A global leader in water treatment with approximately 4,000 employees operating in 30 countries worldwide was facing a critical issue at their most important production site in Europe. This site was part of an international cluster of plants going through a transformation. However, unlike in Asia and Latin America which embraced a "can-do" attitude resulting in increased productivity, the German site was lagging in adopting a more proactive mindset despite its great potential and committed workforce. Given the plant's history as a family-owned operation, which has left a distinct cultural imprint, the site needed a transformational Plant and General Manager who would drive progress while avoiding excessive disruption, someone who is risk tolerant and can see that long-term gains will outweigh any short-term difficulties.
Before engaging Pacific International, two previously appointed managers were unsuccessful at achieving their goals. One individual was ineffective, while the other was too radical in their approach to change. Therefore, the company sought a leader who could strike a balance between the two and inspire much-needed change among the employees. The cultural fit played an important aspect in this appointment.
The search for the right leader had to be kept confidential, and the company had high expectations for the chosen candidate. The new Plant Manager not only needed to understand P&L responsibilities but also harmonize the plant’s strategic goals with the primary focus on health and safety as the site had been struggling to meet the required safety standards.
Moreover, the ideal candidate not only needed to be proficient in English and familiar with the US culture, given the company’s American roots but also had to be well-integrated into German traditional culture given where the plant is located.
Given the confidential nature of the mandate, Pacific opted for active sourcing and acting as a client’s brand ambassador by bringing their story to life as a go-to-market strategy. This involved leveraging existing networks and relationships to cover a broad spectrum of potential leaders, especially in Germany, where previous successful Plant Manager searches had been conducted discreetly. As with any Executive Search mandate, a critical element of the strategy was ensuring a diverse shortlist of candidates.
Regular strategy and update meetings with key decision-makers, including the Head of HR and the Director of Operations responsible for the entire cluster, are key to the success of any search. Ensuring alignment with the client’s specific needs and objectives and the optimization of the executive search process mitigates the risks of losing talent due to avoidable delays.
Rigorous assessments and screening interviews of the top 4 candidates conducted during the search ensured they were thoroughly evaluated for personality, cultural fit, and a strong drive for action, essential qualities for success in the role.
The top candidate was invited for an on-site visit to the plant, enabling further in-person assessments and a deeper understanding of the candidate’s suitability for the role which also provided him an opportunity to meet a Board member who was visiting from the company’s headquarters.
An Executive Search firm is often engaged when there is a need to identify the proverbial ‘needle in the haystack,’ and in this instance, that was precisely what Pacific’s experts delivered. The candidate selected for the Plant Manager role possessed the necessary leadership skills and a strong health and safety awareness obtained via his experience in manufacturing, having gained valuable insights into American corporate culture through an MBA from a US-based university.
Additionally, their familiarity with local traditions and customs, growing up in the area where the plant is located, made them a strong cultural fit. Furthermore, their unique perspective on the plant’s history and cultural heritage was informed by their mother’s previous employment at the facility 30 years ago.
The client is extremely pleased with the appointment, especially given that Pacific completed this complex search in just 6 weeks. The candidate assumed the new role a little over two and a half months ago and is thriving in the new environment, actively working on integrating the site into the broader global context following an acquisition. With the successful completion of this project, Pacific has solidified a close working relationship with the firm and is now actively engaged in other critical mandates.