Top 3 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Executive Search Firm

executive-search-firm-torontoIf your company is looking to hire an executive for a top-level position(or any key position), you should not underestimate the importance of choosing the right executive search firm. Pick one that’s not as qualified or one that doesn’t have the appropriate values that fit with your organization, and you lose valuable time or are stuck with the wrong candidate.

To better determine the best firm for your needs, here are the top three questions to ask before hiring an executive search firm in Toronto, or elsewhere:

  1. What executive search experience are you backed with? What type of experience and knowledge does the executive search firm have.

This is a critical question to ask to the prospective company you are considering to better gauge if they have the expertise and the ability to attract high quality targeted candidates who fit your organization’s culture and requirements. Ask about their type and breadth of experience, the number of successful candidate placements they have completed. The diversity of experience and learning and more examples they share or case studies they have the better. In the end you should be confident that they have the right skill sets and experience in hand to deliver the candidate who is best for your organization.

  1. How will we work together?

Knowing your responsibilities when it comes to providing the search firm with what they need is important, so you and the prospective firm you are looking to hire are both on the same page. Ask them their process of how they plan to go about fulfilling your requirements. Ask them if they will be available to offer your firm any recruitment guidance, or answer questions when need be, establish the type and method of communication you require to feel comfortable. Make sure you get a clear idea of the roles and responsibilities each of you will have. What you are looking for is an executive job search firm that is accountable, communicates well and will address any issues or concerns you have in the process of finding your match. And, more importantly, will be a brand extension to your organization and support your values.

  1. How long does it take to find the right candidate?

You may need someone right away, but you need to set a realistic deadline to make sure that that someone is the right person for the job. Ask about the expected time it takes to get the job done right. A good, experienced executive search firm will more than likely be able to give you a fair assessment and evaluation of the work involved and the time they need to conduct a systematic, detailed and comprehensive job search.

Some last pointers to remember are that you need to pick a firm that will best represent your company in the hiring process and can best communicate the needs of your organization to the prospective candidate. You will need to be as articulate as possible in communicating your needs and expectations to the search firm to guarantee best results.

With decades of executive search experience, we at The Hermann Group, recognize and support the unique needs of our clients, and the often-volatile environment in which we all operate. We work with our clients to gain an understanding of their organization, and identify distinct challenges and opportunities.

We then develop a tailored and focused methodology to ensure success. Ongoing communication and provision of valuable marketplace insights is a consistent feature in all of our service offerings. For over 20 years, our firm has successfully placed candidates in Toronto and around the country. Contact us today to help you find the right functional leader or executive for your company.

Image courtesy of Sommai at

Managing the future of your company (and your productivity!)

ID-100121567It’s easy for business leaders to get caught up in the now and spend the majority of their time putting out fires or responding to deadlines. You’re keeping your department running and meeting expectations, but a great leader, one that climbs the ranks and makes a difference, is proactive rather than reactive. I urge my coaching clients to take twenty minutes a day to think strategically about the short-term and long-term future of their company (and position). Close your office door, put your phone on silent, shut down your email and write down answers to a few of the following questions. You should be honest with yourself and use this time to brainstorm solutions.

  • What am I spending most of my time on? Is this an efficient use of my time? What needs to change in order to maximize my productivity?
  • How can we streamline (one of our) processes? How can I help create this change?
  • What are my weaknesses in this position? Who can help me? How can I improve?
  • What is holding us back from achieving (one of our) deliverables? What needs to change? How can I help create this change?
  • What is changing in my department, the company, the industry and/or my life? What will the impacts of this change be? How can I prepare for it?

This exercise ensures that you have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your department, the company, and yourself. At your next business meeting you will be able to speak with confidence about the status of your projects, what you/your department needs to success, and boast about the new projects you’ve put in place to maximize results.

What do you do to help prioritize and strategize at work?

We Recommend: The Global HR Practitioner Handbook

We support Global Immersion Press’s mission to promote the teaching and learning of global HR around the world.

