HR Executives being looked over for CEO roles

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25 February 2013

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”.


ISSUED BY: Lange 360
For more information contact:
Debbie Goodman-Bhyat at Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters on 021 425 6677
Mervyn Dziva at Lange 360 on 021 448 7407

About Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters

Jack Hammer provides a fresh approach to executive headhunting by cutting through
the ordinary. They have achieved this over the last decade by using strategic
research to drill down and expand their market intelligence beyond the obvious and
source the real gems of talent. The knowledge gained in the process enables them to
give clients a competitive edge by ensuring they find the right executive talent –
in a manner that is both responsible and ethical.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat

Debbie is the founder and Managing Director of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters –
rated by the Business Day as one of SA’s leading executive search firms.
Jack Hammer, with Debbie at its helm, has become a cornerstone of the South African
headhunting sector, continually and vocally aiming to raise the bar in the local
executive search industry. As a result, in 2011 Jack Hammer was selected as the
exclusive South African partner of IRC Global Executive Search Partners, a top 10
global search firm, and has now extended its global footprint to more than 70 cities

Debbie is a founding member of the Cape Town Chapter of EO – a global
Entrepreneurship Organisation with more than 8500 members worldwide.

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