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Recruitment of executive leaders is the most pressing challenge for companies today. Fabrice Coudray, managing director at Robert Half’s executive search practice, explores why finding the right people at the top can make or break the fortunes of teams, companies, and cultures.

Picture the scene: a chief executive is recruiting for a senior leader to run a department and is interviewing the final two candidates. Both are qualified to do the job, and are impressing with their skills, knowledge, and experience. But one of them is more suited to the culture of the company than the other.

One is firmer in their approach, perhaps a bit stricter, but the other one is more collegiate, driven by consensus. Both can deliver the same results, but in a different way. What matters is which one will model the values and behaviours of the leadership team, and the board. It’s a subtle, but important consideration.

Most chief executives and boards make these decisions carefully. If an executive team puts people at the centre and believes a good day involves meeting colleagues, for example, they will be looking to model that behaviour. They understand why particular values matter and how culture is created, and nurtured, from the top.

A question on their mind will be: Will my colleagues want to work for this person?

Why culture is most important

The answer to this question matters because the recruitment of executive leaders is the biggest challenge that companies face today. At a time when everyone is talking about hiring good people at the top, the importance of workplace culture is coming to the fore: a careful combination of leadership and management that invites others to be their best.

The problem is that some leaders and boards talk about values and behaviours, but don’t always follow them. It’s possible to visit companies and see a motto on the wall with colleagues asked to support it. But what’s it really like to work there? What does it mean when they talk about ‘respecting people’? How do leaders interact with others?

If there is a gap between marketing materials and people’s experience, then individuals can develop a mistrust of the leadership. People usually leave jobs because of leaders and managers; when they feel uneasy about something, it’s much harder for them to be happy and to do their job well. There is a knock-on effect through the rest of the business.

Let’s say a company has a problem in one of their departments, which has lost more people than usual in the past year. It could that the wrong people have been recruited into the team, but, more than likely, it could be the way it’s being run. The impact of leadership on others is often clear to see.

Of course, leadership at this level can be uncomfortable and colleagues can struggle to perform; but even then, the right approach can change a company’s fortunes. If commercial targets are too high, for example, they can demotivate and cause stress; but if they are challenging and achievable, it’s easier to reach them and help others to grow in the process.

The answer to these challenges often comes down to leadership and culture.

Someone worth working for…

When chief executives and boards recruit the right senior leaders, they can trade more strongly through tough economic periods, motivate teams to work towards a common goal, and create a culture people want to be part of; in turn, these conditions create a space for others to grow, achieve their goals, and feel happy at work.

Culture is hard to measure, yet pivotal to a company’s success. It’s created and curated by those at the very top and can make or break the performance of teams. Chief executives and boards should therefore ask themselves, honestly, whether people want to work for them, and for the executives they recruit. The answers could unlock the fortunes of their company, colleagues and, importantly, their culture.

Executive Search with Robert Half

Robert Half’s Executive Search practice is one of world’s leading advisories for board or directors and supervisory boards. Our bespoke advisory model stands-out with combining a hands-on boutique approach with our global strength and versatility.

Through our years of experience and in-depth knowledge of the industries, we act in a dual function for our clients, as market barometer and trustworthy ambassador. Today we can demonstrate with pride a track record of filling mission-critical executive positions for our clients – in particular for SMEs and mid-sized companies, whether they are listed, private-, family-, or private equity owned.

We advise and accompany our clients beyond the mere search assignment – both the company and the candidate – because we are convinced that finding the right candidate is just the beginning of building a future-oriented and sustainable company management and leadership approach.

Find out how we help you find your future executives.

Learn from Robert Half’s expert recruiters so you can build a talented team of employees or advance your career. Operating in over 300 locations worldwide, with 12 recruitment offices in Belgium and Luxembourg, including our recruitment agency in Nivelles, Robert Half can provide you with assistance including leadership recruitment, where and when you need it.