North East Times: How to Find Executive Talent

Great people make great businesses, and one firm ensuring organisations continue accessing the very best senior talent is recruitment firm NRG. The long-established company operates Executive Search and Selection, which delivers world-class appointments at senior leadership and executive level nationwide across the public, private, higher education and charitable sectors. Here, Steven Hugill speaks to NRG managing director James Carss to find out more.

We’re all familiar with the notion of finding the ‘right role’.

What, though, when a position finds you?

The latter is a situation James Carss knows only too well.

Back in 2016, while living and working in Canada, the North East native was headhunted by NRG to manage and develop its core employment teams.

In doing so, he became the cornerstone of a key strand in the company’s DNA – matching blue-chip clients with the very best individuals.

Today, alongside his role as NRG’s recently appointed managing director, James heads up the company’s Executive Search and Selection team, which supports organisations nationally.

Working across the public, private, higher education and charitable sectors, the team complements comprehensive, research-led methodology with rigorous analysis and sound judgement.

Combined with a framework that evaluates board dynamics and cultural make-up, the company immerses itself in projects and brands – becoming ambassadors for the clients it represents – which ensures NRG identifies the right executive talent for each business it works with.

“We find the top talent at executive level, as well as for non-executive and chair appointments,” says James, “and we work across a myriad of sectors too.

“We are dedicated to understanding the motivations, culture and values of each business we work with, and by doing this we are best placed to identify talent that complements teams with the professional capabilities and experience required.”

“We spend a great deal of time with our clients to get underneath the skin of the business and what they are looking for,” continues James, who has spent his entire 20-plus year career in executive search-based recruitment.

“We then complete a whole of market mapping exercise to compile a longlist of candidates that match the required criteria, before agreeing with the client who to approach about the opportunity.”

NRG aligns with senior business leaders to understand the motivations, aspirations, culture and values of their business, working together to strengthen the leadership team – often as a result of private equity investment, significant market movements or business restructuring.

Its assessment processes identify and endorse talent against competency, including – but not limited to – technical ability, motivation, personality and cultural fit characterised by existing senior teams.

Furthermore, its assessment services – which are designed and delivered by independent experts and provide cost-effective and fair solutions to candidates – incorporate internationally recognised personality profiling tools, group exercises, numerical reasoning and behavioural events, which offer a 360-degree candidate evaluation.

And James, who previously managed a leading global recruitment consultancy during a 12-year stint in Hong Kong, says NRG’s Executive Search and Selection offer provides clients with significant – and distinctive – support and reassurance.

He says: “Most of the people identified won’t be looking for a career change, so businesses need a trusted partner to position the organisation and the role.”

“There are many firms offering executive search support, most of which are based in London, but there are very few in the North East that are doing what we do or possess the background we have,” continues James, who works alongside fellow consultants Scot McHarg and Ray Williamson.

“Every member of the Executive Search and Selection team has worked in the sphere for more than 15 years, and we are all experienced in working out of the region and placing multiple board level appointments globally.

“We spend hours with clients before we even commence a search; we get close to a chief executive, or a board or chair, to understand how an organisation works from the inside out.”

A salient example of NRG’s Executive Search and Selection provision in action came recently when James worked closely with the North East England Chamber of Commerce to support the business membership organisation’s search for a new chief executive.

“The Chamber needed a partner they could trust with local knowledge.

“I spent a long time with outgoing Chamber chief executive James Ramsbotham and its chair John Marshall to find out what they were really looking for in an individual to take the Chamber into an even stronger position.

“James has been an amazing chief executive and fantastic for the region, which, in many ways, made this search more challenging as it was a daunting void to fill.

“We worked in partnership to put in place a rigorous recruitment process that was fair and transparent and focused on delivering an outstanding candidate.”

However, while adding crucial knowledge and insight into NRG’s executive search process, James provides another invaluable element to its service – personal experience.

And in a sector where a good number of top-level moves mean individuals relocating to another part of the country, his time in Hong Kong and Canada, as well as more than six years working with financial services clients in London, is immensely valuable.

“We have done a lot of high-profile relocations of candidates to the North East,” says James, who earlier this year oversaw NRG’s move from offices in Newcastle’s Grey Street to Quorum Park.

“One of the issues people face is the trailing partner, and the logistics of them coming to the region and finding a job.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed that to an extent through remote and hybrid working, but relocation nevertheless remains tough.

“I’ve seen both sides, from being the person who went to Hong Kong by myself in 2004, to the man who moved across the Atlantic with his wife and three children all aged under five in 2016.

“It provides me with points of reference and allows me to speak to people with real empathy.”

And James says he is looking forward to further adding his experience to NRG’s operations as the firm presses on with growth plans following its acquisition by Galago Group in December 2019 and serves an increasingly busy jobs market fuelled by post-lockdown demand.

“Galago Group bought us because of our tremendous foothold in the North East, our enviable client list and the fact we’ve been operating for a long time,” says James.

“They bought us with the view to grow, both inside and outside of the region, and, with our new purpose-built offices, we are looking, over the next two years, to double our headcount.

“We are very confident of doing so because of the many opportunities out there.

“The market is different and that is why it is so important, as a business, to have a trusted adviser like us who you can work with to find an excellent candidate.

“Equally, from a candidate’s perspective, you need that trusted partner when putting your career in someone else’s hands.”

“It was a challenging appointment to find our new chief executive, as our expectations were high and James Ramsbotham was an exceptional act to follow.

“As key advocates for the quality of services available here in the region, we were always confident we would get an excellent and personalised service.

“That very much proved to be the case – James Carss worked closely with us to understand exactly what we needed and how we wished to approach all aspects of the recruitment.

“We were delighted with the response and the support provided throughout enabled a swift and successful process.” John Marshall, Chamber chair

Article originally published in North East Times September 10, 2021