Changing jobs at top management level. The most common reasons

The decision to make a change professionally can derive from many situations – from the desire for a new challenge or growth, to changes or misunderstandings within the organisation, but also various personal contexts. This is true at any level. However, I have noticed over time that people tend to have different motivations depending on the level of seniority; if a person at the beginning of their career is rather looking for financial motivation or accessing roles where they can learn or grow, for example, an executive or manager has other challenges and expectations.

Working in top management recruitment for over 10 years, both locally and internationally, I had the opportunity to talk to many managers, from different industries and in different professional contexts. Analysing the reasons why many of them are open to new professional opportunities, I was able to extract some common situations:

Changes within the organisation. It can happen that during the term of an executive director, major changes at the level of shareholders or Board to arise, and this influences the overall strategy or even the purpose of the CEO’s role. The direction in which the company goes after these changes may contradict his/her vision, he/she may feel that he/she no longer aligns with the values ​​or approach, he/she feels that he/she would compromise professionally if he/she continued in the new structure or that he/she cannot use his/hers experience and skills at true value.

Changes at industry level, especially decreases / contractions. If the CEO works in an area where he/she can no longer grow, the company is at a loss, and no solutions to rectify the situation are implemented, he/she will probably consider options to go to a sector in which he/she can have better results. Another situation is when the field changes, digitises or the goods or services sold are commoditized, and the current executive director is not suitable or prepared to lead the company in the new context.

The company enters another phase of maturity. The most efficient executives have a multitude of skills, from adaptability, vision, to the ability to relate to diverse people, to leadership skills (especially). They manage to connect the dots and identify the best ways to address the challenges and opportunities in business and industry, but also the needs of the community at large. That being said, in every phase of a company’s development (business lifecycle), its needs are different. Certainly, another approach is needed in the phase of entering a new market versus increasing or maintaining market share, and when the organisation moves to another stage, sometimes the existing CEO is not suitable to handle the new challenges.

The desire for a role with more impact. As they advance in their careers, many professionals become less interested in their title and money (because they have already obtained them in many cases) and seek to go for roles with greater impact. This desire can go in two directions. Some are looking for positions in which they can have substantial challenges; they are interested in ambitious projects, to be able to design strategies, to develop new markets, to change the business model, transformation processes, restructuring, integrations, streamlining processes and structures. Others rather look at the environmental / societal / governance (ESG) impact, move away from the transactional area and move towards companies with a sustainability strategy. Many executives today want a balance between the ambition to deliver better financial results and making a significant contribution to the environment and society (e.g. carbon footprint, diversity and inclusion, human rights concerns, social activism). The reality is that financial indicators currently remain the dominant decision engine for most managers, which is why they are open to opportunities that would allow them to have a greater impact beyond the profit of the company they run, or to run a company that addresses the needs of civil society.

They are not supported in achieving the required results. Mega-trends disrupt existing business models; the rapid development of technology in all areas, combined with the increasingly demanding requests of customers, the emergence of new competitors, new generations of employees joining the workforce, but also pressure from shareholders, wearies executives, who must constantly innovate. To keep up, they need funds, freedom of decision and support. Whether it is a refusal to invest or a lack of availability to support the company’s top management with potential solutions or ideas, but also a lack of top-down transparency, CEOs may have limited results when they do not receive support from shareholders and the Executive Board.

They have no power, freedom of decision, autonomy, and control. There are companies in which the Group or the majority shareholders establish the strategy, and locally the CEO has only the role of implementation / execution. For experienced professionals, who can add value if given this freedom, this can be frustrating.

What managers consider when analysing an opportunity

In most cases, although financial packages are fiercely negotiated, they are not the reason for the change. Good and experienced executives know their value well, they know they can bring results and a lot of money to shareholders, and that’s why it’s normal for them to want to be rewarded accordingly. However, they are attracted to other things as well: to use their skills and knowledge in new projects or markets, to develop business lines, to transform organisations, in short to have an impact and leave something behind. The challenge is what motivates them and the potential to contribute, no matter how much it sounds like a cliché.

CEOs are putting more and more emphasis on people. They want to grow teams, put people in the most appropriate roles, make them more efficient, delegate and stop the micro-management approach. For example, they avoid going to organisations where the founders are very authoritarian, refuse to let go of the business, and people are under constant and unproductive pressure. It is important for them to join a company in which employees are put forward, supported, grown.

Financial performance and shareholder value remain the dominant indicators for CEOs, but many want to lead their Boards into a new business era that prioritises innovation, digitalisation, long-term growth, but also offer better protection of all stakeholders’ interests, including the community. Especially in the context of the pandemic, we have noticed that many want this situation to accelerate the transition to a more goal-oriented, but also to a more employee-centered way of leading the business.

If you would like to access the full Romanian article, click here.

