Category: Industry Insights

Green Park’s Annual Business Leaders Index reveals Britain’s top firms improving boardroom diversity – but “corporate sidelining” of women and ethnic minorities

EMBARGOED TO 00.01, 11 August 2021: Despite some progress on diversity, in the upper echelons of Britain’s top companies ethnic minorities and females are still being shunted into functions which are far less likely routes into the top tier of leadership than those travelled by their white, male counterparts.

#leader, director, Diversity, Executive Search, GreenPark, InterSearch, InterSearch UK, InterSearch Worldwide, UK

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“Executive Search needs to recognize the opportunity in new technologies ” – Interview with Klas Karlsson (Talentia – InterSearch Sweden)

The future of executive search in Sweden and other Western European countries is facing significant changes. Many of these developments have been accelerated by the radical change in people’s work lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions on travel and meetings. In addition to more flexible remote work models, the world of work seems to have taken a big leap, especially in the area of digitization. Klas Karlsson, executive search consultant in Stockholm and CEO of Talentia AB – InterSearch Sweden, sees the challenges for recruiters – as well as their clients – in identifying technological developments early on.

Professional social networks are changing all the time – executive search must keep up

Karlsson is convinced that an excellent headhunter cannot rely solely on his network and negotiation skills, but must keep an eye on technological developments. He sees the rise of social networks as particularly crucial: “All executive search consultants work with LinkedIn. Those are the basics. But are we perhaps missing candidates there?” Every executive search consultant would need to be aware that even now, candidates may be falling through the cracks because they are not signed up on LinkedIn. Therefore, to stay competitive and reach early adopters of new technologies, a recruiting firm must anticipate where the journey is headed. “LinkedIn has already taken over some of the functions that Facebook used to fulfill. People are also sharing more personal updates and interacting with personal acquaintances.” So, according to Karlsson, a new network that is more distinct from any “private” social networks might emerge in the near future. Such a network would be the place to look for promising executives in the future. “These are precisely the developments we need to help shape, not merely react to.”

The consulting process is becoming more transparent – and starts earlier

Karlsson sees the increasing technologization of the recruiting market as an opportunity for executive search firms to advise their clients in greater detail on other parts of the process  that are not “purely transactional”. A consultant should at least anticipate if not initiate a client’s expansion activities. This includes questioning established assumptions that clients might have and also bringing less obvious candidates into the mix. These might for example not currently be working at a competing firm in exactly the same position that you are looking to fill. Discovering young talent and lateral entrants who take unexpected paths is part of that evolution, he says. “We as recruiters need to be more active in helping the clients in their decision making process by providing insights and data – qualitative as well as quantitative –before we start a search or even advise them against a traditional search and instead to go for an acquisition of a company and then support them in the due diligence process.” Although large companies and corporations already have insight departments that work with extensive quantities of data, Karlsson foresees a greater focus on quantitative data for executive search, looking not only at the individual and more at big trends and developments. “This will allow us to approach companies – especially mid-sized companies – directly and to anticipate their needs as part of our services.”

Entrepreneurs and startups in particular demand flexibility from recruiters

Karlsson specifically emphasizes the importance of flexibility when working with entrepreneurs and the startup sector. This concerns established fee structures in particular. “It’s not about pushing a ‘cut-rate’ approach, but developing flexible fee structures that reflect the reality of young, agile companies.” For example, a combination of cash and equity compensation could be a feasible model.” Traditional benchmarks that might work for large corporations cannot not be applied to startups in the same way. The advantage of an international network like InterSearch, Karlsson emphasizes, is not least the opportunity of cooperatively developing innovative approaches and learning from partners in other countries. “I’m excited about what our Indian colleagues are doing, for example, they are real entrepreneurs. I’m definitely closer to them in this aspect than to some companies here in Sweden.”

Klas Karlsson
InterSearch Sweden

Klas Karlsson is the founder and CEO of Swedish executive search firm Talentia AB. The company has been focused on proactive recruiting in the Swedish executive search market since 1999 and has offices in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. Talentia AB has been a member of the global InterSearch network since 2015 and is leading the global Practice Start-up. Scale-up, Venture Capital & Innovation

#KlasKarlsson, Executive Search, global executive search, InterSearch, Intersearch Germany, InterSearch Worldwide, interview

Reflections on the commission on race and ethnic disparities report

Working to continue tackling racial inequalities and remaining focused on increasing racial dialogue within the workplace

As Head of the Diversity, Inclusion, Culture and Ethics (DICE) Practice and a Partner at Green Park, like many of us I have waited for the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report to be published. Having spoken to many people in my network, it goes without saying that there is both anger and disappointment at some of its conclusions, and its use of language. Senior leaders at Green Park were interviewed for this report, but we feel that our testimonies were lost, particularly concerning the institutionally racist systems in the UK’s largest organisations, which continue to thrive unchecked in a culture linked to personal risk rather than future organisational rewards. Whilst I have now had a chance to read the report comprehensively and gain some more context, I cannot help but feel personally disappointed and saddened for the many people within my family, friendship and professional circles.

