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.

Sami Hamid assumes management of Austrian office


Signium – Stein & Partner Austria welcomes Sami Hamid as its new Managing Partner

We are excited to announce that as of November, our office in Austria will be managed by Sami Hamid, a professional with over 30 years of experience in the Executive Search industry! He was Managing Partner, CEO, and Board Member of large multinational search organisations, including Ward Howell International, and we are happy that, after several years in private equity, he has decided to return to the business.

Prior to joining Signium, Sami has been CEO and Managing Partner of two of the largest European Executive Search companies, heading 30 offices throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. He is an expert in leadership assessment projects and has successfully managed more than 600 Executive Search assignments for clients in Western Europe, CEE, the Middle East, and Asia. He relies on a broad functional experience, ranging from Executive Board assignments to all other C-Level functions and Supervisory Board positions.

At Signium, he focuses on search mandates for C-Level positions in Real Estate, Industrial and Digital, as well as on all aspects of Leadership Advisory.

Feel free to get in touch with Sami


sami.hamid@signium.com / sami.hamid@steinandpartner.com

With or without an MBA in a post-pandemic labor market?

The lack of predictability has always been characteristic of the business environment, but this current crisis has propelled us into the digital future basically overnight, and ideas we thought were far from happening any time soon, rapidly materialised. As economies are reopening and people who could not benefit from remote working are returning to the workplace, chances are high that this new dimension of remote working will persist, however, we do not know yet to what extent. It has been a context that made us notice the pluses, and they were not only related to productivity, we can also track down the positive impact on urban transportation and consumer behaviour.

At the same time, remote working came along with a variety of challenges: how can you engage your employees from a distance, how can you keep them close and motivated, how do you integrate new colleagues in the team?

It’s nothing new that leaders around the world have been challenged by the new context. What is essential for them now and in the times to come is that they must not lack clarity, a long-term vision and capacity to adapt. Having experience in digitalisation and transformation is seen as a big plus and agility has set the tone in terms of expectations related to a true leader’s skills.

Besides this, during the last year, we noticed especially the need for team guidance, communication, coaching, and mentoring skills, and capabilities like leadership, resilience and adaptability. These are indeed one of the most important in an ever-changing and demanding climate. Concurrently, we strongly consider that at the core of successfully navigating through life, both professionally and personally, stands the ability to embrace a growth mindset, curiosity, and an intentional learning.

Further to mention is, that given these new circumstances, management will be more and more measured based on outcome rather than on tasks. This can be surprisingly challenging for many managers as it increases the need for problem solving abilities and the ability to develop new ideas and structures, not just to follow rules and regulations.

Emphasis will be placed more than ever on the importance of recruiting the right person, the selection being based not only on professional and technical components, but also on the personality, motivation and the energy one has in relation to his/her work, as well as the attitude towards those from the team.

As the competitive environment rather increased due to the context of digitalisation and globalisation, we further on strongly recommend keeping up to date with the latest research and its’ application. An MBA is a very useful form of education, as it is rather focused on case studies and the application of theory. MBAs are usually offered to apply theory based on real business cases and the latest research. Therefore, we believe MBA´s will remain essential in order to learn from other examples and to be better equipped for situations that may occur in day-to-day business environments.

The more and more the business context shifts to agile working, it is important to derive actions and solutions on ad-hoc basis. The more examples you have in mind, the more it will help you identify the different options you have and to make the right decisions.

All these points are arguments for an MBA, however, an MBA has two main objectives, which is knowledge on the one side and network on the other. The second part is mainly achieved through group working and helps the cross-cultural inter-action and management capabilities. This is indeed much more difficult to be achieved in a virtual environment and gives a larger minus to the MBAs within the pandemic context. But we have hopes that things will get back to normal, and then, the objectives of an MBA will have the desired effects.

We, at Signium-Stein & Partner, strongly believe that knowledge is key for a successful career and studying can never be wrong. In case you are considered overqualified for a role, it means that you searched in the wrong place.

However, an MBA itself means nothing unless you learned to do something you didn’t know before. An MBA integrates theory and practice and should help you in doing things better than before. However, how much you were able to take out of the education and the doing part lies in the power of each individual.

An MBA is just a certification which gives you certain credentials, however, it should not be the only factor and companies will still evaluate you based on your achievements in life and not in theory. Therefore, it is advisable to be mindful to the internal and external expectations that may arise when holding an MBA, so, setting realistic ones is healthier. It’s not the certificate that helps you get ahead, but the way in which you translate the information and apply it.

As mentioned, the MBA follows two main objectives, which is knowledge on the one side and network on the other. Since the MBA courses moved more and more to the online environment, and the focus shifted to knowledge, it is considerably more difficult for students to create connections. That’s why local providers face more and more competition from globally leading institutions. This increases competition and gives additional benefits to the MBA candidates, at least on the knowledge side. However, the local network, the teamwork and the regionally adjusted know-how, is and will remain important.

Top MBAs remain to be very expensive, and it all comes down to the value it brings. If it’s an individual desire for professional development, mostly the candidate will have to invest himself into the program. If it`s for preparing the candidate to take over larger responsibility, there is a likelihood that the costs will be taken over by the company.

