Meet The Consultant...With Barbara Ozanon

In our new series we are turning the spotlight internally, to the Hanson Search Consultant Team. From our offices in London, Europe, UAE and US, our team of expert consultants source the best talent globally – from PR pros to digital marketing experts and beyond. This blog is where the team will share their journey into recruitment, share insights and trends on their markets and give advice to both employers and candidates.

For our next blog we speak with Barbara Ozanon, Associate Partner and Head of Europe at Hanson Search. Her expertise ranges from corporate communications to public affairs, content and digital marketing across Europe. She advises and supports global strategic consultancies, network agencies and international corporations across different sectors such as healthcare, retail, food & drink as well as large scale start-ups.

How did you get into Executive Search?

By chance! In 2015 I built a social media boutique consultancy with two friends. They were the digital experts and I was the business manager, and we rapidly grew our team to a dozen consultants. After some ups and downs and with the help of external business advisors we changed our business model to only work as on-site social media consultants for our clients. My role was to find short-term contracts for our consultants at the most prestigious international marketing agencies or with in-house brands. The demand was high. We trained all our consultants to a high, quality standard and I had to keep recruiting to meet our clients’ expectations. 

However, setting up business with friends is not easy and tensions arose to say the least. I changed my status on LinkedIn as “Open to work” and that’s when Hanson Search contacted me. I met with Janie Emmerson (Managing Partner UK & EU) and Alice Weightman (Founder and CEO) for a first interview and after 5 mins I knew I wanted to work with these inspiring women. I didn't know a lot about Executive Search at the time, but I realised that I was already doing temp recruitment work in a way (placing consultants on temp contracts). 

The people management side is my strength as I’m a social person, a good listener and a “cheerleader” as I’ve been told. As I had learned so much about how to run a business and the HR challenges faced, that when Hanson Search offered me to take over their European market, it just sounded like the perfect role to me.

Can you tell us a little about your current role?

I'm an Associate Partner at Hanson Search and I lead on the European desk. The great part of my role is to be able to work across-countries and with a diverse and multicultural pool of candidates and clients. Many of the briefs that I take are inter-country, for example a German brand wanting to launch their operations in France, or a US company looking for a Brussels-based public affairs director to run their advocacy strategy across Europe. I enjoy this melting pot and I find it fascinating to deal with a variety of cultures, learning from them and adapting to them.  

I'm proud to lead a fantastic team of consultants and researchers, and together we cover communications, public affairs, marketing and sales roles across continental Europe. My team members come from different backgrounds and nationalities, reflecting the work we do across the European markets. Each consultant is unique and together we are strong. Seeing them developing, building markets, supporting each other and growing is one the best parts of my job.

I'm also a member of the Hanson Search leadership team where I take part in the strategy meetings where we discuss the company vision, challenges and management topics. I truly enjoy having a seat at this team where I can contribute to the wider business and commit to the success of the firm on a deeper level. It's truly rewarding to feel heard and to have a say about the wider objectives of the business. 

What challenges/trends are you currently seeing on your market?

A lot has changed in the last two years... 

Firstly, lockdown really shook our markets and as recruiters we saw the impact on people. Talent is now talking about flexibility, remote working, part-time and work life balance... Words that were “taboo” in the past are now normal. I believe that what talent are really looking for is trust from their employer/manager. They have proved they can work, most of the time even better, while in lockdown with no supervision and they don't want to go back to an overlooked/micro-management style. 

I also witnessed a lot of relocating among talent to their home countries or from the big cities to the countryside, to find a better quality of life and to be closer to their families. The challenge this brings is more on the junior level where they need face to face mentoring to learn and develop. A balance needs to be found. 

Managing Directors and CEOs are listening. I'm having daily conversations with top management leaders on how to manage and deal with these new trends to retain and attract talent. They are seeking my advice and want to know what we've seen working in the market.

Secondly, Brexit. We've seen a lot of companies in the UK and US, wanting to have an offering in the European market, creating new opportunities within EU countries. I've taken a lot of roles across Europe to launch EU operations and increase their European presence. Particularly in the Public Affairs and Government Relations sector, where EU companies need to strengthen their relationships and UK companies need to create new offerings, it is a very interesting game to watch. 

