Paul Edwards presenting the ‘Best Established Biotech’ Award to Oxford BioMedica at the OBN Awards dinner 2018.
Paul Edwards presenting the ‘Best Established Biotech’ Award to Oxford BioMedica at the OBN Awards dinner 2018.
Some time ago, I wrote an article entitled, “Location: the biggest challenge to talent management”, and talked about the challenges of relocation. As an international Executive Search organisation, we are constantly asked to carry out global searches to find “the best person for the job”, no matter where the people are located around the world. Our clients usually have great roles that need filling, wonderful facilities and a brilliant company culture, but many of the people they are looking to attract are working in another country. This is where the biggest challenges can lie, and companies have to be aware of the issues facing candidates and their families when considering an international move. One would imagine that if the job, the company and the remuneration package were right, then the main challenge would be that of relocating one’s family. In most cases, that is correct, but for some people the job title will become a “show-stopper”…….and the battleground is usually around the “Vice President” title.
Maybe I have a somewhat jaundiced view of the Vice President title, but in my days working for one of the major US biotechs, I can recall that the UK subsidiary initially stuck to very British titles of Manager and Director; these were people who had serious levels of responsibility – there was not a Vice President in sight. The problem arose when anyone from the UK travelled to visit the US parent company. A UK Manager, who was respected as a senior employee on home turf, suddenly had a crisis of confidence when surrounded by hordes of people carrying the titles of Associate Director, Director, Senior Director and various grades of Vice President. After a number of humiliating visits to the US, the UK adopted the US title nomenclature, which eventually resulted in a Divisional Vice President reporting to a Corporate Vice President who in turn, reported to a Senior Vice President. The SVP then reported to an Executive Vice President who, in turn, reported to the CEO.
These days companies use the title, Vice President, in a number of ways. One example may be similar to that of my former company, whilst some other companies only grant the Vice President title to someone who is heading an entire division. On the other hand, I have come across a “Vice President” of Research of a biotech company who had only 4 years postdoctoral experience, a total budget of less that US$ 2 million and a reporting team of four.
I carried out a rather unscientific survey on LinkedIn, using the search function to see what percentage of a company’s job titles included the words “Vice President”. The results were quite interesting. The Swiss based companies had around 3 VPs per 1000 employees, whilst the (non-Swiss) international pharma companies had around 5-6 VPs per 1000 employees. The generics sector tended to be around 10, whilst the biotech sector had as many as 30 VPs per 1000 employees (that being said, one sizeable UK biotech company didn’t appear to have a single Vice President). In a nutshell, it is very difficult to compare the job content and seniority of the position by the job title.
Maybe this is why I get a little irritated when candidates say, “I’ll only take the job if it’s a Vice President position”. My advice to them would be to ignore the job title and look at the actual job content. How influential will you be, how much real difference will you make, what does the remuneration package look like and what career prospects will the role provide. For sure, it might be a little galling to see a former colleague with a Vice President title, when you are a senior Director, but let’s get in the real world and look at the real seniority of the role.
At first glance this question might appear presumptuous. It is a fundamentally important aspect of how a strong relationship with an Executive Search Partner can benefit an organisation.
As Rob Briner, Professor of Organisational Psychology at the Queen Mary University of London’s School of Management, points out: “to say ‘we want the best person for the job’ subconsciously presumes some objective hierarchy of talent exists when it comes to the next executive superstar, rather than this being context-dependent”
Sometimes it is too easy to fall into the trap of simply upgrading the current candidate profile by adding extra elements that are seen as contributing to the next candidate being able to deliver a stellar performance. This is a largely context-independent approach.
To quote Professor Briner: “You have to stand back and consider whether you need the actual best person, which is a slippery concept, or someone who can do a really good job. Because they are –or can be (my addition) – two completely different things”.
That pushes the responsibility back onto people to decide: what is it we actually want here? This can be challenging, not only because it is not difficult to get distracted by the concept of the superstar vision, but also because it means that it is necessary to think not only about the role, but the context too.