Apart from the financing, the candidate could be supported by the company to have more flexibility in being able to follow an MBA, as following such a program can be very time consuming.

An encouragement for mothers who are on maternity leave!

6 skills a mom can nourish while being away from the job


I have mothers around me who are on maternity leave and who are afraid that they will lose their skills while they are far from the role in which they were enormously involved up until the moment of birth. Away from the office, without meetings, video calls, reports, and planning, but with many sleepless nights, up to date with articles on breastfeeding, diversification, and tooth growth, they begin to believe that they will no longer be considered for decision-making roles, for interesting projects or for possible challenges. I see how, with each passing day, they become more insecure and wonder how they will cope with the changes that took place during their absence from the office and how they will adapt to the new requirements. What will happen to them when they return? As a mother, but also as a consultant in the recruitment for top management positions, I took a closer look at a mother’s daily challenges and put together a list of “maternal skills” that are extremely valuable in the workplace, as well. I dwell on a few of them, to assure readers that these will be just as important at work and after the end of maternity leave.

  • Communicate with Impact including Conflict management – the ability to persuade or convince others to support an idea, to make things happen, to find the best arguments in a situation; active listening skills sustained by emotional intelligence;
  • Stakeholder management – maintaining good relationships with the people who have most impact on your day-to-day life, keeping them “on board” and engaged;
  • Change management – the ability to apply a structured process, using a set of tools to mobilise other people to deliver results and outcomes of a change, to move them from one developmental stage to another while ensuring high adoption;
  • Creative problem solving – ability to find ways of solving problems or identifying opportunities where conventional thinking has failed, to find fresh perspectives and come up with innovative solutions, to formulate a plan to overcome obstacles and reach the goals;
  • Planning and prioritisation, including resource management – ability to make the best use of the time and resources available, in a high complexity and a very demanding environment;
  • Strategic thinking – ability to anticipate and prepare for various outcomes that may or may not occur, ability to anticipate obstacles before they arise, to craft effective solutions and to avoid escalating challenges and risks.

I would like to warmly greet all the mothers who are on maternity leave and remind them that every day, even away from work, they can use and develop extraordinary skills that will be appreciated even when they return to business! But now is the time to focus only on the most important “job” at home!

The above article was written by our colleague, Raluca Modoran, Senior Leadership & People Advisor at Signium- Stein & Partner and published in TheWoman.

To access the full please article click here.

©Raluca Modoran

Webinar: What do Leaders need to Unlearn to Succeed in the New Normal

Reflections from our webinar

The Signium – Stein & Partner team, as part of one of the leading executive search companies in the CEE region, was delighted to have hosted on the 15th of June the second webinar from our Transforming HR series: What do Leaders need to Unlearn to Succeed in the New Normal having as guest speakers: Mrs. Melania Jaravete, HR Director at Cargus Romania, Mrs. Adina Vidroiu, HR Director at Microsoft Romania, Greece, Malta & Cyprus and Mr. Dragos Barbulescu, Deputy General Director and Group CFO at E.ON Romania. The discussion was moderated by Mrs. Raluca Modoran, Senior Leadership & People Advisor within Signium – Stein & Partner.

As we wanted to explore different perspectives from different industries, we invited our guests to an interactive panel conversation, which led to a very insightful collection of reflections.

Here are some of the main thoughts we’ve collected. For the extended conversation, you can access the below recording:

Resilience and humanity are the keys to successfully overcoming difficulties

Management’s approach to the new normal depended heavily on the specific of the industry and of the business. Either they encouraged employees to work remote or focused on ensuring all possible measures so the field employees can continue to work on site, but most companies shared the strategy to focus on maintaining the essential services up and running and at high standards. The success has been driven by a high level of resilience with a profound care for people.

“Due to the specific of our industry, most of our people have been working on site the full time, making sure everyone had power and gas during the very difficult times we’ve had, especially last year in the lockdown. All of us encountered difficulties, both on a personal and business level. Speaking of the latter, the first and most important caution for us was the human aspect: getting in touch, connecting with as many people as we could, providing confidence, reassuring them. Afterwards, we continued building on resilience: we had to make sure we deliver the same services at the same pace.” said Dragos Barbulescu.

“Our company is performing an essential service that has not stopped, even during the lockdown, even if it has been under a lot of pressure. Thus, for the business that meant a complete outlook shift and an adjustment to the new circumstances, as our services were in high demand, and we wanted to maintain our high-quality service standards. Most of our employees could not work remotely, as the vast majority are employed as couriers and sorters, activities that under no circumstances can be performed other than on site. For my courier colleagues, going out every day was a way to connect. The internal feedback I got is that “my smile can be also seen through the mask”. It’s a connection, sometimes you stay at home and the only person you see is the courier knocking at your door. There are clearly a lot of things we have delivered and for them it was a means to keep the interaction.” stated Melania Jaravete.