GHR_postcard_v3The Global HR Practitioner Handbook takes basic global HR topics and considers them from the perspective of HR practitioners who play a leadership role in the management of human capital for their global organizations.

The main purpose of the handbook is to promote the dissemination of the body of knowledge of global HR as it is practiced around the world—especially by people and organizations that are ahead of the industry standard. It is intended as a primer for both academics (university faculty and students) as well as HR practitioners who want to learn more about the body of knowledge of global HR through the shared experience of some of its leading practitioners. It supplements rather than replaces the many fine academic textbooks available by focusing on the real-world experience and tacit knowledge of global HR practitioners.
The Global HR Practitioner Handbook is published in modular format and is available in soft and hard copy. It is organized into three levels of depth: basic, specialized and advanced. This allows the reader to follow a customized learning path based on personal expertise. Basic modules provide an opportunity to understand a particular HR topic from a global perspective. Specialized modules treat a topic specific to a region or country. Advanced modules deal with a global HR topic at a more complex level and in greater depth.

Each module is addressed from the same vantage point and answers the following questions:
  • Why is this global HR topic important to successful global organizations?
  • What are the major issues related to this topic?
  • What are current leading practices?
  • What is the role of global HR and what competencies are needed to effectively address these issues?

It is a great tool, and we highly recommend it. It may be purchased here for $49.95 US

Turning co-workers into a community

Written by David Singh with contributions from Gerlinde Herrmann, published in Metro News April 8, 2014.

Turning Co-Workers Into A CommunityFrom introverted employees to a tight- knit team. ’Cause wouldn’t it be nice to work together, in the kind of office where you belong?

If you have a full-time job, chances are the office is your primary home. Try to fight the idea as much as you want, but in the end, it’s the cold, hard truth. “When you think of the amount of time an individual spends at work, it’s more time than they spend with their family.” says Gerlinde Herrmann, president of The Herrmann Group, an HR consulting firm. That’s why it’s so important to develop a sense of community at work. Walking into a warm, pleasant environment each day can have a profound impact on your well-being. And guess what — the power to improve this community spirit lies squarely in your hands. Here are three steps you can take to build fellowship at work.

The first key to building community spirit is conversation. This means being in a workplace where people actually talk to each other as opposed to burying their heads independently at their desks. “If you work in a silent environment, don’t be afraid to take the initiative to just say something and break the ice,” says Myles Harrison, founder of The Conversationalists, a Toronto group that brings members together to engage in stimulating discussions and ‘revive the lost art of conversation.’ Harrison says to avoid clichés like “How was your weekend?” or “How about the weather …” These are basically conversation killers. Instead, focus on common interests that your co-workers may share, such as current events.

Office get-togethers
An office outing is the next step in uniting your colleagues. First off, ask your team what they want to do, says Meg Sethi, president of Evolution Public Relations, a firm that plans events to create awareness around different brands. After that, make a feasible budget and present the idea to your HR department. “It would be nice to ask for financial support — if it’s a company get-together and the main reason is to create community spirit,” says Sethi.

Don’t be afraid to venture from the traditional company dinner. Instead, maybe plan a trip to the aquarium, or take part in a wine tasting or a food-making class. There are also plenty of charity-related activities to consider. “I think it’s just nice to offer different types of activities that will really initiate conversation between employees,” she says. “Making sure you do something different that stimulates them is always more successful than just a party.”

Rearranging the office space
This is obviously the most ambitious step. It involves some effort on your behalf, but it can be done, says Herrmann. Rearranging the office to foster community spirit can range from removing high walls from cubicles, creating collaboration rooms, and making a centralized water cooler. The trick is selling it to your employer. “I think you have to present things as a win-win,” Herrmann says. “In a non-confrontational way, say something like, ‘(We) have some ideas on how we can create a more collaborative work environment. Would you be interested in testing some of this out?’” While it can be intimidating to bring this up with your boss, Herrmann says that most companies welcome ideas for improvement from their employees.

How can the millennial workforce help my company succeed?