And this is where the Executive Search Consultant should contribute. At Horton International, our business experience underpins our client relationships. We work with our clients as partners. This approach demands significant investment in understanding the client, their business, culture, and what their real requirements are.
We have evolved a more strategic and holistic approach to our service. One that focuses on satisfying the real needs, not just the delivering of bodies for a shortlist. The experience and knowledge of our consultants enables us to have meaningful and constructive discussions with our clients. This ensures that there is mutual agreement, combining context and profile, on what the requirement actually is and to contribute to the subsequent definition of what the optimal candidate might look like.
Elisabeth Kelan, Professor of Leadership and Director of the Global Centre for Gender and Leadership at Cranfield School of Management, believes that “Much executive search is still happening via cosy conversations in private members’ clubs over a huge glass of whisky,” This, she says, is why diversity is still so overlooked.
This is a dated concept of what Executive Search should be and comes into the “little black book” era of recruitment. Which, as Professor of Business Psychology at UCL, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic points out “the executive search firm’s little black book of contacts looks increasingly obsolete”; it is not yet dead, but will be soon.
At Horton International, we never compromise on our pursuit of excellence in all that we do. If our client wants to recruit a photographer, we do not put forward just anyone with a camera. Once the basics of the requirements are defined and agreed, we use all our resources to identify suitable candidates. We research internationally and do fresh research for every assignment. We do not recycle the same faces again and again, which has been a not uncommon characteristic of Executive Search in the whisky and black book era.
Gender diversity is always a hot topic of conversation. It's something that we feel somewhat responsible for as an executive search firm. In 2017, there are more women on boards than there has ever been. A step in the right direction but there’s still a way to go for diversity, especially in the pharmaceutical industry.
Gender diversity is so important for any workplace and not just in the interest of equality. Bringing females into more senior roles, alongside men, can change the way a business is run. As well as how decisions are made. A study by McKinsey found that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to financially outperform those that are less diverse.Ultimately, having a diverse team can increase a business’ chance of success and therefore their bottom line.
Research shows that women bring a wealth of benefits to an organisation. From increasing productivity, improving reputations and decreasing turnover, a diverse workforce is a stronger one. Balance broadens perspectives and adds a breadth of insight that non-diverse workforces lack.
Balancing out gender diversity can help you connect better with your audience. Your customers are diverse, so should the decisions makers be. Ian Wilcox at the Hay Group suggested that having men dominating the industry creates a ‘blindspot’ that, unintentionally, gives priority to health issues more likely to affect men.
So, how do we achieve a balance in pharmaceutical roles? More pharmaceutical executive search firms need to take responsibility for diversity within candidate selection. Having a pool of talent that includes diversity in gender, ethnicity and experience is key. Getting a diverse offering through the door for senior and board level roles is a definite push in the right direction.
In order to further increase diversity in top roles, companies need to make senior and board roles available for females. Internal training and mentoring should be provided to encourage women to aim for seemingly unattainable roles.
We are pleased to announce that Declan Haverty has joined the UK arm of Horton International, the international Executive Search Organisation, as a Partner.
Declan began his career with Price Waterhouse (now PwC) working across business sectors in technology management consultancy with a range of blue-chip corporate clients. After seven years, with experience of professional internal recruitment, he then joined Goodman Graham, a boutique technology search and selection firm, becoming Divisional Director of Norman Broadbent PLC after its acquisition. In 1999 he joined Protégé, a business accelerator / incubator, as VP Recruitment responsible for successfully hiring top-down across a portfolio of US-software companies about to IPO and launch internationally, as well as building Protégé to c. 250 staff.
In 2003, Declan founded Informed Decision, a hybrid search practice delivering mid-to-senior level searches internationally for a diverse range of clients across sectors, and also providing his deep recruitment experience as hands-on interim Head of Recruitment again for a range of clients.
In 2016 Declan was invited to join Horton International, where he specialises in areas including pharmaceuticals and healthcare as well as IT/technology and business and professional services.