“We looked for our people and at the same time, we supported our customers as they were also digitalising at a fast pace and going through the same changes. It was an intensive journey for us, and it will continue to be one. I believe that one of the things that helped is that even before the pandemic, we’ve had a framework for all our people managers, based on a coaching approach. We made sure that it is aligned with our leadership principles, with our culture and with our values.” added Adina Vidroiu.

The last 18 months changed the work environment forever

Whether the pandemic has created more job opportunities for some of us, offered others more time with their families, saved commuting time or has forced some to rethink the overall life habits and better plan the working hours, the disruption was tremendous and with long term consequences.

“We should review the entire workforce because the pandemic has impacted every person in every organisation across the globe. It has been more challenging to keep the balance between the personal and professional life and this line between them has become even thinner and the stress on the teams increased substantially. This is accelerating the pressure on the leaders in the companies, because at the end of the day, not only are they humans, but they have been going through the same changes that impacted their colleagues.”, mentioned Adina Vidroiu

Leaders faced deep concerns as pressure was coming from all directions

Maintaining a high level of physical and psychological safety for their team members, keeping a high spirit and connection in the team, delivering business results at the same standards of customer satisfaction, while ensuring a personal and family balance, are things that have generated an immense amount of pressure for leaders.

“At Board level, we were concerned about business continuity, as we had to have continuous supplies in terms of power and gas for all customers, ensuring that everything went smoothly. One third of our people were working from home and they had to transition overnight to this scenario, and the other two thirds were always on site. Thus, we had many challenges at the same time. Finally, it was the pressure, the psychological impact of the crisis on all of us.” Dragos Barbulescu told the audience.

“Leaders’ main concerns were related to adapting to the new business environment, to finding the best ways to deliver business. However, the biggest concern was related to the mental health of the employees and that was a new thing for us. If a few years ago we were talking a lot about benefits, work life balance, how we could do more for people, now endeavours are related to mental health, because in the long run, we all feel, depending on the circumstances, either too disconnected, either too exposed, or both at the same time. Now people have seen our houses, our kids, our pets, and all these things might make us feel exposed, while on the other side we feel completely disconnected because we cannot physically connect with one another, give a pat on the shoulder, a handshake, a hug. We didn’t have that for a while, and somehow it leaves an impact on the team.” added Melania Jaravete.

Great leadership in the new normal means finding the right balance

Different contexts require different leadership capabilities and the last 18 months have required leaders to use their past experience and past successes in an innovative way. Leaders have been in a position to balance business priorities with people needs and to make decisions considering different factors.

“Great leadership in a the new normal is a combination between balancing different perspectives, caring about people and their mental health and finding new ways to connect, especially now with the help of new digital platforms. I strongly believe that people should come first.” stated Dragos Barbulescu.

“I think the profile of a leader during these times and moving forward, is mainly related to knowing how to apply concepts of business continuity, to finding best ways to adapt, to showing flexibility to changing circumstances and to different business requirements, to caring for people and making sure they are involved in the middle of each decision. Basically, it is a matter of finding the right balance between the requirements of the business and the requirements of the team. I would also add that we should not forget that leaders are also people who might struggle individually in ways we could not grasp. I believe that showing people that leaders are humans too is a new thing and I guess it’s the 1st time in our company that employees understood that our CFO is also cooking at some moment in time. Showing vulnerability and openly sharing the same challenges is what brought us together and helped us stay connected.” mentioned Melania Jaravete

“We continue to embed our model-coach-care framework. When we say model, our presumption from every manager in the company is to demonstrate strength of character. They are role models for the culture, for the values and also for the leadership principles that we have. They are the ones setting the tone, and their words and actions are leading the organisation and their team members to integrity. Coaching, although commonly used, means for us that they need to assist their colleagues to develop that sense of shared purpose and to create that energy level within their teams, by supporting them on a day-to-day basis. We know that managers who create high engaged teams have a higher productivity. Nevertheless, the part that was more critical was the care one, because fundamentally the role of a people manager is to care about others, not only about their team members but also about other peers they are interacting with across the organisation. They are the ones who are building on and finding the right talents and the ones who are creating that environment where people can open up. And this was paramount during this period, even when observing the conversations we’ve had, the shift focused from “what are you doing?” to “how are you feeling?”, “how are you today?”, and the answers were more related to the personal life. They needed to be equipped for that and this is what we’ve done. It wasn’t easy. It’s still a journey. At the very end of the day, leaders, managers, are also people that have a personal life back home.” said Adina Vidroiu.

Leadership with a touch of vulnerability

After centuries of a leadership model in which one should look bright, powerful, and always know-it-all in order to succeed, leaders have recently been in a position to admit they are humans too and vulnerable in front of their teams. Is that the best thing to do, to be successful in the new normal?

“I think it depends on the cultural organization that you are part of and even if you are aiming to show your vulnerability, your story needs to be intentional. In Microsoft this is part of our Diversity & Inclusion strategy plan, which is about having inclusive behaviours and being mindful of the things that happen within the organisation. And what we have done in the last year, and even before, is that we have been intentional, and it started with the leadership team sharing more about themselves. We’ve tried to put a great emphasis on the mental health in an attempt to cast away the stigma related to it, especially in Romania. It was an effort aimed to educate our people that it’s ok to share the stories they have behind. So, creating that space and flexibility and sharing that it’s ok not to be ok, coming from the leadership team and then being cascaded across the organisation, definitely helped during this period.” mentioned Adina Vidroiu.

