This interview appeared in Handelszeitung's April 2019 print issue and can be viewed in full here.
In an interview with HANDELSZEITUNG, Simone Stebler discusses diversity, HR-Tech and why bosses need to be more approachable.
Handelszeitung: You used to work as a trial attorney - what do you take with you from that time for your current job?
Simone Stebler: In my ten years as a lawyer, I was often involved in conflict situations. The work was a lot of fun, but today I bring people together. When I thought about the change, I thought it might be more suited to me.
H: Does this help you to better understand what is going on in people who are in a similar situation?
SS: Yes, that is so. It's not just the personal experience of changing from one industry to another. It also requires a certain adjustment of identity, especially when you take a step up the career ladder. I see parallels when I accompany managers on their way up to management. For this reason, all of our consultants have a background in a different industry and have undergone a complete career change. My colleagues have worked, for example, in science, music or marketing.
H: What are currently the most important trends in the industry?
SS: Diversity is a trend that we are observing both in Switzerland and globally. Fortunately, we have an increasing number of projects aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion, whether in recruitment or leadership development. The second trend is the use of new technologies in the HR sector. We follow this scene very closely and register what is new and exciting. There are artificial intelligence and other online solutions that work with voice recognition, for example, and create entire personality profiles accordingly. Personally, however, I believe that human judgment cannot be replaced when filling positions. These new tools can provide clues and certain puzzle pieces and help to identify people, but they don't bring people to the same table yet.
H: Are you talking about recruitment services in general or executive search?
SS: I'm thinking especially of executive search at the top level. But also in general, the desire for more closeness is a trend that to a certain extent runs counter to digitalization. In our Millennials study it became clear that the youngest generation on the labour market wants their superiors to be more approachable. Therefore, a face-to-face interview will continue to play an essential role in the interview process. More technological solutions will create a desire for greater human proximity.
H: The millennials demand not only closeness, but also strong values and visionary thinking from leaders. Does this have an impact on executive search?
SS: Yes, we realize that visionary thinking and approachability - also in the sense of personal support and development of employees - are in demand from the younger generation. At the same time, however, they also need a certain humbleness and the ability to stand by their own mistakes and weaknesses, which in turn creates closeness. This human component will become increasingly important in the future - the ability to reflect on oneself as a person and to reinvent oneself again and again will also become central for leaders. At the same time, the millennials attach much less importance to status in the sense of job titles and roles, but much value to purpose.
"The desire for greater closeness is a trend that runs counter to digitization."Simone Stebler, Egon Zehnder
H: What other trends are you observing?
SS: Succession planning tends to be approached more long-term and prudently: We are increasingly being called in by companies to assess a talent pool consisting of internal candidates.
H: How important is diversity in your company?
SS: Very important. We now have a chairwoman and 36 percent female consultants as well as 44 percent women on the Executive Committee. We are not yet where we want to be and have set ourselves the goal of achieving a balanced gender balance by 2030.
H: What does the topic look like in day-to-day business?
SS: It's an important topic because we believe that a diverse environment is a prerequisite for innovation and motivation of employees and an inspiring working environment. I've already had some cancellations of exciting management roles for female candidates who argued that the proportion of women in the searching company was too low. In Switzerland as well as globally, we have many inquiries to identify female talents. There are many female talents, but they must be retained.
H: It is due to the founding of a family and the lack of structures for external child care?
SS: Yes, but working mothers are still not equally accepted in society as in France or the Nordic countries. It is also due to the internal corporate cultures, the overemphasis on male leadership qualities and power struggles that many women do not want to see. In my opinion, the challenges of the future lie in considering male and female leadership qualities to be of equal value and in emphasizing more cooperation".
Full interview: Simone Stebler: 'There are more and more diversity projects.' By Susan Wagner, 24 April 2019.