3 questions to smart minds
Photo: Dr. Matthias Kestler

What are the trends in headhunting for supervisory and advisory board members?

For this 3 questions to Dr. Matthias Kestler

Board Xperts Ltd.
Photo: Dr. Matthias Kestler
26. Septem­ber 2023

Climate crisis, digi­ta­liza­tion and globa­liza­tion — these are all issues that are chan­ging the world of work. In 2020, the Corona crisis shifted the focus to rapidly advan­cing digi­tiza­tion. But there are a number of other focal points that will stron­gly influence the compo­si­tion of not only super­vi­sory boards and advi­sory boards in the future.

For this 3 ques­ti­ons to Dr. Matthias Kest­ler, Mana­ging Direc­tor of Board Xperts GmbH and foun­der of XELLENTO Execu­tive Search in Munich

1. Inde­pen­dent super­vi­sory and advi­sory boards are beco­ming incre­asingly important in compa­nies. How are these posi­ti­ons evolving?

With Board Xperts, we have been placing super­vi­sory and advi­sory board members since 2006, both for compa­nies with statu­tory super­vi­sory board obli­ga­ti­ons and for those with volun­t­ary control and super­vi­sory bodies. Based on our expe­ri­ence, we see eight trends:

  • Super­vi­sory boards and advi­sory boards are beco­ming more diverse.
  • The boards are rejuvenating.
  • Super­vi­sory boards and advi­sory boards are beco­ming more digital.
  • The commit­tees are beco­ming more international.
  • Super­vi­sory and advi­sory boards are beco­ming more profes­sio­nal (certi­fi­ca­tion).
  • Sustaina­bi­lity and ESG are manda­tory, no longer optional.
  • The work on a super­vi­sory or advi­sory board beco­mes more time-consuming.
  • Compen­sa­tion increases.

The top ranks of the Dax super­vi­sory bodies may still be domi­na­ted by “older men from the auto­mo­tive indus­try,” but that is chan­ging. The super­vi­sory bodies are incre­asingly made up of IT or sustaina­bi­lity experts. And they are beco­ming more profes­sio­nal, also because the requi­re­ments and the effort are incre­asing. Whereas in the past you spent about four days a year as a super­vi­sory board member, now it’s 10, 15 or 20 days. I assume that in five to ten years, corre­spon­ding certi­fi­ca­tes and further trai­ning will be manda­tory for super­vi­sory and advi­sory boards. But not only that, the staf­fing proces­ses them­sel­ves are beco­ming more sophisticated.

2. Do you use arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence in these staf­fing processes?

We defi­ni­tely use Linke­dIn and other plat­forms for our sear­ches, ChatGPT also faci­li­ta­tes certain proces­ses and work. But I don’t believe in matching algo­rithms like Linke­dIn uses. When I see what jobs are suggested to me even by the plat­form that suppo­sedly fit me and my profile, we are still light years away from perfec­tion. At the moment, we humans can simply do that better.

The expec­ta­ti­ons for the capa­bi­li­ties of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence are enorm­ous — but we cannot yet grasp the full possi­bi­li­ties. AI, in my opinion, will revo­lu­tio­nize not only HR but also entire compa­nies and indus­tries in the coming years. By the way, at this year’s HR Summit in Frank­furt, we and our parent company XELLENTO Execu­tive Search will be using Cove­s­tro as an exam­ple to show how AI can end the shortage of skil­led workers today and reig­nite it at the same time.

3. What are the most common mista­kes when working with recruiters?

“Bring us the best!” — Of course, we are looking for the “best” candi­da­tes. But you should also look at what favor you are doing yours­elf. Because the best quali­fied person is not auto­ma­ti­cally the best person for the company. Indus­try know­ledge can be acqui­red, miss­ing “skills” can be lear­ned if neces­sary — but “cultu­ral fit” is in the DNA. Or not.

“If you have a choice — take your time.” — Many hopeful new appoint­ments and repla­ce­ments fail because of the length of the selec­tion process. If there are too long “cooling-off” peri­ods between presen­ta­ti­ons, this does not inspire confidence.

“It’s not like we can tell you ever­y­thing!” — The first task of a person­nel consul­tant is to coll­ect a usable brie­fing from the client. No matter what the posi­tion. It is not useful to paint an embel­lished picture of the company in such discus­sions, as unfort­u­na­tely often happens. In the end, the truth prac­ti­cally always comes to light.

“America first.” — As in many indus­tries, large Ameri­can compa­nies are also on the move in the German recruit­ment consul­tancy market. Their size appears to be an advan­tage to some clients. But why hire a US company when German consul­tants are looking for German candi­da­tes for German compa­nies? Size is not neces­s­a­rily a quality here.

About Dr. Matthias Kestler

Dr. Matthias Kest­ler began his profes­sio­nal career in 1992 at the Hemmer Repe­ti­to­rium. He later swit­ched to the corpo­rate side and spent seve­ral years as Gene­ral Coun­sel at, among others, ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG active. His many years of expe­ri­ence in the field of human resour­ces were the start­ing point for his estab­lish­ment as a person­nel consul­tant in 2007. Toge­ther with Dieter Rickert and Rick Fulghum he foun­ded the company Rat.Haus and as a succes­sor company the person­nel consul­tancy XELLENTO Execu­tive Search. In 2020, Board Xperts and XELLENTO Execu­tive Search joined forces to colla­bo­rate in the areas of super­vi­sory board and advi­sory board staf­fing as well as HR consul­ting for top posi­ti­ons. In 2023, Matthias Kest­ler took over the sole manage­ment of Board Xperts.

Board Xperts’ company profile can be found in the FYB 2024 issue in Chap­ter 11.

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