Fast Track: Head hunters and shrinks take a back seat

Psychological assessments and head-hunting are not the norm.
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The Independent Culture
To judge from the outpourings from consultants and other experts, you would imagine that there is hardly a management job in Britain that does not require applicants to go through psychological assessments and other formal selection procedures.

But research just published claims that this is far from the case. Only half of the group of top companies surveyed by recruitment specialists NB Selection use a formal procedure in choosing senior managers and even fewer use such objective approaches as psychological assessment.

Moreover, although the financial pages are full of stories of executives being lured from one organisation to another, two-thirds of senior managers are promoted internally. Companies that are particularly focused on this approach pay special attention to creating the "right" environment and development opportunities, while those that are more inclined to seek external appointments tend to focus more on remuneration and benchmarking, or comparing the abilities, of executives.

Indeed, increasing numbers of companies are discovering that remuneration is not by itself the most important motivator. Job content, personal/career development and company environment are all rated important.

Accordingly, although development opportunities tend to be limited to standard courses at business schools and elsewhere, organisations are recognising that the increasing store being set by such activities means that there is a need to make them more tailored to individual needs. Forty per cent of companies rated individual development programmes as the most successful initiative, while only 12 per cent rated business school courses as the most successful.

Elisabeth Marx of NB Selection - the main author of the report, produced in conjunction with the human capital services arm of Arthur Andersen - said: "It is evident that organisations cannot rely on standard solutions. The art of attracting and retaining senior executives lies in a systematic selection combined with flexible, individually tailored development programmes."

She added that the shift in motivational factors away from pay and job security towards personal development and challenging work meant that the future was likely to see more creative approaches to managing and retaining high flyers.

As Andersen's Nicki Demby stressed, the findings reinforce the need for organisations to "align remuneration strategy and business strategy and seek real returns in their human capital".

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