“I think they can, and they should!  I don’t believe it’s something that was expected but rather it was something that came naturally and helped create the connection. Leaders observed it works and they considered wise to keep on doing it.  I would also add that we must keep up with the times. Now people are expecting a completely different version of their managers: they want them to be involved and truthful.” added Melania Jaravete

“Even before the pandemic we had the value of care within the organisation, which has been translated in a number of actions, but now it has been raised to a new level of complexity, with new challenges which are more comprehensive than we actually thought they could be. I would encourage every company to have this aspect taken care of. It’s a need and a must for this period and for the times to come.”, stated Dragos Barbulescu

What do leaders need to unlearn to be successful in the new normal?

“I think leaders need to unlearn that they do not always have to show a perfect image because it is an unrealistic level of expectations. The more you show of yourself, the more truthful and authentic you become.” answered Melania Jaravete.

“If we look at the new hybrid model of work, I consider that leaders will need to meet with new employees’ expectations: connecting a more distributed workforce and also providing the tools to renovate and work together, while at the same time being inclusive. The hybrid work will present more challenges, especially when it comes to organisations that have their employees working in different cities or countries, operating in different time zones.  In my opinion, it’s important for leaders to be more intentional about creating that space for those inclusive conversations and to define ways on how they work together, while bearing in mind the aspect of flexibility which will be mandatory in balancing the work life.

I would not necessarily say that they need to unlearn something, because the context pushed them to learn new things, like managing teams remote. I think it’s more about re-learning how to connect with their teams, how to focus on the relationships they already built, how to maintain the work life balance, what it means for employees to work in a hybrid model, how flexible can you be, how mindful can you be, because at the end of the day we will also have in mind the productivity that is there” added Adina Vidroiu.

“We need to re-learn how to reconnect with the team, especially in dealing with this new way of flexible working. Some people will want to return more to the office, while others prefer to work more from home, and it’s a challenge that will require flexibility from all parts” concluded Dragos Barbulescu.

One thing is clear, we’re still in a transition, exploring new behaviours, new approaches, testing and failing, surprisingly achieving things we wouldn’t have imagined possible. And in this journey, we intentionally and conscientiously learn, unlearn and re-learn those traits which help us succeed in this new normal.

It was a tremendous pleasure and an honour to have had the opportunity to explore these aspects with our speakers, which brought clear, applicable, and sustainable recommendations for our leaders. If you would like a deeper dive into the conversation we had with them, kindly access the embedded recording of our webinar.

If you would like to further discuss on this topic or others related to human capital advisory, please contact our colleague Raluca Modoran, Senior Leadership & People Advisor.


 Content written by Ana Maria Popescu

Unlearning -The key to wisely navigating in times of great upheaval

When the context abruptly and massively changes, such as the one we’ve been going through since the spring of 2020, the blueprint and practices of the past became out of place.

To move themselves and their organisations forward, leaders became aware of the need to adapt, so they continued to learn, but most of them started to unlearn.  Otherwise, how can we make room for something new? How can we be open to new approaches and practices unless we conscientiously decide to give up the old, unnecessary ones? How can we be permanently on our toes, ready to change direction and inspire trust and commitment?  Lots of questions that still need answers.

In the light of our upcoming webinar on June 15th: Transforming HR: What do Leaders need to Unlearn to Succeed in the New Normal we, at Signium – Stein & Partner, considered this a favourable moment to take a breather and sit down with our speakers Mrs. Melania Jaravete, HR Director at Cargus Romania, Mrs. Adina Vidroiu, HR Director at Microsoft Romania, Greece, Malta & Cyprus and Mr. Dragos Barbulescu, Deputy General Director and Group CFO at E.ON Romania, and collect some reflections from them, in an attempt to warm up the spirits before we go live with a new engaging concept of an interactive webinar.

What was the most valuable take away for you as Leader from the past 12 months?

Melania Jaravete: As the entire world shifted gears due to the pandemic, it became clearer and clearer that the HR function should evolve into the natural next step, HR needing to become Chief People Officer instead of a paperwork-based department, to re-acquaint itself with people, their needs, their concerns, and become the main communication channel guiding the team through this period and providing security, reassurance, and a stable context. 

Adina Vidroiu: The past 12 months helped us learn more about ourselves and the importance of human connection. Believing in our people and showing care about what matters to them, namely their passions, purpose, and strengths, is strongly embedded in our culture. We made sure that we kept an open and constant communication with our employees, which contributed tremendously to creating clarity and trust. I’ve been amazed by the strength shown by our team and our community and impressed by the stretches in adaptability people demonstrate when they’re set up to succeed. Trust, communication, and a focus on output do wonders in a remote workforce, and having supported flexible ways of working, the past year has proven it can all work out. 