©Cristina Popa-Bochis

Behind the scenes of top management recruitment

The headhunting process, especially when it comes to searching for top management positions, the so-called Executive Search, finding the right person for the role is far from “staff placement”. We are dealing with a complex and refined process that few understand.

This is also the reason for which we talked to David-Sebastian Stein, Managing Partner Romania and Austria for Signium-Stein & Partner. We emphasise that Signium is a leader in its area of ​​expertise.

What does the top recruitment market in Romania look like today?

Undeniably, over the years, our recruitment market has improved – from customer involvement up to the level of understanding a consultant’s / recruiter’s role. “There were periods when it was believed that you can find good people everywhere, others when good people were not available for a role in Romania, because they were looking for opportunities in foreign markets, others in which supply and demand were balanced,” says David-Sebastian Stein. Obviously, we are dealing with a very dynamic field, in continuous adaptation and evolution. “I think we have reached a point where more and more people understand that recruitment is no longer just about placing staff, but it is a process in which both parties, the employer and the employee, weigh well to what extent they fit. People are no longer just looking for a place to earn a salary from, and companies are no longer only interested in clerks and people who just execute tasks,” said Signium’s Managing Partner for Capital.

“If in the past our focus was on identifying and recruiting exceptional leaders, now we have evolved from providing Executive Search services to more complex Leadership Advisory services, which imply a much deeper relationship between us and our customers”, Stein continued. Basically, this means exploring the business strategy and medium and long-term plans, to better identify the skills that each company needs to meet its objectives. “The fact that we present them with an objective and documented perspective, that we are involved in aligning the stakeholders’ visions, that we provide them with valuable market information, which is obtained during Executive Search processes, are aspects that add value to our customers today.”, David-Sebastian Stein points out

Executive Search. Precisely, how does it happen?

From what we’ve understood, the Executive Search process is about the same for all service providers in the industry and covers an identification of available talents in a defined field, business model, in a certain market or in several, the second phase being much more complex. “In the second phase, we approach the potentially fitting candidates, evaluating their suitability, but also their interest. Depending on the result, we may need to adjust the search strategy and repeat the process – if circumstances allow, we prefer to work with agile working methods, meaning that we are in constant communication with our clients “, David-Sebastian Stein stresses.

“Differences between suppliers can come from several aspects: from attention to detail, knowledge of the market and the ability to align them with the needs of stakeholders, from the experience of the project teams to translate the organisational context into a matrix of necessary skills, the ability of the Consultants and Partners to match the culture and values ​​of the company with those of the candidates and, last but not least, from the communication with the client throughout the project“, the manager also tells us.

What is essential in choosing the best candidates in Executive Search

Generally, companies say that there is no standard recipe because each project is unique. Signium says it has a very high success rate, due to initial efforts to understand the organisational context of its customers, the ability to understand different perceptions of competencies and the expertise to identify solutions that support the vision of the leadership team. “For example, many times, the market does not offer exactly what is initially wanted. In these situations, our role is to analyse different alternatives and calibrate ourselves to look into other industries with similar business models, to search for candidates with development potential, or to help the client redesign the role, covering responsibilities with internal resources, and adapting the search strategy for a modified role”, Stein points out.

We owe our success to putting as much emphasis on the candidate as on the client. We also wish the best for the people we place and to offer them a good recruitment experience, but also to make sure that the role we propose is a good step for their career “, Signium’s Managing Partner continued

Tips for a possible candidate

“We are trying to support our candidates in preparing for the next stage in their careers. We advise them to have their homework done, that is, to carefully and honestly assess their skills and development aspirations; the better done this analysis is, the more likely they are to find the right job,” says David-Sebastian Stein. He also advises them to pay attention to the projects that brought them satisfaction, to the contexts in which they felt they performed best, but also to the less pleasant responsibilities. It is also important for them to be active, to connect with Executive Search consultants working in the industry they are targeting and to express their intention to change jobs in advance.


What does the future of the Executive Search industry look like?

Signium – Stein & Partner is a family company in its second generation, founded in Bucharest by Werner E. Stein more than 27 years ago, which is part of a global network of Executive Search and Leadership Advisory. Over time, we have managed to maintain a leading position on the Romanian market, by being reliable, professional, and by adapting our consulting services both internationally and locally. Our goal has always been for both our clients and candidates to have a positive experience in working with us.

What is the future of the Executive Search industry and how are you preparing for it?

We are pleased to see an evolution in the consulting sector, which is moving away from the classic search for directors and heading towards leadership consulting. In other words, recruiting managers is part of Leadership Advisory. This means that we no longer consider only a specific need, such as the placement of a CEO with experience in industry x. Currently, in each project we analyse in which phase of the business lifecycle the company is, what competencies already exist in the organisation and the strategy with which the company would like to achieve its medium- and long-term objectives. Thus, we have developed services that complement the recruitment activity, leadership solutions, such as strategic alignment of all stakeholders on the necessary leadership skills, succession planning at different levels, talent evaluation and development within the company, a diagnosis at the level of the organisational culture and the commitment of existing teams. In this way, we learn to identify together with the client the real needs of the organisation from a human capital perspective and we are a discussion partner in the development of the company’s leadership strategy.

