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Resources – AESC Articles

Source: The Singapore Business Times


In a rare example of global synergy, initiatives to encourage a larger percentage of women to serve on boards of directors are springing up around the world. Fuelled in part by government interest and, in some cases, by government intervention, this worldwide phenomenon is gaining momentum and has become a major focus for media attention. In other words, the time for this issue has come.



Although the level of female representation on boards differs from country to country – some countries, such as Norway and Sweden being in the 30-40 percent range, and others, such as the UK and United States lagging behind in the 10-20 percent range – the cause of promoting more women on boards has become almost universal.


In Singapore, organizations such as BoardAgender are focusing attention on the male to female disparities on boards while the recently revised Code of Corporate Governance specifically requires boards to comprise directors with a diversity of skills, experience, gender and knowledge.


The government of Singapore has lent its weight to the issue via recent comments from Halimah Yacob, Minister of State for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, as have corporate leaders from multinationals such as Citi and Microsoft.


The logic of the issue is indisputable. Women constitute half the population, half the consumers and half the university graduates. As Michael Zink, Citi head of Asean and Singapore, said in a recent Business Times article: “Gender diversity is in our self interest to make sure that our leadership team looks like the marketplace and society we serve.”


With the world facing a global talent shortage fuelled by demographic shifts, the encouragement of women to stay and prosper in the workforce becomes an imperative.


Part of the challenge is around supply – the corporate pipeline. Fewer women than men are coming through to the top level of organizations for a variety of reasons as described by McKinsey in their 2007 report.


These include the early exit of women from top management ambition because of the “double burden” of career and family obligations, the male corporate model still prevalent in many corporations and the legacy prejudices of the “glass ceiling”. But part of the challenge is also around demand, that is, that there are plenty of women more than capable of serving on boards who are not currently being sought out an “demanded” by boards.


The challenges clearly need to be addressed from a number of angles. Chairmen and chief executives of public companies around the world need to take action so that board positions can beopened to more female candidates, investors need to demand it and there needs to be more training and development of women at universities and business schools to assume Board roles during their management careers.


How can executive search firms play a constructive role towards these obvious goals?


Many firms already pursue candidate diversity as an end in itself and have done so for many years. Some even specialize in providing diversity candidates. However, there is still an opportunity for executive search firms to take a more proactive role in promoting greated gender diversity.


In the UK, the Davies report recommended that the executive search community should be encouraged to draw up a voluntary code of conduct in order to commit to search out and present at least 30 percent of a long list of candidates as women. Such a code was agreed and signed twelve months ago and highlights a number of areas where executive search firms can make a difference:

Succession planning: Search firms should support chairmen and their nomination committees in developing medium-term succession plans that identify the balance of experience and skills that they will need to recruit for over the next two to three years to maximize board effectiveness. This time frame will allow a broader view to be established by looking at the whole board, not individual hires; this should facilitate increased flexibility in candidate specifications.


Diversity goals: When taking a specific brief, search firms should look at overall board composition and, in the context of the board’s agreed aspirational goals on gender balance and diversity more broadly, explore with the chairman if recruiting women directors is a priority on this occasion.


Defining briefs: In defining briefs, search firms should work to ensure that significant weight is given to relevant skills and intrinsic personal qualities and not just proven career experience, in order to extend the pool of candidates beyond those with existing board roles or conventional corporate careers.


Long lists: When presenting their long lists, search firms should ensure that at least 30 percent of the candidates are women – and, if not, should explicitly justify to the client why they are convinced that there are no other qualified female options, through demonstrating the scope and rigour of their research.


Supporting selection: During the selection process, search firms should provide apporpriate support, in particular to firt-time candidates, to prepare them for interviews and guide them through the process.


Emphasizing intrinsics: As clients evaluate candidates, search firms should ensure that they continue to provide appropriate weight to intrinsics, supported by thorough referencing, rather than over-valuing certain kinds of experience.


Induction: Search firms should provide advice to clients on best practices in induction and “onboarding” processes to help new board directors settle quickly into their roles.