Dragos Barbulescu: I have learned that although we cannot accurately predict the future, it is important to react calmly and resolutely to the unknown. Contingency plans and a resilient organization will always allow us to respond effectively and efficiently to difficult situations.

I also learned that any crisis brings with it several opportunities and that it is in our power, as leaders, to take advantage of them and keep our people close, connected and engaged to the realities of the business.

The Covid-19 pandemic was an accelerator of the digital transition, which remains a priority for us in all areas of the organization, being a method of streamlining the business and improving the experience of our customers. On the other hand, we cannot talk about the future, about technology and the development of innovative digital solutions without motivated employees and adapted to the new reality. We must continue our cultural transformation, to invest in our people and thus to attract diversity in terms of abilities and personalities, so that team members can amplify each other’s results.

The performance comes out from resilience, agility, independence (given by the team’s abilities and the vote of confidence won from the organization), curiosity, and the ability to see the full spectrum. These are also the ingredients we aim to develop through our team members

What has helped you personally keep the balance through this uncertain context?

Melania Jaravete: Despite the challenging context, my anchors are the family, friends and work content that makes me feel I can contribute. These have kept me grounded, reminded me that we are supported, understood, and accepted in our journey and that we can remain true to ourselves even in a shifting environment.

Adina Vidroiu: Living in a pandemic this past year and a half has posed immense challenges for everyone and a steep learning curve. When uncertainty became the only sure thing, we refused to stay under the pressure of disruption and instead became stronger, leaning on soft skills like empathy, motivation, and collaboration to support each other. Personally, spending more time with my family and friends, as well as focus more on my own wellbeing, helped me maintain balance.

Dragos Barbulescu: Before being leaders, we are human beings, so difficult situations are influencing us emotionally too. Accepting the situation and looking for solutions are the first things you can do.

I could say that I’ve created a new, beneficial routine for myself, for things which in the past I didn’t have time for or paid insufficient attention to, and I’ve realized how important are these for my balance.

As a person, keeping the balance meant a combination of several factors: family, social connectivity with friends and colleagues, physical activity, allocating time to relax and reset.

As a business, times of crisis require adaptability. The new technologies have helped us to stay connected and ensure the functioning of the companies and the services at an optimal level. All this time, we kept the team close, and we did our best to communicate even more with each other to stimulate the involvement in the new projects and thus to have all the highest possible morale and motivation.

The days when the responsibility of the CFOs and the financial executives was limited to financial reporting, compliance, audits, and the presentation of annual accounts are gone. The current context forces us to look up from the spreadsheet and quickly find solutions to adapt and, where possible, reinvent ourselves.

Today’s CFO must be able to see the “big picture” and play a key role in strategic capital allocation and corporate governance decisions. Currently, we are talking about some basic pillars in leadership: on the one hand the development of self-control, problem solving and decision making; then strategic agility and business acumen. To these is added the management of relations with all those involved. From this point of view, the open and empathic communication, the optimistic approach to the new situations have helped both at team level and individually, to overcome the pandemic period, and all the lessons learned will certainly be seen in future progress.

For more reflections on people and organisational practices, join us on Tuesday, 15th of June, at 14:00 EET, for our second online event in the Transforming HR series: https://steinandpartner.com/events/.

Content by Ana Maria Popescu

Important appointment on the Executive Search market

The Managing Partner of Signium – Stein & Partner, elected as Signium Global Board Director

 Signium is one of the top Executive Search and Leadership Advisory partnerships worldwide


A big win for the Executive Search Market in CEE! David-Sebastian Stein, Managing Partner of Signium – Stein & Partner, founded in Romania in the early 1990s, was elected as part of the Signium Board of Directors. The latter is one of the top partnerships in Executive Search and Leadership Consulting worldwide, with almost 70 years of experience and presence in over 30 countries.

The decision was made following a nomination and an internal voting process, won by an overwhelming majority, a year and a half after the company became part of the Signium partnership. The appointment is doubled in importance, as David-Sebastian Stein is the youngest member to hold this position since the establishment of the partnership until today.

Currently on the board, along with David-Sebastian Stein, are Annelize van Rensburg (South Africa), Piotr Pilecki (Poland), Felipa Xara-Brasil (Portugal) and Aleksander Montalbetti (Germany). The responsibilities of the five members in their 3-year term, are related to making administrative decisions in accordance with the development and coordination strategy of the 250 people in the partnership. Their goals for the next period include business development in the key regions, expanding into new markets worldwide and consolidating leadership in certain areas, while simultaneously boosting Signinum’s global Brand Strategy and Communications.

“I am both honored and grateful to be elected as Global Board Director, all the more as I respect Signium’s 70-years legacy and success, and that it’s continuing to build on its industry experience to remain a top player in the market. I want to add value to Signium projects worldwide and together with my colleagues to succeed in achieving our goals and to support the strengthening of our market position through focused leadership and governance”, said David-Sebastian Stein, Managing Partner Romania & Austria for Signium – Stein & Partner.