Horton International UK is a leading boutique executive search consultancy with an international reach. Whilst active in a number of sectors, Horton International has specific specialisations in pharmaceutical, life sciences and biotechnology, transport and associated technologies and defence and aerospace. A Partner in Horton Group International Limited, Horton International UK is one of 40 offices in 35 countries worldwide.
In my previous article on the subject, I talked about examining what is being done by various stakeholders in this debate on gender diversity. In this article, I want to explain how we as executive search consultants are contributing – on a daily basis – to the eventual achievement of a well-balanced male/female mix in the boardroom.
Back in 2011, the Davies Review recommended that the executive search community should draw up a voluntary code of conduct to address gender diversity on corporate boards, and to ensure best practice in the search process. This code was subsequently developed, and further enhanced three years later. In support of this, we at Horton International are committed to helping our clients increase the effectiveness of their boards and senior management teams, and acknowledge the value that diversity can bring – remember that companies with three or more women on their board generate a return on equity that is significantly higher than those without. This is because the more diverse the board, the more options it will undoubtedly consider when it comes to crucial decision-making (“It is about the richness of the board as a whole, the combined contribution of a group of people with different skills and perspectives to offer, different experiences, backgrounds and life styles and who together are more able to consider issues in a rounded, holistic way and offer an attention to detail not seen on all male boards which often think the same way, and sometimes make poor decisions” – 2010 survey commissioned by Government Equalities Office).
We recognise the important role our profession plays in supporting board chairs as they take steps to increase the proportion of women on their boards, in both executive and non-executive roles. We consistently follow these steps through the search process, from acceptance of a brief through to final selection:
In my next article, I will be looking at what efforts are being made by industry stakeholders to actively work towards more balanced senior teams. Any comments about points raised in this article and on the subject in general are very welcome.
With culture emerges the question of “culture fit” in hiring and talent management discussions. Participants in these discussions tend to suggest that those who don’t have this fit are likely to fail in the organization.
I believe that there is a need for more openness in this discussion. In my experience with high-performing teams that I have been associated with, the best change leaders are those that challenge status-quo and produce a different momentum, rather than those that “fit in”.
Every organization needs these challengers. And they need them inside the organization. This is why I think so.
Challengers help raise Performance
An underlying reason for not hiring someone because of lack of culture fit is that it would create conflict. In my view, this should be the reason to hire them! A certain level of conflict is good, even necessary, to improve things and change standards within the team. A lack of conflict is quite often the breeding ground of complacence.
Challengers boost Innovation
Innovation is the big theme in business because in most industries it’s the only way to raise margins. It has two parts:
Diversity of perspectives is needed for both parts! Talent leaders should be careful that they don’t end up rejecting candidates who can provide this – (only) because they don’t appear to be aligned with the organization’s prevailing social norms.
Challengers keep the organization dynamic
In this VUCA world, organizations can hardly afford to stand still. A culture that does not accept challenging influences, and remains the same over time, could eventually be bogged down by its lack of variety. The risk is that not only would this sameness affect business results (as outlined above), it would also reduce the organization’s attractiveness as an employer.
To create sustainable success, an organization’s culture must evolve and accept challenge and diversity. Next time we use lack of culture fit as a reason to not hire someone, we should be clear about what it is exactly that we mean. We should make sure that we do not use it as a euphemism for something else.
In the Life Sciences arena, I frequently speak to executives within the sector who are about to exit their roles (or have already exited) within a pharma, biotech or medtech company and have a desire to build a non-Executive Director (NED) portfolio. The biggest challenge is how to obtain their first NED role, as boards invariably look to appoint someone with previous experience.