How do you see the Romanian market and the level of Romanian management after 27 years of activity in the field of executive recruitment?

We have great confidence in Eastern Europe, and we enjoy the progress we see every year throughout the region. My father and I grew up in Western Europe, so we know the pros and cons of both regions. Many good things happen here – ideas, agility, adaptability, which are essential today, both in technological development and on all other business plans. We see better and better professionals, young competitive and performance-oriented leaders, so I think the level of local management and market will increase a lot.

What criteria do you use to guide you in recruiting managers?

Our role is no longer just to identify the right candidates in the “market”. We see ourselves as advisors, supporters, and long-term partners for our clients in identifying the most appropriate leadership solutions. Therefore, it is important to understand the business models, the competitive environment, and the strategy, so that we can translate all this into the necessary skills. We are the ones who bridge the needs and requirements of companies from a human capital perspective, the stakeholders’ desires, the candidates’ expectations, and the reality of the market – unfortunately, the ideal profile for a particular company is not always available, so we must work together to find new solutions.

 How have the last two years been for Signium – Stein & Partner?

As for everyone else, it was a difficult time, but we are very happy and grateful that we have achieved very good results from a business perspective. In addition, we used this time to strengthen the team and now we have very competent people, well trained at all levels – from Researchers to Partners. We are an interesting mix of people from the human resources sector, people who worked exclusively in Executive Search and some who came from the business sector. This gives us a good knowledge of the business environment and allows us to cover a wide range of industries.

On the other hand, since 2020 we are part of Signium’s global network, one of the top partnerships in Executive Search and Leadership Consulting worldwide, with almost 70 years of experience and presence in over 30 countries. We are currently in the process of rebranding and will complete the transition from Stein & Partner to Signium by the end of the year. This partnership helps us expand our capabilities by combining the entrepreneurial style of a family business with the global exposure we have through the network. At the same time, Signium’s values blend very well with ours and we are delighted that we can contribute to the multicultural expansion of the network and to the development of the most efficient solutions for our customers, building our approach on intelligence and intuition.

On a personal level, I am also honored to have been chosen to be on Signium’s board of directors, along with four colleagues from South Africa, Poland, Portugal, and Germany. Our responsibilities in the next 3 years, the period of our mandate, are related to administrative decisions, coordination of members and business development of the entire network. It is an honour even more as “Stein & Partner” is a relatively new member, and the trust they have shown me makes more responsible.

One of the objectives announced by Signium – Stein & Partner is related to the expansion in the region. What is the status and what are your plans for 2022?

Currently, we have several offices in the CEE region, and the company that is now being established in Vienna will be the second most important after the one in Bucharest. Our strategy remains to primarily focus on these two companies and then to expand in other countries. In the recent years, we have had several projects throughout the Central and Eastern European region, such as Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and the Czech Republic, and we intend to set up separate offices in some of these countries as well. We expect our Vienna office to grow significantly in 2022 and we will develop skills and know-how there that we will export to other Eastern European countries. In addition, Signium-Stein & Partner Romania is an important service center for the regional network and maybe in the future for the global one; this is where the first discussions on implementation take place.

Moreover, we enjoy another important help in the region: the Advisory Board, which we set up 15 years ago and which is made up of very diverse senior professionals with solid experience in Central and Eastern Europe. We meet once a year to share knowledge and perspectives about the region and the different situations we face. In addition, we get in touch with each other throughout the year when project issues arise, exchange ideas, and receive the best support. We appreciate that even during the process of joining the Signium network, the members of the Board were with us, we felt a real support from them even from a distance. This year we will meet again in Vienna in November, and we look forward to the annual get-together and exchange of experience after a year break, caused by Corona. It will be a special meeting.

After 27 years of activity, tell us what the biggest challenges in this profession are, but also what brings you the greatest satisfaction

We are lucky to work in this industry because we feel that our activity has real meaning and impact. We help businesses to grow, to make things better, some of them having great relevance in the local business environment. When our clients implement solutions proposed by us that benefit not only the investors and the management, but also the employees and the community, it is an enormous satisfaction. At the same time, we intensively support our candidates in achieving their professional goals and we have immense respect for all those we encounter.

This industry is extremely dynamic and all those who become true professionals in the field of Executive Search & Leadership Consulting are doing it with a lot of enthusiasm, but also with a lot of flexibility in the way of working and under the constant pressure of deadlines. It is not easy to “juggle” with so many sectors, positions, requirements, and expectations, so I am proud that together with our team, we manage to achieve excellent results in most of the projects we coordinate.

If you would like to access the interview in Romanian, click here.