% of client and candidate meetings are now virtually based” and that “All research projects are run quicker and more effectively due to technology / websites such as social media allowing everything to be more instant and readily available”. The fact that “The landline phone was replaced by the mobile and now it feels like, in many cases, the mobile is being replaced by texting via the latest app for many communications” is further proof of the fast-paced rate of development.
Matthew Searle, who has almost a decade of experience completing search assignments in financial services, mining and renewable resources, acknowledges that “Many more firms in the sector now, increasing competition” and that “Tools like LinkedIn make it easier for traditional recruiters to claim to be conducting a ‘headhunt’”. However, he acknowledges the importance of maintaining a high-quality standard and not becoming over-reliant on tech by saying: “Many firms using outsourcing of research to cut costs – in contrast, our team at Novo completes all research in-house to ensure the highest standards.”
Jonathan Shepherd believes “LinkedIn has shown itself to be the most powerful tool to engage with senior execs and also stay connected with them.” Susannah Mallaghan considers that “Video conferencing has also made connecting with people and meeting candidates/ clients far easier and better for the environment.”, something which “has also led to much more flexible working, which is very important to candidates these days.”
Like in any other workplace, Ryan Mills admits that “Working for Novo for 11 years, there have been ups and downs, but I have built some great long lasting relationships (with current and ex colleagues), while forming a successful career in executive search.” According to Matthew, “The core of what we do hasn’t changed but the tools we use and the systems and processes we have introduced continually evolve for improvement. As things around us change we need to adjust to maintain our competitive edge and our size allows us to do that quickly. For example, macro-economic factors can suggest we pursue certain industry factors, new tech solutions allow us to improve the quality of our research and the culture allows us to embrace new trends across our own sectors – flexible working, for example.”
Given the constantly changing landscape in the sector, it can seem almost impossible to accurately predict what things will look like a decade from now. While there are some factors that cannot be estimated, other changes are crystal clear. They have been in the making for a while now, so their influence will undoubtedly grow over the upcoming years. The rise of artificial intelligence is one of them, and while its effects are just beginning to rear their heads, the brunt of the changes will most likely start to be visible a few years from now.
Novo’s leadership has long pioneered technological changes. Our company readily embraced new technologies as they appeared on the market, such as LinkedIn. Now, we are looking forward to the next significant shift. George Woodward believes “More technology enhancements” are set to improve processes and make things quicker. Another possibility is the introduction of “leaner work forces with more aspects being automated / AI orientated”. The companies are also set to start “working internationally for clients because we can so easily due to technology”.
Research Director Jonathan Shepherd says that “I have started utilising the power of AI to be more effective in delivering search assignments and I expect this to become a more and more powerful tool.” The trend that prioritises remote work is set to continue as well since there’s “The continued drive-in remote working to ensure that this isn’t a barrier for attracting talent. Also, for those working in our industry this should be the case too. A laptop, phone and internet access are all you need – coupled with strong dynamic leadership from the executive search firm you work for.”
Jo Watkins and Dale Perrett believe that the sector will also see “An increased awareness in diversity and inclusion at board level.” and “Diversity strengthening”. Alongside the newest developments in technology, “A heightened awareness for businesses to be equal or better with their benefits packages and flexible working policies to attract the best talent” can also intervene and change the landscape. Susannah Mallaghan thinks that it’s not just artificial intelligence to look forward to but that “Technology is advancing all the time, so it will be exciting to see what new tools emerge in the next 5-10 years to help further.”
Founding Director Peter Tucker, who is part of the original team that laid the groundwork for Novo back in 2003 and has over three decades of experience in executive research, is confident that “The world of work will continue to evolve as technology creates opportunities for improved productivity. At the leading edge of commercial innovation however, there will always be the need for exceptional people so there will always be opportunities for executive search.”
Recipe For Success
Traditional wisdom dictates that there’s no one-size-fits-all that can guarantee business success. Yet we have discovered that some things will likely yield the desired results. The progression from headhunting for mid-level positions to board-level jobs ensures linear progress in abilities and client retention. We have recorded significant investments in tech, including search engine optimisation, customised CRM, premium search tools, access to leading resume databases online, contact detail finders and video interviewing.
Roughly 10% of our monthly revenue at Novo goes towards online marketing and advertising, while newsletters and social media secure higher visibility. Capital management is another vital part, as the company records no debt, owns an office building and can provide strong financial buffers in the event of a downturn. Strong internal recruitment and 100% director-level retention ensure continuity and linear progress. The benefits, ranging from financial rewards to benefits and flexible working, create an ethical working environment in which everyone is an equally important part of the team.
Tougher times were an opportunity to offer extra services like Novo Quest, a hybrid of contingency and search aimed at mid-level positions. High activity in regional business networks also helps by extending the range of expertise and contributing to advancing the quality level of the services through interaction with a broader array of clients with their own demands.
Remaining unbiased and open to new ideas is also crucial, and it has led our team to have a lot to be excited about in the future. “More AI and data driven insights in exec search and talent acquisition.” and “Greater geographical new business opportunities overseas with acceptance of working digitally and flexibly” are the main ones, and there’s also the fact that “New industries will always need specialist skills so the demand for high quality recruitment services will always exist. In the southwest alone, the energy sector is going through huge change with, for example, solar energy arriving by cable from Morocco, new nuclear at Hinkley Point and the new Gigafactory in Bridgwater.”
The Bottom Line
While many companies have often looked towards technological advancements with apprehension, we see it as a chief advantage that can only improve our business processes. Aligning with the latest tech is a wise investment that yields results not only in the present but also in the future. By fostering the development of networks, they ensure access to the business leaders that will revolutionise markets for years to come. Strong service industry relationships have established Novo as a flexible enterprise that can cope with economic changes and come out relatively unscathed.
“We create a good working culture amongst us built on strong values and work ethic. We need a strong research team that is motivated to deliver and that is what we strive for.” This is crucial for the continuation of our company and our commitment to delivering only the best and most high-quality services. “The firm is always open to progressing new ideas and empowers people to pursue their own interests for a mutual benefit. It’s also incredibly rewarding – helping people achieve their career goals and enabling clients to attract the best people to reach their businesses.”
Prioritising the well-being of our team and promoting diversity ensures the creation of a working environment that remains open-minded and ready to adapt to future challenges using innovative methods. And that’s the surest way to guarantee success.
If you’d like to discuss your executive search needs, contact Dale Perrett, on: 0844 241 2064, or email: [email protected]