Young Worker - Executive Search Firm TorontoThe debate rages on about the merits of the millennial generation as this satirical video of a group of millennials apologizing for their failures went viral this week. It seems as if not a month passes without a prominent media outlet writing about the hardships, merits, or weaknesses of this generation of workers. The debate has not matured. Our President Gerlinde Herrmann wrote the article posted below for HRPA in March 2010, yet her advice to clients has not had to change: take advantage of what this generation can do, not least of all because they are the future of your company.


“The younger workforce/new grads, those generally in the 20-25 age group, are a generally underutilized part of the labour pool.

Over the last two years, many new grads have had frustrating job-hunting experiences. Companies have reduced job openings and when they have them, they ask for very specific experience — even when hiring contract or part time. Co-op, work terms and intern opportunities have also been scarce. Often these well-educated new workers have had to resort to making lattes, selling jeans or at best doing part-time work within their fields.

Even when there is potential work, many employers are hesitant to employ from Generation Y because it is felt that their expectations are unrealistic. Such concerns as: Are they willing to do the “grunt work” and pay their dues? Are they willing to do the job whatever it takes which can well mean longer hours? Can they take supervision? Do they need continual positive reinforcement (having received that from parents and teachers for so long)?

Yet, we can’t afford not to engage these bright young hopefuls. Somehow, it has been forgotten that before we entered this recession we were well aware of a looming talent shortage. Talent! Which every organization needs to stay in the game and succeed — especially after this latest grueling downturn. It’s no longer business as usual and without the appropriate talent how can one lead with strength? Many organizations have taken their collective eye off the talent crunch. These “kids” are our future and we haven’t brought them onboard enough to start filling the pipeline.

With all that in mind, what can this underutilized workforce do? They can: Demonstrate the “can-do” attitude and exuberance of youth. Be willing to take a job to prove themselves and understand that promotions need to be earned. And, an important advantage – they can use their almost instinctive tech skills to help the business. Show where there’s “an app for that”! The added advantage for an employer is their need for interesting work and challenge. This is a great time to combine a number of requirements in roles.”

What has your experience with millennial workers been?

Further Reading

Best Practices for Hiring a Property Manager

An article written by Gerlinde Herrmann and Fiorella CalloCChia for Condo Business Magazine August 2013. Fiorella is a fellow HR expert who has extensive experience developing proven strategies which help companies attract, select, assess and retain top talent. 

Property ManagerToday’s property manager isn’t wearing a tool belt, he or she is a key member of the leadership team. That means the property manager is expected to not only keep residents satisfied but to make a significant contribution to strategy, and develop and safeguard key assets such as the building, its staff and his or her company’s reputation. Now that the property manager plays a pivotal role as ambassador to an organization’s clients, staff and contractors, it’s more important than ever to make good hires. The following steps will outline how a property management company can source, attract and sign a great property manager.

Step 1: Planning
This is the most critical yet overlooked step of the recruitment and selection process, usually because there is tremendous pressure to fill the job (especially if it’s vacant). Keep in mind that the impact and costs associated with making a bad or wrong hire are enormous. Plus, time invested in pre-planning will pay huge dividends.

This is the most critical yet overlooked step of the recruitment and selection process, usually because there is tremendous pressure to fill the job (especially if it’s vacant). Keep in mind that the impact and costs associated with making a bad or wrong hire are enormous. Plus, time invested in pre-planning will pay huge dividends.

To start, decide who will lead the process and be part of the interview and selection committee. The individuals selected will ideally have knowledge of the role, the organization, the culture and the success criteria. Define the process and roles/responsibilities of the committee members as well as timing for the key steps.

Next, agree on the recruitment strategy. At this stage, the organization may consider hiring a search firm to assist in preparing the job description, provide information on the job market, advise on all aspects of the compensation package and assist in preparing the offer.

Review, update and document the key responsibilities and deliverables for the role and identify how performance will be assessed in the first 100 days. This information will be used to develop job postings/advertisements.

