In a large but comparatively sparsely populated country like Australia, the shortage of skilled personnel is felt quite differently than in Germany, for example. This poses challenges for Peter Waite, Partner InterSearch Australia, and his colleagues – not least because of the coronavirus pandemic. Australia reacted to the pandemic very rigorously and closed its borders. As Waite reports, the unemployment rate is very low, which is good news – in one way. “But due to COVID 19 we have not had any immigration for over two years so the market lacks candidates, which makes it difficult for us to do executive search in Australia,” Waite says.
Peter Waite has a track record of success in executive search spanning more than thirty nine years. He served on the Board of InterSearch World Wide for 12 years, including four years as Chairman and one year as Chairman of the Standards & Quality Committee. Peter has conducted assignments in Executive Search throughout Australia and has directed international appointments.
Executive Search Australia: Low unemployment makes it difficult
According to Waite, it has become more difficult to find quality executive level employees due to low unemployment. The field has become more competitive as companies are paying higher salaries and locking qualified employees in with “golden handcuffs”, Peter says. Moreover, the changing world of work will make the assignment more challenging as some businesses won’t allow remote working and candidates have a lot of choices.
Therefore Peter Waite recommends companies have a pipeline of talent pre-screened and interviewed, and use a reputable search firm like InterSearch to assist. He believes that executive search in Australia will still be required for C level and specialist roles, as clients and candidates will need an honest third party. “Candidates won’t trust an internal talent acquisition team when being approached for a role,” he explains.
Dealing with different cultures: Cross-border search
Despite all the challenges, Waite can nevertheless report success stories. For example, of a Belgian company that wanted to fill a position in Brisbane with an Australian. However, Brisbane is a good 2,000 kilometers away from the location of the InterSearch office in Melbourne. So appointments had to take into account not only the time zones between Europe and Australia, but also those within Australia. The client even flew to Australia to meet the selected candidates. In turn, the candidate ultimately selected had to go to Belgium for three weeks. The Belgian InterSearch office was helpful in this, introducing Waite and his colleagues to the client and helping them understand how the client operates in Belgium and around the globe.
“Cross-border business is sometimes challenging because you’re dealing with different cultures,” Waite says. “We have to make sure that the candidates we appoint understand the Australian environment and can also successfully work in the multi-national context and sometimes a matrix structure of the home country.”
Another global client in Australia asked Waite to find a managing director in India. “We referred them to Spearhead InterSearch, our partner in India, and briefed our colleagues on what the client was looking for, Waite says. It was their first executive search in India, so the client wanted InterSearch Australia to be involved not only in the search but also in the interview process. Spearhead India did all the research, interviewed candidates and provided all the progress reports. Australia interviewed the shortlist of candidates who were all based in India to ensure the candidates met all quality standards, that their command of English was sufficient and that they fit the culture of the Australian company in India.
“We received very positive feedback and also our Indian partners did very well and got further work from that,” Peter reports. “The Australian client could see a lot of benefit in working with us and our partners.” From there on, InterSearch Australia successfully completed about 20 assignments for this client in other Asian countries like Thailand, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.