The just published Cranfield Business School study: Gender Diversity on Boards: The Appointment Process and Role of Executive Search firms has examined the performance of search firms since the Voluntary Code was established and has concluded that search firms are encouraging chairmen and nominating committees to broaden their remits when filling non-executive roles but that still more needs to be done to keep women in the runing for board room positions. In particular, more focus needs to be placed upon promoting diversity all the way through the recruitment process rather than just at the early stages of search. As the final short-lists are drawn up, more emphasis is still being placed upon baord room “fit” than upon the candidates’ abilities, thereby propagating prevailing male cultures and attitudes.


It is clear that no one initiative will correct the gender imbalance on boards of directors. What is clear, however, is that by pulling together, government, educational institutions, corporate chairmen and CEOs, and the executive search community can achieve much faster resolution of an important disparity that is harming national, international and corporate competitiveness.

By: Barbara Bowes

According to a recent human resource survey, the level of stress among Canadian business professionals is rising, with approximately 63 per cent of survey participants blaming their work as the main source of stress. Survey participants also suggested that the continuing instability of the world economy was a contributing factor, as well as personal finances and customer relationships.


But what does a stressful workplace look like? What’s happening in the workplace to create so much stress?


First of all, there have been numerous fundamental changes in how we work. It seems that everything, right from production to administration and support services, has become mechanized and computerized. Information technology has brought the concept of “instantaneous” into our workplaces and this has changed expectations; in other words, everyone wants everything “now!”


Our world seems to have become so fast paced that businesses and employees are struggling to keep up. In fact, if you asked an employee, they might tell you they feel like they are running in a three-legged race because while they have to run fast, something is dragging them down. For instance, with change occurring in business almost every day, employees are forced to be continuous learners, whether they want to or not. They are busy learning new software programs, new policies, new procedures, as well as meeting and working with new employees, new bosses or new customers.


Finally, while many organizations have downsized and restructured, they haven’t truly reduced the work tasks and so you’ll find some employees are completing the work of two to three jobs. No wonder employees are blaming the workplace for their stress. Yet, in my view, work isn’t the only cause of today’s stress.


Just look what we do in our spare time. Coupled with a fast pace at work, we often see our employee families trying to juggle dozens of activities at home. For instance, they create busy personal schedules by over-committing themselves to volunteerism while at the same time racing back and forth with their children’s activities. They leave little time for themselves and soon, weekends are no longer set aside for quiet periods of rest. Instead, employees and their families stay busy, busy, busy. Stress then accumulates from both sides of their lives.


At some point, stressed employees can no longer deal with their excessive and prolonged stress and eventually they’ll begin to experience physical, emotional and mental exhaustion, more commonly known as burnout. However, one of the key challenges with burnout is that while some employees will not recognize their own developing symptoms, others will simply deny how they feel. Dealing with employee burnout is rather a delicate situation, especially if an employee is in denial. Yet if you are a supervisor and/or manager, you need to take responsibility and deal with it, preferably sooner than later.


First, you need to assess and clarify the employee’s behaviour over a period of time. In most cases, you will already have heard about incidents of odd behaviour or emotional outbursts that appear to be completely out of character. Sometimes a person who is normally outgoing and communicative will slowly stop engaging with others until they are completely isolated. They just don’t seem like the same person. You may yourself have seen overt changes in work habits and/or you will notice a growing negativity in an individual’s attitude. In my experience, one of the first signs of burnout is a negative attitude sprinkled with an “I can’t” and/or “I won’t.”


Prior to confronting a stressed-out or burned-out employee, I suggest that managers conduct their own stress inventory by examining how they are directing the work and what stress this might be causing. In many cases, managers don’t realize they are setting impossible requirements, particularly as it relates to deadlines. Nor do they stop to think of all the tasks they’ve already delegated to their employee and then stop and re-prioritize. Lastly, managers often forget to assess the capabilities of their employee and fail to recognize that some employees struggle with trying to do multiple tasks at the same time.