“Signium – Stein & Partner Austria & Romania is a reliable partner for us, and we are happy to have them by our side, not only as part of the partnership, but also a part of the Global Board of Directors. We believe that the experience of their consultants and good knowledge of the Central and Eastern European market will translate into increased quality and performance of the entire network, having more than 150 consultants, in 40 offices – worldwide. We are confident in this partnership, and we are sure that, with this board’s vast experience, Signium Global is uniquely placed to advise and support its diverse client base as they face complex leadership issues in an era when good c-suite leadership has never been more important”, mentioned Annelize van Rensburg, Chair of Signium.

Given this new responsibility and the importance of Stein & Partner for the global partnership, the company is undergoing a rebranding process and will become Signium by the end of the year: “The values ​​that define our organisation are in full agreement with those of Signium. It is an opportunity for us to actively participate in the development of the network and to find the best solutions for our customers based on intelligence, intuition and entrepreneurship”, David-Sebastian Stein also underlined.

About Signium – Stein & Partner Founded in 1994 in Bucharest, Signium – Stein & Partner offers an extensive portfolio of consulting services and leadership solutions, from Executive Search, evaluation, and development of management teams to the alignment of human capital in mergers and acquisitions, coaching for integration, and not only. At the same time, the collaboration with hundreds of clients and thousands of candidates from many industries, including pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, banking, insurance, construction, and investment funds, has helped the company gain experience working with diverse professionals with different needs, expectations, visions, and values. Signium – Stein & Partner is a member of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC).

The above press release was published by Business Review and you can acces it here.

C-Level Recruitment


Romanian managers are more oriented towards respecting the rules than on communication and creativity, a recent study shows, and they tend to be promoted based on technical skills and specialisation. In order to choose the right person for a leadership position, especially in the context of working in a pandemic, a candidate must also demonstrate coaching and mentorship skills, explained the guests of the show Gandul Financiar.

What are the selection criteria for a top manager? 

The recruitment of the right person for a manager role is based not only on the professional and technical competencies, explained for Gandul Financiar Alexandra Ene, consultant at Signium – Stein & Partner, a consulting company specialised in executive search.

“Customers often come to us with a few written lines – we want someone who knows this and this. And it’s never just about that. It is about understanding the business as a whole, about aligning the stakeholders- with whom the respective person will work, what the teams look like, what are the directions of the business itself “, explained Alexandra Ene. Thus, executive search specialists take into account the skills, abilities, personality, motivation, energy but also the coaching and mentoring skills of the potential future managers.

Last year especially, the need for team guidance, communication and coaching skills was noticed. “Suddenly, managers found themselves unable to stop by employees computers to see what people were doing, therefore they had to be coaches and mentors and keep their teams close and motivate them and find other ways to engage them,” Alexandra Ene explained.

An example of a wake-up call for the need to change the management approach given by Alexandra Ene is an online team building, organized at the beginning of the pandemic, in which the employees were just looking at each other and at the clock, waiting for the allotted time to end.

“That’s why, when we look at a recruitment, we look at a very complex picture of how that person should be, in order to be able to give the right direction to the business she/he will manage, to fit in, to have these essential leadership skills, not only strategic and not only technical abilities”, Alexandra Ene underlined.

The recruitment grid for top managers is constantly adapted, and specialists work with various tools to help them complete the ideal profile. “Things change from day to day, from year to year. We do not have a competency matrix for a marketing role that we use in 2000, in 2020, and in 2040. We work customized on each project. We are very optimistic about the labour market and future managers and the collaboration between young managers and senior managers, because they have a lot to learn from each other “, says Alexandra Ene.

Trends in the recruitment market 

“What we can observe, when referring to the new generation of managers, is that they are prepared, our experience with them is favourable, we see more and more young managers, who study abroad, at top universities, MBAs, EMBAs, who invest in education, either personally or the companies that they work for, they are very competitive and very determined “, says Alexandra Ene. 

Regarding foreign companies, beyond the professional competencies, nationality plays a role in deciding to choose the managers. There are still several multinationals that are very keen on bringing managers of the company’s nationality, as Alexandra Ene explains, with the aim of ​​probably instilling in local employees a certain type of culture that is also in the parent company, and not because they are better prepared. “But indeed, we see this trend of looking for international experience, but local understanding, and we do have customers, both in services, as well as production, who are looking for local people who understand very well the local culture and who are able to bring together the teams “, the consultant specified.

In addition, choosing an outsider or, on the contrary, promoting one’s own employee is a decision directly correlated with the company’s objectives and typology. “Of course, people from the inside aspire, but if that company is at a time when it needs a fresh approach, then they can choose to bring in a manager from outside the company. Maybe when the manager withdraws due to retirement and the company wants to maintain the status-quo, they may think of promoting someone from the inside. Depending on the objectives, they can think of promoting someone from finance, sales or marketing, because, in general, the top manager obviously sets the tone for everything that happens in the rest of the company “, detailed Alexandra Ene. 

If you would like to read more and watch the filmed interview (in Romanian), please click here.