Whilst the report did not deny that racism exists in Britain, it concludes that “claims of institutional racism are not borne out” and that there was no evidence “of actual institutional racism”.

It also suggests that the UK should be seen as an international exemplar of racial equality and has played down the impact of structural factors in ethnic disparities.

I personally struggle to accept that the UK should be cited as the model of racial equality. Whilst some organisations have indeed started to focus their efforts on addressing racial inequalities, we also know through our work how much is still to be done. The report goes on to propose that a framework should be put in place that distinguishes between different forms of racial disparity, detailing what is an “Explained” or “Unexplained” disparity. Of the organisations that the DICE team support, many are unaware of the true reasons behind such difference in outcomes; they lack the data and insight to understand the root causes and, I would suggest, that they would also struggle to assess what would constitute explained or unexplained.

The framework also provides proposed definitions for institutional racism, systemic racism, and structural racism. Whilst these definitions may be helpful, I cannot help but feel that this is somewhat missing the point. The crucial point is surely that disparities and differences in outcomes exist – in work, in society, and across many many systems and services.

Whilst the report details some areas in which more positive trends exist, such as within the educational system, it fails to explore in detail the disproportionate rates of school exclusion, or the ongoing attainment gap in higher education. It also provides examples of analysis which many of us will find extremely disturbing. The report states that it is 4 times more likely for a Black woman to die whilst giving birth than a white woman, yet provides no real insight as to why this is the case, but simply recommends that more research is required.

By not recognising the racial inequalities that still exist in our workplaces, healthcare and educational systems, and in wider society, we will be doing a disservice to the many ethnocultural colleagues, employees, and clients that we try so very hard to support.

When we layer in some of the more known statistics and events – such as the fact that Black people in England and Wales are 9 times more likely to be imprisoned than their white peers, the killing of George Floyd, the Grenfell tragedy, the Windrush scandal, and the disproportionate death rate during Covid 19, I can only imagine how let down some ethnic minority communities must feel at this time. Whilst the opening recommendations of the report focus heavily on the need to build trust within our UK communities, I feel that some of the contents of this report will only serve to damage this very goal.

Through our culture and inclusion audit work we work with private, public and third sector organisations, including government departments, to analyse data, insight and processes, and conduct qualitative and confidential interviews with Black and Asian colleagues. We see first-hand the disproportionate experiences that they face, whether this be in terms of their overall employee experience, within talent management processes, or the levels to which they are faced with microaggressive and racist behaviours. Many of those we interview articulate a lack of a sense of belonging in the workplace and describe how they have had to “dial down” aspects of their race, cultural identity, heritage, or religion, in order to assimilate into the dominant culture. These experiences are not just the perceptions of a few, but they are substantiated by a clear evidence base and data that supports that disproportionate outcomes exist in our workplaces and in our society. These outcomes go on to affect the promotion and progression of some groups. In our Green Park Business Leaders Index, the senior leader representation is both stark and clear, with many industries showing a distinct lack of ethnocultural representation at the most senior leadership levels across UK businesses, and an obvious lack of visibly diverse senior role models.

However, there are a number of recommendations which I do support. For instance, the request for more transparency around ethnicity pay gap reporting, the recommendation to publish a diagnosis and action plan to lay out the strategy for mitigating any disparities, and the need to disaggregate the acronym ‘BAME’ (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) to better focus on understanding disparities and outcomes for individual ethnic groups. This latter recommendation is an issue that we have been championing for many years now, as we know that this categorisation not only fails to acknowledge and appreciate the individual challenges that each of the B, the A, and the ME group may face, but also shields the true representation of each group within the workplace. The BAME acronym also disguises huge differences in outcomes between ethnic groups.