Keep in mind that many employees who are experiencing burnout will either not be comfortable disclosing their feelings or they may not even recognize their own symptoms. Therefore, it is important to confront your employee with specific observations. For instance, if you are raising the issue of excessive absenteeism, then refer to the number of times the individual was away from work. If deadlines have been missed, then refer specifically to the job tasks and the dates when they became overdue. If a negative attitude is the most obvious problem, then give specific examples of where this has been problematic.


Next, ask the employee for feedback to confirm their understanding of the problems you have described. Ask the individual for comment to help you understand what might be behind the deteriorating behaviour. If the issues are work related, such as feeling a lack of control over work, too many deadlines, not enough resources or a need for more prioritization, then collaborate with the employee to find solutions. But no matter what, the work needs to get done.


While it is always wise to intervene at earlier stages of burnout, many times burnout will creep up on the employee and the manager and by the time you confront the issue, the employee may be in need of more serious assistance. Be sure to refer the employee to your employee assistance program for counselling and/or advise the individual to seek professional help. In some cases, a brief leave of absence accompanied by stress counselling will assist the employee to get back on track. On the other hand, the longer an employee is away on leave, the harder it will be for that person to return to work.


The increase of stress in the workplace is indeed a disturbing trend and if we don’t deal with it, all elements of our businesses and/or organizations will suffer. While we can’t create change in an employee’s family life, we can make process and structural changes in our workplace that ensure our employees do not experience constant and exaggerated stress.


Source: Stress levels rising among business professionals: Survey, Two-thirds of employees cite work as biggest stressor hrreporter.com, Sept. 14, 2012


Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com. Learn more at www.barbarabowes.com.


Five years ago, the Human Capital Institute collaborated with the large consulting firm Hewitt Human Capital Consulting and published the results of a comprehensive leadership survey entitled, the State of Talent Management, Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Opportunities. The study revealed five looming workforce challenges, including the attraction and retention of skilled professionals, developing manager capability, retaining high performers, developing succession pool depth and addressing management and leadership talent.


Well, here we are in 2013 only to find these problems are no longer just looming. Our businesses are smack in the middle of trying to deal with these same challenges. In particular, developing the next generation of manager/leadership talent is now the hot topic of debate in every corporate “C” suite.



Yet for the most part, many businesses and not-for-profit organizations have not created an effective internal succession plan and/or their strategy didn’t work out as planned. Therefore, organizations must turn to the recruitment of external candidates to fill their needs. This requires a special set of eyes and professional expertise in order to assess the full capability of candidates. It also means that candidate-assessment strategies must go beyond cultural fit and personality and engage in an in-depth review of the true talent that each candidate might bring.


As a leading executive search professional, I work with clients to focus their attention on a number of candidate character traits that can determine whether an individual has the potential to be a high performing executive. Although there are multiple elements to our executive search process, the following dimensions will help you to understand some of what we look for in candidates.


Track Record – high performing candidates who can be considered potential executive material are able to effectively create a vision for the future or take their part of a vision for the future and make it happen. They aren’t just visionaries, they are doers!


Strategic thinking – candidates who have the potential to succeed at the executive level have a broad view and can see multiple dimensions of any problem. They are good at identifying disruptive obstacles and are good at creating solutions that result in success. Their success is of high quality each and every time. It is measureable and supported by references.


Team leadership – high performing candidates have a strong sense of self esteem, a caring for people and a keen eye for talent. These skills enable them to build strong and loyal teams of diverse professionals. They know how to develop people and to continue building strengths amongst their team.


Relationship building strengths – strong candidates have excellent relationship building skills that enable them to develop powerful networks both within and outside their current organization. They reach out into their professional community, contribute their expertise in a variety of ways and become well known for their leadership abilities.


Change management skills – high potential candidates not only know how to implement change, they also focus equally on the soft issues such as culture and ongoing employee motivation. They know that change takes time, and that communication and training are essential to moving employees away from their ingrained ways of doing things. These candidates have developed a reputation for implementing change effectively.


An attitude of persistence – managing any organization today and into the future requires leaders who are flexible yet persistent in working toward their goals. Leaders can have all the ideas in the world but if they can’t make them happen, if they can’t deal with unexpected problems and aren’t flexible, they will not be successful in the long run.