Recruiting CEOs during the pandemic

Stela Ciupercea, Signium – Stein & Partner Consultant, interviewed by Wall-Street.ro


Recruiting CEOs during the pandemic. What a head-hunter is paying attention to

The external context generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged leaders around the world. The pressure on their shoulders has increased because they have had to deal with a myriad of situations, some of them new, that require quick fixes. They must not forget to be close to people, to show empathy, to communicate transparently and to be flexible both with their teams, as well as with their partners and collaborators.

Although they are accustomed to the lack of predictability characteristic of the business environment, this situation was different, starting as a health crisis which subsequently affected society and the global economy. Among the things leaders should not lack can be named clarity, a permanent and specific communication, as well as a long-term vision, even when we are referring to online collaborations. For this reason, the approach to an executive search process is extremely important for a company that is looking for a suitable head for the organisation’s profile. Managers, through their role, are also the ones who must prove their responsibility, both for themselves and for the teams they lead. Therefore, a recruitment process for a CEO is essential for a company.

What does a recruitment process mean for a CEO? 

We discussed with Stela Ciupercea, Consultant at Signium – Stein & Partner, a German company with over 25 years of experience in Executive Search and Human Capital Advisory to see what a recruitment process means for a CEO in Romania and in Central and South-Eastern Europe, what is taken into account, what criteria does the company have in achieving the profiling of a good candidate.

 The recruitment process for a top management position (executive search) is a complex one, because we are talking about roles that have a direct impact on the long-term performance of their employees and companies. Regardless of the country, the approach for an executive search process is more or less similar, says the representative of Signium – Stein & Partner for Wall-street.ro.

“To begin with, we need to understand very well the client’s need, to sketch together the most suitable profile. This depends a lot not only on their expectations, but also on the internal strategic challenges, the external context, the entrepreneurial or corporate environment of the company and what stage the organization is in when hiring a new CEO – maybe it’s a mature company, which is strengthening its market position or one going through a transformation process, and the examples can continue (…) There is no pre-established “recipe”. – Stela Ciupercea, Signium – Stein & Partner Consultant 

How recruitment processes have changed during the pandemic 

Recruiting a CEO can be a real challenge, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic commenced and all the selection processes moved online. However, adjusting to the remote working and continuing the activity in the digital environment was not foreign to the specialists with experience in the labour market. In an executive search process, Signium – Stein & Partner’s experts rely both on directly contacting candidates considered suitable for a management role, and on a solid database, built over the years, which they can access from anywhere, as well as on their personal network, aspects that have not suffered since the beginning of the pandemic.

“On the other hand, the interview stage was different, as well as the presentation of the candidates to the decision-makers within the employing company. These were organized almost entirely online, compared to previous years, when direct interaction and face-to-face meetings were indispensable. – Stela Ciupercea, Signium – Stein & Partner Consultant

Stela Ciupercea says that although these processes were easily facilitated by technology, she noticed a greater reluctance from the candidates regarding the positions that involved travel or even relocation.

How should a CEO’s resume look like? 

Regardless of the position for which one applies, the CV represents the candidate’s photo, which ends up in the hands of a recruiter, to be read and evaluated. The situation is the same for a CEO. She/He must carefully write her/his CV, note down the information related to the experience gained, professional skills, qualifications, and studies, to create an image that is authentic and as clear as possible for the person reading and evaluating it.

“The focus should be on the responsibilities, but especially on the achievements she/he had at each stage of her/his professional career and show the direct contribution to the performance of the teams and companies which she/he worked with or for. If a CEO wants to take a step towards another industry, it is important to list details about previous companies, for example the business model, number of employees, level of responsibility, direct reporting, the evolution of the organisation during the period in which she/he was in charge of the company “, notes Stela Ciupercea.

As for the appendix of a CV, it does not have to be a long one because the large number of pages will not make the CV more interesting, the relevance of the content being what matters.

The domains in Romania with the most applications on top management positions

From the application perspective for top management positions, in Romania, the most dynamic industries are currently IT&C, FMCG, Retail and Logistics. At the same time, the Real Estate and Construction sectors were attractive from this point of view, especially because the local market created more opportunities for transactions during this period.

“Most executive search projects have been conducted in areas such as FMCG, Production, Private Equity and Technology, and at the level of positions, there has been a significant increase in recruitment projects for CFO (Chief Financial Officer) roles, compared with previous years”, explained Stela Ciupercea, Signium – Stein & Partner Consultant

The specialist also says that although 2020 was an unpredictable year, the demand for executive search services in Romania remained at a similar level compared to previous years. Last year, about 20 companies appointed new executives to lead companies in sectors such as FMCG, Pharma and IT&C.

If you would like to read the full version from Wall-Street, click here.

Webinar: How to translate Purpose into People Strategies

We are delighted to have hosted on the 23rd of March the first event of our Transforming HR series: How to Translate Purpose into People Strategies having as guest speakers: Mrs. Andreea Mihnea – Chief People Officer at First Bank, Mr. Daniel Reisenauer, Managing Director at Visma Software Romania & Ireland and Mr. Sorin Banulescu – People & Culture Director at Heineken Romania.

We wanted to challenge different perspectives, therefore we invited three speakers from diverse industries, namely Banking, IT&C and FMCG. Read the summary below to find out how the past year has been for them, what challenges they faced with redefining organizational purpose and how this impacted the people strategies in the companies they work for.