Within our learning and development programmes, we made a conscious effort many years ago to move away from delivering sessions on unconscious bias and instead focus on the need for inclusive leadership, cultural intelligence (CQ), and racial fluency. Delivering leadership sessions daily, I see first-hand the positive impact that this can have in building broader leadership accountability for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). This has enabled leaders to build improvement plans and apply a DEI lens to the decisions they make. Such realisations amongst the dominant culture of their own personal and organisational biases and the impact they can have in the workplace have enabled ongoing dialogue around race and impactful interventions to be put in place.

So…. Despite some of the report’s conclusions, we must continue to tackle the issue of racial inequalities and remain focused on increasing racial dialogue within the workplace.

What is reassuring is that many of the organisations that we are working with are now taking this issue very seriously and are acknowledging where they are on this journey. They are authentically working to affect change and address racial inequalities. I can only hope that the organisations and their leaders that see only snippets of this report do not just read the headline, but that they delve into the full findings and recommendations and start to educate themselves on the challenge that still lies ahead. I am confident that many of the business leaders that our DICE team supports will stay focused on the plans they have put in place and will measure their progress against the backdrop of their own organisation, by looking closely at employee experiences, promotion rates, attrition rates, local demographics, and acting on the listening feedback that they receive.

As a citizen of the UK and as a professional working at Global level, I do not dispute that compared to other countries we may be further ahead, but we are by no means an exemplar. By not recognising the racial inequalities that still exist in our workplaces, healthcare and educational systems, and in wider society, we will be doing a disservice to the many ethnocultural colleagues, employees, and clients that we try so very hard to support.

#ethnic, #race, Executive Search, Green Park, InterSearch, InterSearch Worldwide, reflections, report, UK

Shopping after the crisis: omnichannel management remains in demand

The corona pandemic has changed the shopping behaviour of Germans – for both non-food and food. You shop more online, pay less often in cash and you like to have everything delivered to your home – this is how the trends can be summarized. But despite this change accelerated by the pandemic, Germany is lagging behind compared to other European countries, as Heinz Leopold, client partner at InterSearch Executive Consultants GmbH in Hamburg, explains.

Although 47 percent of Germans state that their shopping habits have changed due to the pandemic, this is below average in an international comparison. This is shown by the data in the current “FMCG Report” by the polling institute YouGov. In eleven of the 17 European countries examined, more than half of consumers say that their behavior is different. The international average is even 59 percent.


Online commerce is growing

Current data from the online monitor of the German Retail Association (HDE) make it clear that “Click & Collect”, i.e. the collection of goods that have been pre-ordered online or by phone, is becoming more important. At the same time, the sales of stationary retailers from the sale of goods via online marketplaces increased. 45 percent of stationary retailers are now also represented on the Internet, but not always with their own shop; they also join sales platforms.


Experience before a pure transaction

Online sales will continue to increase”, predicts Leopold. What must be offered in retail in city centres, on the other hand, is a shopping experience, not just the shopping itself. “People like to be around people, they want to examine the products themselves before they buy.” Their own assessment always means more than the widely available online reviews. Do stationary retail in the city centres define itself only through the price, be it not to convey why consumers should go shopping in the city centres.

In today’s retail trade, the on-site shopping experience goes far beyond the mere purchase transaction, according to Leopold – especially when retailers offer an e-commerce shopping option. This applies to all ways of reaching and interacting with customers. “The shopping experience is a critical and differentiating component of retail today and in the future” says Leopold.

While the traditional shopping experience focused on how customers interacted with and felt about the business and the brand, today’s shopping experience must convey exactly the opposite, according to Leopold: The focus should be a customer-oriented omnichannel strategy that addresses the customer and their different expectations focus on the sales channels available to him in parallel.


The omnichannel manager is the key to success

Ideally, an omnichannel manager ensures that customers can experience the same language of the company on all channels across all platforms. The sales channels relevant to the company must be optimized in this context, not only to further boost sales, but also to create a comprehensive brand experience. Such experts also take on the strategic planning, management and control of all sales activities and the responsible employees.

However, these are still rare skills, which is why we are specifically looking for people with these skills on behalf of our customers” explains Leopold. Most suitable candidates have already been active in channel management or sales marketing. “The best thing is an experience in both areas in order to manage the holistic customer and brand experience in all channels as omnichannel manager in the future” says Leopold.

Heinz LeopoldInterSearch Germany, member of the InterSearch Worldwide Consumer Global Practice

The members of InterSearch Worldwide successfully partner with 250+ companies in the Consumer sector. Contact the Practice leader in the region where your business needs top talent:


e-commerce, Executive Search, industry insights, InterSearch, InterSearch Worldwide, online shopping

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