Discuss and agree on the key skills and competencies required for success. In addition to business and financial acumen, also focus on the important behavioural skills such as leadership, customer care/ service orientation, impact and influence, conflict resolution, and the ability to build relationships based on trust and respect.

Don’t forget that at the same time the organization is assessing candidates, the candidates are assessing the organization to determine whether it’s a place they’d like to work. To that end, the interview and selection committee should agree on the company’s value proposition: What makes the company a great place to work? What are its most attractive features and benefits? This could include development opportunities, training, competitive compensation, great buildings, leaders who care and contemporary HR practices such as flex hours and place.

Have an honest conversation with members of the selection and interviewing committee about the culture of the specific building and how to assess the candidate’s fit. The appropriate cultural fit is a critical success factor, and the absence of it can lead to a failed employment relationship – even if the individual has great technical skills.

Consider emotional intelligence and leadership assessments that identify core strengths and development needs to determine and predict potential success in the role. The assessments can also be used to help the new manager create their professional learning plan and build their capabilities.

Step 2: Sourcing and attracting qualified property managers
Ensure the job opportunity is marketed in the appropriate talent pools. The most effective and efficient way to fill the position is to promote highly capable individuals within the company. The second best method is to tap into the networks of employees, residents and suppliers, which can accelerate the chances of finding top notch candidates.

This can also mean thinking outside of traditional talent pools. Consider advertising and conducting searches within hospitality or comparable sectors, where the focus on customer care is of paramount importance. Also consider implementing an employee referral program in which employees are paid a fee for recommending candidates that are eventually hired.

Other proven approaches include optimizing social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and posting the job on relevant association websites.

Step 3: Screening and interviewing candidates
Although screening candidates is one of the most important steps in the process, hiring managers typically don’t spend sufficient time reviewing incoming resumes against their requirements. Screening requires scrutinizing resumes for the must-have list of qualifications. It’s also critical to read and assess resumes as they come in and avoid the temptation to wait a week or two until more are accumulated. Companies that understand that candidates with marketable skills are in demand act quickly to screen and interview candidates. Technology has shortened the hiring cycle to the point that it’s possible to screen, interview and hire a solid candidate within one week these days.

Step 4: Conducting reference and background checks
Regardless of how impressive the candidate is, always check references and validate credentials essential to the position. If possible, speak to both former managers and staff to obtain a balanced view of the candidate’s past performance and behaviour. Stick to questions that are job-related and avoid asking anything that is not permissible, as per the Ontario Human Rights Code. The practice of hiring a specialized organization to conduct a financial or criminal record check is becoming increasingly popular, especially if the person filling the position will have access to the kinds of assets a condominium property manager does.

Step 5: making the offer of employment
Deciding to make an offer of employment is a pinnacle moment for an employer. Ideally, an excellent candidate has been identified and now it’s a matter of putting together “an offer they can’t refuse.” Keep in mind that it’s difficult for most people to negotiate on their own behalf, so ensure the offer reflects what the candidate is looking for.

If the person is unemployed, resist the urge to lowball them, as it doesn’t help build a long-term employment relationship. Compensating people fairly and commensurately with the value they bring is the key to getting off on the right foot. If the salary requirements can’t be met, consider adding a small sign-on bonus, providing additional vacation time in the first year, giving paid personal days or offering the opportunity to work from home. It’s usually more cost effective to negotiate in good faith with the number one candidate than go back to the drawing board and start the process all over again.

Also ensure the employment offer is in language that is easy to understand. If it’s fraught with legalese, the candidate will need to hire a lawyer at their own expense. Offering to reimburse these costs will go a long way in building trust in the relationship.

Step 6: integrating and retaining a valuable manager
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team of people to successfully induct, orient and integrate a new manager. Hiring and selecting for such a key role as property manager takes time, effort and financial investment. To protect and get a high return on this important investment, read the “Lessons learned” to ensure a new property manager is engaged, motivated and ultimately stays with the organization.