Assessing a potential candidate for an executive leadership position requires a special set of eyes and professional expertise in candidate assessment. It is important to examine personality and cultural fit but it is also important to fully examine the true talent that each candidate might bring. This is accomplished by asking the tough questions related to their track record, ability to implement a vision, build relationships, lead a team, manage change and persist until they reach success.

By Mark Sanborn


Purchase here (http://www.amazon.ca/The-Encore-Effect-Remarkable-Performance/dp/0385519052)


If you have two hours to sit on your deck on a sunny day and want to be inspired, then this book is for you. Sanborn uses the analogy that all life is a stage and each of us is a performer. As a result, each of us should be working toward an “encore” where our clients and/or boss is delighted with exceptional performance in everything we do. Sanborn provides readers with a simple formula and plenty of stories of how people have succeeded to achieve great heights in their life or career.

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How Search Professionals Master the Process

When speaking to clients about their recruitment challenges, they typically mention their lack of ability to find the right candidate for their job roles in a timely manner. Many clients post a job only to find a low number and/or low quality of candidates applying for the position.


Other clients have found that candidates have deliberately used the potential new company as a bartering chip to increase their salary with their current employer. Still, other clients may recruit a candidate only to find that they resign during the first year of employment due to a mismatch with the corporate culture.


All of these recruitment issues suggest that working with an executive search professional can offer many benefits, especially if organizational leaders are inexperienced as recruiters and interviewers.


Why is that?


First of all, executive search professionals apply a comprehensive search and assessment process that ensures an accurate representation of the job and corporate culture. Secondly, their Internet research capabilities help to identify those qualified individuals who are not currently in the job market, but who would be interested should an opportunity be presented to them. Lastly, the screening and interview processes used by executive search professionals are second to none; when finalist candidates reach the organizational client, you can be assured they are the best of the best. Let’s look at why these processes are more effective.


Job Description & Profile Creation – search professionals work with clients to ensure that job descriptions are current and up to date. Many organizations focus only on job duties and tasks while search professionals describe the skills needed for these duties and what attitudes and characteristics are essential in order to fit into the organizational culture.


The Search Process – many organizations fail to consider the various elements of search including the job profile, cultural fit, leadership style, advertising strategy, interview strategy, salary and compensation and the orientation strategy. Search professionals, on the other hand, have a comprehensive checklist of search elements to be addressed and never leave any stone unturned.


Advertising Strategies – typically organizations focus on only one medium for marketing their job and/or they rely on word of mouth. Search professionals use multiple mediums such as newspaper advertising, Internet advertising, social media networking and pure research. This multitude of activities is much more effective in locating and identifying potential high performing candidates.


Psychometric Assessments – organizations typically do not use psychometric assessments of any kind as they are not trained to do so. Instead, they rely on gut instinct gleaned from face-to-face interviews. Effective and reputable search professionals are trained in the use of psychometric assessments, ensuring greater accuracy in pinpointing strengths and areas of challenge that need to be addressed if the candidate is to move forward.


Interview Strategies – first of all, since organizational leaders only infrequently engage in interviews, they are often not familiar with the questions that are deemed illegal and/or against human rights legislation. As well, their questions are often not directly related to the job at hand. Executive search professionals offer excellent interviewing skills both from the point of view of preparing and staging the right questions and also scoring, rating and analyzing the results.


Project Management – timeliness is of essence when undergoing a recruitment project. Poor communication with candidates results in candidate withdrawal. Stretching out the process will result in candidates accepting another position. All in all, poor time management means a loss of candidates. Executive search professionals are project managers who keep your recruitment on track, provide ongoing communication with candidates and the client to ensure that candidates are treated fairly and that “hot” candidates are kept “hot” until they accept your job offer.


Recruitment is one of the most important responsibilities of an organizational leader. However, inexperience, lack of time, an insufficient professional network, lack of access or training in the conduct of psychometric assessments and a lack of confidence in interviewing can all add up to a hiring mistake. If you are experiencing any of these frustrations, then it is time to call in your executive search professional.