Interview with:Daniel Ekberg, President, AIMS International
18 Aug 2014
Having ranked among the top 10 executive search firms worldwide in the past five years, AIMS International must be doing something right. The headhunting firm always gets strong results in global ranking because it has learnt how to crack the recruitment code. Finding leaders that can take a firm to success despite location or sector is not an easy feat in an age where executives are increasingly selective about their future employers. This is essentially why AIMS International has spread itself across all continents with more than 90 offices in around 50 countries. The firm hopes that it can gain access to a plethora of talented individuals across borders and sectors.
With companies becoming increasingly global, it has been crucial for AIMS to be able to deliver a cross-border service, says President Daniel Ekberg. In this respect, AIMS has significantly benefited from its international presence. “Before companies were national, then international, multinational and now global. This means a 24 hour operation all over the planet, in all cultures, with all types of legislation and rules,” explains Ekberg. “Few executive search firms are truly global. AIMS International is and that is our biggest advantage.”
AIMS International has spread itself across all continents with more than 90 offices in around
Globalisation has changed how firms approach the search for executives. With clients becoming more global, direct search companies are looking for candidates around the world, as these so-called “global corporate citizens” hold another type of experience than comparable leaders. The search for the right executive is key, as the appropriate candidate is the single most important factor in driving a business’s success, explains Ekberg.
“The right candidate is critical. To get the right leader in at the right time will be very important for the business. A good evaluation of where the company is at the moment, where it has been and where it is going is needed to select the right individual,” says Ekberg.
In particular, executive search has changed in emerging markets such as Asia, as western companies are refraining from using expatriates and instead hiring locally in order to gain an upper hand in the region. In addition, companies used to use smaller search firms, but higher ethical considerations have increased the need for executive search firms that know the global standards – benefiting established players such as AIMS. In this respect, Ekberg believes there are obvious benefits to using an external search firm as opposed to an internal HR department.
“Confidentiality is key – on our level you should not use internal HR resources, as every department has a leakage. Also, this is what we do for a living. We know the executives – where they come from, where they are and where they want to go. Internal HR departments will need too much time and use too much resources to get that skilled.”
What’s more, being approached by a direct search firm gives candidates greater security, says Ekberg, which is crucial in a time when qualified executives have higher expectations compared to previous generations. “Generation X and Y are – as digital natives in the near future will be – more demanding. A work-life balance is more important and they need to be working in a good company that follows a politically correct code of conduct or isn’t polluting the environment. These generations also have a more global mind-set than previous generations, having travelled more and knowing more about foreign cultures and behaviours,” explains Ekberg.
Being perceived as an attractive employer from these generations, in times of skills shortage and demographic changes globally, will be key to success according to Ekberg. “Talent management needs to be developed coherently to reach a successful management culture.” In order to get the right candidates from this generation, Ekberg argues that it’s crucial to retain executive search rather than contingency, as a good result is dependent on substantial time and effort being put into research. To this end, a retained firm’s place in the market is never better than its last performance, essentially ensuring a high commitment to finding just the right executive for any firm.