The costs related to employee turnover, whether it’s voluntary or involuntary, are like an iceberg – 80 per cent of the impact is below the water line. Turnover is very expensive not only from a financial standpoint, but from a reputational standpoint for the organization. A strong employment brand takes years to build, so guard it judiciously.

Is the 21st century going to be the Century of Human Capital?

At the SHRM Conference in Chicago, Fareed Zakaria spoke about the rise in importance of human capital in the 21st century. The ability to enter into competition or start new business ventures is easier than ever given the increased access to technology, information and financial resources. These factors are no longer the barriers to entry that differentiate which companies succeed or fail. The key differentiator of the 21st century: the ability to attract, engage and retain talent. I agree with Fareed and would add that it’s not just talent but the range of skills and people that are needed to keep a company innovating. That’s a whole different kind of talent.

The barrier to innovation has been reduced by 95%.  Innovation is the new driver for business. You need only think of the smartphone market; how far blackberry has fallen behind and how Android, a late arrival, is now giving Iphones a run for their money. You don’t know whose nipping at your heels ready to take your place in the market.  Even though these considerations often seem in the realm of CEOs and Boards of Directors, Human Resources professionals need to be front and center supplying their company with the right mix of talent capable of keeping the company innovative. Regardless of the sectors, size of organization, type of product or service, global or local – all organizations face the same challenge:  How to attract, engage and retain the right type of workforce necessary for its sustainability.  This is the largest barrier to entry and risk to organizations.

HR must be at the table when developing business strategy. How else can they provide meaningful leadership on the range of people needed to be successful? Once the business strategy has been created by the business team (marketing, sales, finance, technology and YES HR), then HR can begin building meaningful HR strategies to ensure the company stays ahead of their competitors.

Five reasons remote work may not be right for your company

Reduces upfront costs: check.
Perk for many employees: check.

Working from home

Working remotely is sounding pretty good so far. But with the good comes the bad, and for some companies remote work is either simply not worth it or requires a lot of strategic consideration. Here are five things I often tell my clients about remote work:

1. Remote communication leaves room for misunderstandings
A poorly worded email can quickly send an employee spiralling in to uncertainty. Take this email, for example: “Return this to me with edits by 5:00pm”. Was this email written in a rush, from a desire to be clear about expectations, or out of dissatisfaction? Without seeing the person’s mood, body language or tone – it’s quite hard to tell. Even a phone call can leave an employee feeling anxious if the person they were speaking to on the phone was unknowingly distracted. Remote workers must be excellent communicators or miscommunications, hurt feelings, and ultimately low morale can run rampant.

2. Technical issues can hinder productivity

I know the ins and outs of this one better than most. In order to stay up to date with the latest HR trends, I spend a lot of time connecting remotely from conferences or between board meetings. Though our office spends a great deal of time and resources on tech support, being unable to connect to our database or a sudden computer glitch has been known to happen. Technical issues disrupt productivity at the best of times, but when working remotely the time sink is much greater.  In an office environment tech support is  on hand (or at least several people to bounce ideas off of), you can borrow a colleagues computer or use an empty office in a pinch, and being able to access company resources or databases becomes less of an issue. If you do promote working remotely, invest in your remote functionality and ensure that your employees are well acquainted with troubleshooting their computers or know whom to call in case there are issues.

3. Relationships are best built in person
In a similar vein, it’s very hard to really get to know someone over email. Over the phone it’s a bit easier, and skype even better… but trust and camaraderie is much more easily fostered in person. Holiday parties, birthday lunches, pay-day after-work beers, picking up a coffee for a colleague, putting in late nights together to meet a deadline, showing off pictures of your recent vacation – these casual interactions all contribute to feelings of familiarity and trust. There’s no question that colleagues work better together when they’re comfortable voicing their ideas and challenges. If remote work is the direction your business is heading, you may want to budget for the occasional business-wide in-person meetings, or encourage your employees living in the same area to occasionally conduct their meetings over lunch.