“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


The concept of organisational purpose has never been more prevalent than now, even one year into the pandemic, and leaders around the world have been confronted with countless challenges. Businesses have become so engaged in redefining their direction because this period demanded of them a moment of contemplation: What is our mission as a company? Why do we do the work we do?

Re-evaluating the people strategies is, to say the least, as critical as addressing other business areas such as marketing, sales, financial, etc. People have been through the biggest disruption to their employment since the previous 2008 crisis, and most employers have implemented more changes to their organisation in 2020 than they had in the past years, cumulatively. The challenge is to see this as a huge opportunity to step forward.

We live in the future now

In order to stay competitive in the new business and economic environment, most leaders recognise technology’s strategic value. Digitalisation has been a hot topic over the years, but it has taken a global event to trigger changes that were only ideas in the last decade. The pandemic has launched all of us into the digital future and practically overnight, remote working and many other online processes have become realities. A good number of employees have rapidly embraced the digital era, in some cases leading to more engagement and productivity.

For some industries, especially in the IT&C, the changes were embraced faster, as Daniel Reisenauer states about his company: “Even before the pandemic, it was easier for employees to carry out their activities digitally, as we are an international software company, and we use a lot of tech’ applications to interact across teams and cultures, so, this helped a lot from a mindset perspective to transition into the digital era”. 

But what happens in other sectors and especially if we talk about a more traditional kind of organization as opposed to a digital native one? Do I make my employees climb the stairs of digitalisation or is it something they can do for themselves? And especially if we are referring to an organisation not accustomed to technology, then the process is massive and messy and it’s usually in the hands of HRs and Managers. People need to understand the “why’s” and the “what’s” behind these, and also to receive the most support, so as not to get stuck on the way because they did not have trainings or IT support” challenged Andreea Mihnea.

Further on, we would like to tackle some drivers to better prepare for digitalization1:

  • Mobilisation which needs shared ownership, accountability and responsibility
  • Clarity of commitment on the digital transformation
  • Sufficient resources devoted to it as a core organisational priority
  • Investment in the technical talent
  • Flexibility & Agility

1 – McKinsey Global Institute “Twenty-five years of digitization”, May 2019

“Despite being a great promotor of technology, which I genuinely think is necessary and it can get us far, if we don’t get it right and are forcing it into people’s lives, we could hit a wall. Although we communicate virtually a lot, life should not be just a screen. The feeling of belongingness is not the same” – continued Andreea Mihnea.

Daniel Reisenauer shared with us about the initiative of completely changing  the purpose of Visma Software from the organisational growth to the safety of the people. One of the examples he highlighted was related to promoting people’s health and networking, by adopting a new concept on meetings while “walking in nature” to take a break from the digital environment.

Service to others as driver of motivation

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation” – Aristotle

Now, more than ever, businesses also have an opportunity, and a duty, to engage in the needs of the planet. The potential is extraordinary for organisations to serve for the greater good and initiatives such as giving back to the community, remain a powerful force.

Daniel Reisenauer and Sorin Banulescu shared a few examples on how they’ve organized the teams to pursue higher goals.

In Visma Software the team identified an opportunity to use existing equipment for a different purpose and decided to use their companies’ 3D printers to build medical equipment. They were also involved in numerous activities to help the environment.

Sometimes the biggest impact comes under the form of a small change, as Sorin told us. During his HR Director mandate in Heineken Haiti, he established a medical centre to compensate for the poor medical services available in the location and facilitated the instalment of an ATM machine on site to ease the living conditions of his colleagues.

The above represents a wonderful depiction of how we can bridge a purpose gap between people’s desire at work versus what they actually experience. But how do we connect people to purpose?

We, as individuals are increasingly looking for meaning and the workplace should be one of the sources where we derive it from.

As a conclusion of the insights collected from our speakers, we should begin by  taking a close look at the relationship between our social and environmental impact and our strategy and purpose, and then connecting this with our tremendous employee potential. This will unleash and boost motivation, helping organizations to implement effective people strategies.

“My people have been involved in helping the environment and the population, not because it was part of their performance objectives, but because they understood that giving back to their community was what made them tick and it was also something they could do on a daily basis in their personal life as well” – mentioned Daniel Reisenauer.

Connecting people’s individual purpose with the organisational one is the missing puzzle piece and although we may not yet have all the answers on how to do this, we’ve collected some recommendations from the speakers:

  • Adapt your perspectives and your references to the new reality (don’t complain about why things are happening in a certain way but rather ask yourself what you can do to understand the bigger scheme of things)
  • Never start by judging – be mindful of the context
  • First give and then expect to receive – in this way you, as a leader, become credible and earn genuine respect
  • Engage, help, enjoy people and cultural connections
  • Create community cohesion and promote external activities for a better engagement
  • Use technology wisely and don’t force it into your people’s lives
  • Listen to your colleagues, be transparent and ask for feedback
  • Make the mental health of the employees a top priority as well
  • Let your people go out as often as possible

Content by Ana Maria Popescu