Signium Partners speak on importance of culture in hiring decisions and support for joining executives

At the recent HR Vision Conference in Berlin four of Signium’s Global Partners spoke on diverse facets underlining the importance of culture at the centre of both hiring decisions and subsequent support required for joining executives.

10/20/2016

Differing Communication Norms:

Uli Mueller, our Managing Director in the US, has a great breadth of HR leadership experience in global organisations. Prior to joining Signium - where he provides Search and Leadership/OD Consulting - he was the VP Global Learning & Organizational Development in Danaher.

Uli gave practical and amusing examples of where language subtleties, calibration and relative measurement cues - taken from exactly the same words – can easily be misinterpreted in the context of different cultural environments, behavioural norms and values. As such, extremes of the more literal, “say it as it is” Western and Central European language starkly contrasts with the somewhat hyper-positive exuberant style in the US  where if something is not ‘awesome’ it may not be  worth considering.

Uli also suggested that there are additional shades of subtlety based on regional, sectoral and corporate differences - including even specific inter-divisional nuances. He also highlighted the importance of tone and context of expression in correctly “decoding” messaging and behaviours in different cultures.

So, for any search/leadership consultant or client working in an international environment, where their processes may also include the use of candidate assessments, these types of culturally sensitive interpretations may well be critical for success. Conversely any misunderstandings can lead to bad business decisions which negatively impact both organisations and individuals.

 

Dynamics in a Highly Paced Market:

With an aeronautical engineering background and a lengthy career in talent acquisition services, Kong To (Managing Partner, Greater China and Signium Industrial Practice Leader) spoke about the dynamics of Cultural sensitivity in a highly paced market. Kong focused on the need to:

  • Align key stakeholders on cultural requirements before going to market – think ahead on how the business and its market will be shaped in the future – not just today, referencing Wayne Gretzky skating to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.
  • Take time to learn and integrate the cultural aspects of required talent - based on stakeholder requirements – to ensure a hire will be a better fit.
  • Include these insights as central components to inform all of the elements of a search firms processes to find, evaluate and commit the type of leadership and expertise client organisations require. 

Kong made the point that the above elements will all support talent acquisition professionals to become even more effective Employer Brand ambassadors.

Culturally Sensitive Assessment & Selection:

A graduate in microbiology with an executive career path in corporates such as Novartis and Unilever across the US, Middle East and Europe, Alastair Paton (Managing Partner Signium UK and EMEA Board Director) challenged the traditional measures and ways of evaluating candidates for external hire and internal promotion.

Alastair suggested that assessment and selection methods can often be quite flawed and bring in several biases, possibly “over-crediting” socially outgoing, highly articulate, robustly opinionated and assertive candidates – who may also naturally network and have ‘stellar’ LinkedIn profiles to boot. Exaggerating for effect, he wondered whether a lot of organisations’ processes might favour hiring a Donald Trump versus a Mother Theresa?

In underpinning that culture really matters, Alastair highlighted four things to consider:

  • Make sure a role and your organisation is presented and evaluated by people with the experience to look for candidates with interest, engagement and substance rather than just over-confidence and exuberance.

  • Level the playing field using your search firm to coach candidates to ensure (outside of their normal working day habitat) that they provide a really accurate account of themselves at interview. Even the best people can require help or confidence boost in providing accurate information about the challenges and opportunities they have addressed and how they did so effectively.

  • Different people/cultures process things very differently – distant, questioning and seemingly ponderous candidates may be a much better medium to long-term fit, making and communicating better analysed leadership decisions and better planned project / leadership delivery.

  • Don’t assume ‘comfort halos’ such as the school the candidate went to and the business and the title they hold will make them successful.  Look for evidence of culture fit at least as much as competency.

 

Aligned On-boarding:

A professional search practitioner to her fingertips, Angela Westdorf leads Signium’s Life Sciences Practice as well as running her own very successful office in Cologne, Germany. Angela addressed delegates on the importance of effective on-boarding of international expatriate recruits – hires that underpin the valuable diversity to support organisational performance.

Among other things Angela touched on the need for:

  • Intercultural training for the local ‘host’ organisation’s leadership teams and the new hire to provide all with insight on different leadership and behavioural styles.

  • A well-structured and culturally sensitive induction programme allied to a mentoring programme and ‘buddy system’ which is put in place prior to an external hire joining the organisation.
     
  • Strong ‘trailing spouse/partner’ and family support and engagement e.g. support for accommodation, appropriate school identification, partner’s job search etc.

Angela summarised that - without the above type of on-boarding support - 60% of senior international expatriate hires return home earlier or indeed leave the organisation earlier than planned.