4. Remote work can lead to low-motivation
Some people do work best given their own space with minimal interruptions, but research shows we’re just not often able to effectively power through 8 hours of work without taking breaks. While at home breaks may mean a quick browse of personal websites or (in my case) organizing closets), office environments allow for more stimulating breaks like chatting with a colleague or going out to get a coffee. These types of breaks are more energizing, and provide opportunities to share ideas or problems. They also happen organically throughout the day, which helps to keep energy levels up and new ideas flowing. Except for the very few, we are social beings who need human interaction to grow and prosper. Remote work requires dedication and creativity to ensure this fundamental human requirement is met.

5. Water cooler talk is not just gossip
The fabled water cooler as a time sink, gossip center is unfair. Office gossip has been known to create miscommunications or ill feelings, but it’s also a very important retention vehicle. It makes people feel a part of issues affecting the office, their industry and their colleagues – it creates a sense of loyalty to people and place. It also allows employees to understand issues that are occurring in other departments, which means they can adjust their work or solve an issue when appropriate. An office environment can make employees feel more committed and valued, remote managers must work harder to create a loyal business culture.

Remote work may be the best set-up for your business, but keep these five downsides in mind and adjust your HR strategy accordingly. As I tell clients, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when developing policy. It is a balancing act that requires strategic consideration of your environment, culture and workforce.

2013: A Year of Change for Corporate Governance?

Board MeetingChange is coming slowly but surely to boardrooms across Canada as the push to see more women on boards gain federal attention. With only 10% of director roles being given to women, and not much change over the last 5 years, Canada is falling behind other OECD countries. I think TD Bank deputy chief economist Beata Caranci says it best: “it implies a market failure to appreciate the skills and perspectives that women can bring to the table.” But it’s more than simply a failure of the system, it’s a lost opportunity.

A good friend of mine, Dr. Chris Bart, co-authored a study in which women scored higher than men on problems involving complex decisions. It seems that men are more likely to rely on traditional rules and regulations when making decisions, while women tend to challenge tradition and defined power structures. Someone who will push boundaries, question decisions, and solve problems creatively reads like a Board of Director’s job description. Companies are losing out when they undervalue the role female directors can play.

In response, the Government of Canada has formed a committee to discuss how Canadian boards can be better equipped. Several ideas have been bounced around in the media over the last year including a quota system, voluntary target or a ‘comply or explain’ scheme. A quota system similar to that found in France and Norway would mandate companies to have a percentage of women on their board. Were we to follow in Britain’s example a voluntary target system would ask companies to set a target and report on their progress, though no action would be taken if a target was not set. The Ontario Securities Commission broke the media tension on July 30th when it announced its proposal for a ‘comply or explain’ standard for publicly traded companies. It would mandate that publicly traded companies disclose their efforts in regard to diversifying their board in their annual corporate governance report. Its aim is to pressure companies to develop a policy by putting more information in to stakeholders hands.

The consultation paper, found here, is open for your comments until September 27th. While this is only the first step towards putting standards in place, increased pressure to see women at the board room table is a reality. Best to get ahead of this expectation and act now – Draw up a policy, a recruitment strategy, or give us a call. Who knows, you may just find yourself with a more well rounded and effective board.

What’s your experience been with boards? What do you think of a ‘comply or explain’ system?

Globe and Mail Coverage
January 25, 2013 – An optimistic view of board diversity
March 6, 2013 – Financial services boards move toward gender equity
March 25, 2013 – Female board members better than men on complex issues: study
April 5, 2013 – Members named for committee to boost women in boardrooms
April 7, 2013 – Fix Canada’s dismal record on appointing women to corporate boards
April 26, 2013 – To get more women on corporate boards, Canada must be bold
May 1, 2013 – Europe helps boost global growth of women on boards, but Canada little changed
May 28, 2013 – How the number of women on boards of directors has grown
May 28, 2013 – ‘Comply or explain’ a smart way to get more women on boards
May 28, 2013 – New rules aim for equality in Ontario’s corporate boardrooms
July 30, 2013 – OSC proposes gender equity policy for boards