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HR Executives being looked over for CEO roles

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HR Executives being looked over for CEO roles

Pondering occupation of the firm’s highest office one day? Then it’s time to get commerce-savvy, if all you currently have in your arsenal is people expertise, a survey of SA’s top corporate employers has revealed.


In the latest Jack Hammer Corporate Survey, by leading executive search firm Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, entities polled represented the financial services, FMCG, retail and engineering industries. Asked whether their company would “ever consider appointing a candidate to an MD or CEO role, from an HR-focused background and with limited commercial experience”, the answer was a resounding “no” from 9 of the 10 respondents.


Only one organisation said that someone with Human Resources expertise and focus would be considered – but then only if they’d had responsibility for a P&L, and had displayed commercial talent.


Yet interestingly, when asked about the importance of skills, leadership and management (which implicitly require very strong people orientation) people expertise are always ranked at the top of the list.


“It is clear then that while a people focus is highly regarded, and a key requirement for someone who is going to be the head of an organization, without a demonstrable track record of having been accountable for commercial issues such as revenue generation, profitability, cost controls, etc, it is unlikely that even the most extraordinary human capital executive will make it to the corner office,” says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, MD of Jack Hammer.


“It is evident that the HR discipline is still regarded as a ‘soft skill’, even though organisations with great human capital strategies are clearly highly competitive in all respects. Nevertheless, without the above-mentioned experience, and some kind of commercial qualification or MBA, the HR exec’s route to the top job is most likely going to reach a cul-de-sac,” notes Goodman-Bhyat.


She says that internationally, it would not be unheard of for a philosophy major to land a major position, as employers were more accepting of diverse backgrounds, and able to absorb unusual thinkers bringing new dimensions to the workplace. However locally, a classic commercial education continues to be the non-negotiable.


“SA’s top corporates continue to seek the stellar numerical and analytical abilities essential to interpreting facts and figures, even if it may sometimes come at the cost of being better rounded in the workplace, with highly developed communication, creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills.


“That’s not to say that commercial savvy and financial acumen are not essential tools in a business leader’s kit – they certainly are. But South African corporates (and their boards who are answerable to shareholders) are extremely risk averse when making CEO appointments, and are unwilling to back strong leaders who don’t fit a ‘typical’ profile”.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat

Debbie entered the field of recruitment in 1998 with a financial services headhunting firm, and within one year she was one of the top billers in executive search in SA. In 2000 she established her own executive search firm, diversified the industry focus, and then partnered with Fusion Consulting in 2001. As the founder and Managing Director of JACKHAMMER, she is an industry-leading headhunter, placing top executives in SA's leading corporates for more than eight years. Her unique style and vision may come from her somewhat unconventional background as an award-winning contemporary dance choreographer, director and dancer! Now, as an entrepreneur in the business world, she maintains her passion for work and relentless drive to get it right.

Website: www.jhammer.co.za

More in this category: « SA Business Leaders need to think about their environment differently to thrive in tough economy The "Soft Stuff" Really Does Still Count! »

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