Can the human aspect be replaced? – Gerhard Michael Eckert

In a world that for decades has been focused on globalization, upscaling, technology and expansion, the appreciation for craftsmanship and smaller-scale operations seems to be on the rise. So, too, in executive search. I’m meeting with Michael Eckert, Managing Partner of Höchsmann & Company, to discuss the developments in his field.

“Have you noticed this trend in your work as well?”

Michael responds thoughtfully. “Yes and no. Compared to some other major executive search agencies, Höchsmann & Company is a relatively small, boutique firm. Yes, we do notice that the services we provide are highly appreciated. But we have always been held in high esteem by our clients, which is particularly reflected in their loyalty. Once they have gone through a search process with us, they return whenever they have an assignment.”

He explains that as a result of their structure and size, large(r) agencies tend to handle assignments in a more fragmented manner. According to practice groups, for instance. Which limits their ability to search beyond the scope of a particular industry.

“At Höchsmann & Company, one of our main strengths is that once I take on an assignment, I’m dedicated to the full process, from start to finish. I speak to the client and the candidates personally. I brief the research consultant and together we discuss what our best options are. And because we take a broad approach, we can introduce ‘unexpected’ candidates – we identify overlaps between fields and disciplines. Our way of working is extremely personal and every solution we offer is tailor-made.”

Gerhard Michael Eckart - Educator of clients & Crafter of candidates
“It’s a general rule within executive search that you don’t approach candidates who work for one of your clients. How do you deal with the restrictions this raises?”

“Large search firms have countless companies that are off-limits because of the sheer volume of their portfolios. Due to the smaller scale of our operations, this is not as much an issue for us. Generally speaking, we work for about two or three clients per specific field. That means that we have a much larger pool to search in. We can approach many more potentially suitable candidates for any given assignment, and can raise the bar in terms of who we consider sufficiently suitable to introduce to our clients.

Furthermore, we do not limit ourselves to searching within the same field. I believe a candidate with a background in a different industry can be of enormous value to an organization. He or she can offer a set of strengths, insights and expertise that can lift the organization to the next level. Often a new, fresh perspective can bring exactly the change that the future of a company demands but cannot find within its own arena.”

“What challenges or changes do you think the industry will face over the coming years? What does the future hold?”

“Technological advances and social developments towards medial self-presentation are valuable tools for us. A means to an end, but they can never replace the human aspect. Ours is an industry for which genuine contact and rapport are prerequisites. We have that talent, and we also have in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of companies. I was not ‘born and raised’ in executive search, but have personal experience in business.”

“What is the added value of an executive search firm, why shouldn’t organizations instigate a search themselves?”

“A company should not have to “sell itself” to a candidate.  It leads to skewed relationships. As an executive search consultant, I can call someone to discuss a potential position with a certain objectivity. I’m not personally involved. It’s my job to serve the interests of both parties. And besides, if there’s not a match, it’s much easier for me to call the process off without it leading to any sort of reproach. Remember: you always meet people twice in life.”

“A final question, going back to the initially mentioned focus on growth and globalization, and as you are emphasizing the boutique-character of your company does your service include searches beyond the German border?”

“Absolutely. We are member of the international IIC Partners network. That means where necessary or opportune, we team up with renowned executive search firms around the globe. This opens the door to a worldwide network, without losing our autonomy or having to compromise our personal approach. The interests of our clients and candidates always come first.”

Tags: Michael Eckert, Gerhard Michael Eckert, Gerhard Eckert, Meeting Michael Eckert, Höchsmann & Company KG, HR consultancy, executive search, crafter of candidates, educator of client

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