North East Times: Finding the Right Executive Talent in a Changing World

With the pandemic having dramatically altered the working landscape, it has never been more important for organisations to employ the highest calibre of candidates for top-level roles. One company helping businesses do just so, is Newcastle-based recruitment firm NRG. Here, Ray Williamson, an executive search consultant in its Executive Search & Selection team, tells Steven Hugill how it is helping housing associations navigate the environment to secure exceptional appointments.

The pandemic has done many things, not least blur the divide between the personal and professional elements of our lives. Where offices and factories once defined regime, today the employment landscape operates in significantly greater flux.

Rather than being the principal places of work for many, offices will be part-time locations, used in the main for collaborating and engagement, and the sharing of culture and information. Those used to going in four or five days a week will, in future, cross the threshold perhaps two or three days a week, or even less than that.

Our homes will be a major focus of attention; for many, they will be part-time workplaces. And that means greater emphasis on space. Alongside such demonstrable alterations to the physical environment, though, so too has the impact of coronavirus impelled individuals – including many senior executives – to seek out post-lockdown change.

And one area where this transition is particularly marked is across the region’s housing associations. Significant impacts on key critical and core activities have challenged many executive leadership teams to re-evaluate the ‘how and why’ to deliver on the issues faced.

Organisations’ income streams, for instance, have been affected by potentially spiking rent arrears and bad debts as unemployment and poverty grow.

Housing associations standings, though, mean their financial position is relatively secure, even if maintenance and development programmes are forced to slow, with the knock-on effect of Brexit and the pandemic continuing to hinder supply chains and skilled labour availability.

In a sense, it can be seen as an opportunity for the sector to show its worth even more strongly, maximising local engagement and community roots, building on and extending existing community partnerships.

For all leaders and executive teams across the housing arena, there’s a lot to consider in the current climate.

Even beyond the core service issues, many providers see a need to diversify activities and products, adapt to the digital era, engage residents and seek potential partners, and closer links are being maintained with support services across communities as a whole.

Many organisations are acting as a centre pin for engagement and support through, for example, mental health and social services with the NHS.

NRG’s Executive Search & Selection provision specialises in the recruitment of senior executives in the housing arena across many key functions. These include leadership, governance, new business operations, development and assets transformation, risk and service delivery. It possesses a network that reaches far beyond the North East and takes on projects large and small.

“Whether it be options for new business leadership, appraisal or housing strategy refresh, we know the sector inside out and tailor our approach to offer a bespoke service every time,” says Ray Williamson, an executive search consultant within NRG’s Executive Search & Selection team.

Combined with a framework that evaluates board dynamics and cultural make-up, NRG immerses itself in projects and brands – in the process becoming a client ambassador – to identify the right executive talent for every organisation.

Taking this support into the social housing sector, it is helping businesses recalibrate and broaden their recruitment strategies. “Since the first lockdown, there has been a sea change in how people see their personal and working lives,” says Ray. “We are witnessing an increase in natural retirements at senior level across the industry and the reshaping of boards and executive leadership teams is gaining some momentum too.”

To help organisations find the next generation of senior leaders, many are utilising NRG’s Executive Search & Selection team, which is led by company managing director James Carss and sees Ray work alongside fellow executive search consultant Scot McHarg.

In supporting these natural changes, NRG’s search often considers candidates, both from the region and nationally, and is regularly successful in identifying and attracting new talent with significant gravitas and experience to add huge value to the boards of client partners.

NRG has developed a real-time network of strong and relevant candidates who have expressed an interest in progressive senior leadership roles, with this network constantly evolving to introduce business leaders with high levels of energy and drive to make a genuine impact – both within the role and the wider organisation.

“And that is where Executive Search & Selection is so valuable,” says Ray, who reveals its team is also supporting a growing trend of senior leaders taking interim contracts before making new roles permanent. He adds: “Our reach – we cover the whole of the UK – means we deliver greater breadth, depth and diversity – and we introduce clients to different sets of candidates with a varying array of skills and leadership qualities. “Our processes look to identify candidates who can evidence values and behaviours aligned to those of the recruiting organisation. “We are experienced in supporting ‘values-based’ assessment campaigns and incorporate the same principles and checks within our own interview and screening process. “The result from this is that candidates who progress through the process are not just aligned in terms of skills and competencies but also their outlook and values. “That means we ensure any candidates hired have values that will support effective team working and are aligned with delivering excellent community care and engagement.”

Article originally published in North East Times ISSUE 445 November 2021