Executive Diagnostics – beyond management audits

“You’ve probably heard the quote, ‘The only constant in life is change,’” says Anja Margraf, Client Partner at InterSearch Executive. That is precisely the challenge every company faces at some point. Processes are changing, interdisciplinary work is becoming increasingly important, and companies need to make sure their executive department is positioned to bring the necessary skills, as well as interests, to go along with these transformations. Margraf plays a key role in InterSearch Executive’s Executive Diagnostics department. “The term Executive Diagnostics was chosen to adapt the concept of Management Diagnostics to our target group, we deal almost exclusively with executive level employees,” she explains.

Management audits prepare companies for the future

Companies want to make sure that their management team is well positioned for the future. To do that, they need to know the team’s strengths, as well as potential areas for learning. “That is why management audits are an important part of our executive diagnostics portfolio. They allow for a very close look at a company’s management team as a whole,” says Margraf. She sees management audits as one of the key measures for strategically positioning a company’s leadership team. “When a company is reframing its guiding principles, going through a restructuring process, or looking to enter a new business area, it is usually time for a management audit. It is also an excellent way for a new CEO to get to know their managers quickly and in depth,” explains Margraf.

Executive assessments as a tool for succession planning and executive search

One aspect of executive diagnostics is executive assessments. This form of aptitude diagnostics is occasionally used in search processes and thus specifically tailored to executive level candidates. It is, however, also a helpful tool for succession planning or filling positions internally, Margraf says. “Sometimes we uncover aspects that our clients are unaware of,” she says. Particularly when it comes to succession, many managers tend to view their deputies as the obvious choice. According to Margraf, this can prove problematic: “Managers are likely to choose deputies similar to the current role holder. However, this might not be the right fit if the company – and by extension the role – is evolving.”

Potential analysis is becoming more sought-after

Potential analyses are being requested more and more frequently. Companies do not just see them as a way to better meet constantly evolving requirements, but also as an indispensable part of their HR development strategy. Potential analyses are also relevant to employer branding, says Margraf. “Candidates often inquire about a company’s HR development strategy during the interview process because Taylor-made personnel development shows a company’s appreciation for their employees. This is actually a great draw. Standard development measures are a no-go at the executive level.” Instead of standard personnel development measures, potential analysis is designed and carried out tailor-made for an individual manager. The goal is always to identify the strengths and potential of the employee in relation to future challenges and to uncover any untapped potential or unknown interests.

Successful diagnostic processes require trust and transparent communication

“These in-depth diagnostics projects are based on trust. That is why we always point out the importance of transparent communication to our clients,” says Margraf. This applies to both communication between employer and employee as well as between InterSearch Executive and the client. Thus, every diagnostics process begins with a detailed briefing to define the client’s expectations. The outcome determines which information is collected through which aptitude diagnostic methods. InterSearch works with different modules, depending on the task at hand. These include structured interviews as well as behavioral observations, test tasks, and questionnaires on professional motivation and working methods. “If the results show that someone prefers to work creatively, but is stuck in a very structured environment, this might not be a good fit in the long term. Realizing this gives companies an opportunity to place employees in areas, that best suit them. For this, we present our recommendations for appropriate action in our final report,” says Margraf.

Executive Diagnostics Participants expect follow-through

According to Margraf the biggest challenge to executive diagnostics measures lies not in the process itself, but in the companies’ subsequent follow-through. “After opening up and investing time, participants will have certain expectations. We always tell our clients that the worst thing they can do is to let the results of such an audit gather dust in a drawer,” Margraf says. If an intensive evaluation is not followed up by action, managers are likely to become frustrated in the long run – especially if they participate in such processes regularly.

Anja Margraf

Anja Margraf is Client Partner Diagnostics at InterSearch Executive Consultants, part of the InterSearch Worldwide organization.

She advises medium-sized companies on all aspects of aptitude diagnostics. This includes the conception and implementation of management audits, executive assessments and potential analyses as well as the support of companies in the context of strategic succession planning.

Anja Margraf studied business administration at the University of Hamburg and worked as a communications trainer before moving into human resources consulting. Enthusiastic about lifelong learning, she recently completed a master’s degree in business psychology (M. Sc.). The focus of her studies was on change topics, leadership psychology, aptitude diagnostics and personnel development as well as resilience.

Contact Anja Margraf: a.margraf@intersearch-executive.de

Executive Diagnostics – beyond management audits

4 min

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