Transport and Infrastructure investment in the UK is growing, with many major infrastructure projects in the pipeline. With highways investment soaring, Heathrow’s expansion plan, key transport links such as HS2 and Crossrail (1&2!), nuclear new build and the surge in offshore wind, it has never been more crucial that companies have the best executives with the right skillset to fulfil the countries ambitious plans.
However, the skills shortage in our industries is critical, which doesn’t make the search for the best talent an easy one.
There are hundreds of executive search firms in the UK, but who should you use?
The market is full of search firms that want your business, so it can be difficult to make an informed decision on who is best positioned to find the very best people for your teams.
In the transport and infrastructure sectors, where skills are short and jobs are highly specialised is it better to use a specialist niche firm or a large generalist search firm?
1. Market Knowledge
Consultants and researchers working at large generalist firms will dip in and out of sectors as the assignments come in. While they may have worked in your sector before, it isn’t guaranteed – and they may never again!
A niche executive search firm has a focused specialism and works solely in those areas. As a result the market knowledge and networks they acquire are invaluable. Niche firms will know the companies that need to be researched, they will know when projects or phases are coming to an end when talent is likely to become available. Most importantly, they will know many of the people that need to be approached.
One obvious benefit to this expertise is speed. The search will be quicker, because consultants aren’t having to learn the industry or specifications for the first time. The client briefing is quicker because the consultant and researcher understand the requirement, and how it will fit into the company. Identifying potential candidates is quicker because specialists know exactly where to look.
Aside from speed, the other main benefit is thoroughness; specialists will know the relevant but less obvious places to search for talent in your sector, leaving no stone unturned.
2. Reduces Risk
Using a boutique search firm that has an in-depth awareness of the industry can also take some of the risk out of recruitment. Specialists will have spoken and met with thousands of people in the industry over the years and will be aware of candidates’ career histories, industry reputations, and any potential skeletons in the closet.
Boutique search firms have the ability to be more flexible in their approach to the executive search. They are able to listen to what clients want and need, and then adapt the process to meet their requirements.
Larger firms often have a set, one size fits all approach, which they are reluctant to deviate from, and aren’t as capable of quickly adapting the search process if the requirements change mid-search.
4. Results Oriented
Many large search firms will bill you at set timed intervals (ie. After 0, 30 and 60 days) and not when results have been achieved. Niche search firms often work to defined milestones; upfront retainer, agreed shortlist and completion. Shortlists won’t be invoiced until the client is happy with the candidates presented and completion won’t be invoiced until the deal has been done with the successful candidate.
Not only this, but when working with a large firm, you might also find yourself subject to hidden fees; expenses tacked on to invoices that weren’t agreed in the proposal or additional admin fees that you weren’t expecting. Niche firms are far more transparent in their billing process, focusing on the long-term client relationship.
5. Point of Contact
By using a niche firm that is a specialist in your industry, you are going to benefit from working closely with the most senior people within the company. Large search firms may use senior Directors and Partners to sell the dream and then pass the leg work down the chain to a more junior consultant.
When you work with a boutique firm, it is likely that the owner or senior staff will be the point of contact on the assignment from briefing through to completion.
At Newsom Consulting we focus solely on the transport and infrastructure sectors and have a market knowledge built up over the last 20 years. If you are making any changes to your senior teams or want to discuss requirements for the future, click HERE to see how we can help.