Looking at operating company executives (rather than financiers or lawyers), I have attempted to look at the key attributes or experience that boards look for when appointing a new NED. Obviously they will (or should) be looking for someone to fill a skills or experience gap in the board, but it is usual for a new board appointee to have a number of the following skills or experience:-
Previous Board Experience
Leading (or being a major player in) one or more value creating events
M & A Activity
Networks and Expertise
Assuming that the potential NED has a number of these skills and the requisite experience, then I would recommend three things to help them get that first non-Executive board position, and they are Network, Network and Network. I say this because board appointments do not always get filled via an Executive Search company; frequently existing networks within the boards or, indeed, the investors are used. It is important that that aspiring NED make sure that key stakeholders understand what they could offer to a board and equally as important, that they are available and have capacity. I would advise people to make themselves known to the following groups of people,
Sometimes, organisations look for people who are prepared to sit on the board of a private company for “sweat equity”. That is, to carry out various duties for no remuneration, but for an equity position. This usually occurs with early stage companies who are yet to secure an investment from an institutional investor. These can be attractive if you pick the right company; the risk being that you can put in very many hours of work, and the company ultimately fails to raise finance.
A number of aspiring non-Executive Directors have decided to undergo specific training, or to gain a qualification that will both give them a better knowledge of board practice and make them more attractive in the marketplace. One such course is the IoD Chartered Director qualification http://www.iod.com/developing/chartered-director-qualifications/chartered-director.
In conclusion, I would stress that to become a successful NED you must have the experience, knowledge and expertise that can add value to a board and be able to bring a set of skills that is not currently present on a particular board. Secondly, it is important to raise your profile amongst the key decision makers. So if you are looking for your first NED role, or looking to grow your portfolio, please feel free to make contact with me, and good luck in your quest.
In just the last few weeks, the first female councillor was elected in Saudi Arabia as a result of allowing women to vote for the first time; and 535 year old Magdalen College School in Oxford has employed its first female head. Things seem to be looking up from a gender equality perspective, and there is certainly no shortage of publicity on the subject. Every day, a new post, a new blog, a new article is written – gender diversity/equality/parity is now an extremely hot topic. This is clearly a good thing – the more something is talked about, debated, discussed, the more likely it is that change will occur.
Most of us, including government, appear to be on board – The Prime Minister David Cameron and Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan have announced new measures to eradicate gender inequality in the work place and remove barriers to women’s success. This includes a pledge to work with businesses to eliminate all-male boards in the FTSE 350. Also, Lord Davies has raised the target of female representation on FTSE 100 Boards to 33% by 2020, following the achievement of his previous target of 25%.
With so much momentum, why is gender equality still taking so long? Last month, the World Economic Forum predicted that it will take another 118 years to eradicate the global gender pay gap. So if we’re all agreed that more needs to be done, 118 years seems a long time in which to achieve this equality …. Or is it? One century, from a human evolutionary perspective is not a huge time-span. Anthropologically, women have almost shut the cave door, and the boardroom one is much wider open. But how can we shorten this timeframe in order to see results more quickly?
Women are a huge business opportunity, and the statistics on this have been well publicised – companies with three or more women on their Board generate a return on equity that is 36% higher than those without. We cannot afford to under-utilise half the population. Women under-represented in top leadership positions mean full business growth potential is not being realised. So what’s preventing every culpable board in the country from immediately taking steps to add more women? Is it a shortage of women in the pipeline? Is it male board members hindering the process? Is it women lacking confidence? Is it women lacking ambition?
The answer is probably a mixture of all these factors and more, but as increasing numbers of women achieve board status, the goal of 35% (and more) should ultimately be self-fulfilling, and at an increasing pace. After all, as more women find themselves on boards, the more they will be in the best position to ensure others find their way there too. This, in turn, should give increasing numbers of women the confidence to aim for such status. Cultural norms that have been embedded for centuries will inevitably take considerable time to change; however, the momentum for gender equality seems never to have been so great, and hopefully this will help propel board diversity towards the achievement of Lord Davies’ target.
In subsequent articles, we will take a closer look at some of the issues identified here, and examine what can be done by all stakeholders to help eliminate prehistoric attitudes and norms, and consign discussions about gender equality to the cave. Stay tuned …….
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