Thirdly, the health crisis, economic uncertainty and sustainability concerns have awakened the need for companies to reinforce their communication with the public and governmental institutions, to create deeper internal change - which once again they need to communicate about. We've seen a lot of opportunities in the field of crisis and issue management, ESG, internal communications, government relations and corporate affairs in the last two years, creating a lot of opportunities and new roles on the market. 

As the war on talent continues, what techniques have you seen businesses operating in industry use to attract and retain talent?

When thinking about attracting and retaining talent, businesses must think about the full recruitment process, from the very first encounter with a potential hire to the day after they leave. Businesses are now more than ever seeking our advice as recruiters and I'm glad to be able to share my experiences with them.

Among the best practices we've seen are where employers are change their recruitment approach, by using external advisors and support to act as ambassadors for their brand. Also reviewing their process by including more senior people in the recruitment process to show the potential hire how valued they are. Also organising a social event with the candidate during the interview process to create a strong bond with the team (when covid measures allowed).  

Companies are also now providing more feedback to candidates who are not successful. They understand that these candidates will spread the word about the company, and it's in their interest that they create a positive experience, even when the result isn't. 

The onboarding process is a crucial step that has been a real challenge for businesses during lockdown and caused a lot of unsatisfied employees and early departures. Companies have learnt from this. They now understand the importance of the first days/weeks experiences for an employee within their organisation. Having a clear HR onboarding process where the new joiners can learn about the company, its procedures, its people and where they have a specific training, will make a huge difference in their ability to integrate, the speed of their efficiency and their overall happiness within the business. 

One of the top three reasons why candidates leave their job is the lack of clarity in their career progression. Defining a clear career path is absolutely key to retaining talent, along with providing development, training and mentoring programs. This is one of the top concerns of talent today - at all levels. 

In this talent war companies also understand that they need to give more than a title and a job, they need to give a purpose and a vision. Talent needs to feel part of the global picture, they need inspiration, a direction to take and a goal to reach. The value proposition of companies is no longer targeted only to their clients, but also to their team and it must be breathed by the top management.

Last but not least, a step that still a lot of businesses forget is the exit interview. When an employee leaves it is crucial for the employer to understand why and get feedback on their experience within the business. Companies who conduct these exit interviews will learn lots about how to improve their employee experiences. Not to mention that an employee leaving could negatively talk about the company. 

Overall, I would say that trust and active listening are two fundamentals to retain talent nowadays. 

How can companies benefit from working with a recruiter for their talent hiring process?

As a business Hanson Search has 25 years of experience and a great network across the industry. We are knowledgeable and trusted advisors to our clients. We've helped build businesses and supported them to expand internationally. We act as ambassadors for their brands, create excitement for their roles, help with opening conversations, make the right introductions and manage negotiations. 

Companies benefit from our knowledge, our deep understanding of both the industry and the talent market. In these unprecedented times business leaders need allies, as they do for their communications, and it is in their best interest to seek support in this talent war. 

Our role is evolving and that makes me enjoy my job even more. We are more than just recruiters, we advise businesses on their talent strategy, we know where to look, how to assess talent for their specific needs and we advise on how to retain their talent. The end goal being to help businesses create powerful teams and enhance their reputation.  

As someone who took a career change into Executive Search, what advice would you give someone looking to explore recruitment? 

I love my job. It's all about talent management strategy, relationship development, social interactions and trust building. My piece of advice for someone willing to make a move into this industry would be to find a market you like and learn all about it. You'll need to be persistent, resilient, a good listener and a go-getter. 

Executive Search allows you to reach out to inspiring senior people and learn from them as much as you can teach them. It's a wonderful journey into social discovery and human sciences. As a recruiter you shape careers and businesses. Your impact is massive on both people's lives and businesses' future. You're playing an impactful role into society, creating value while enriching yourself with meaningful social interactions with exceptional talent and business leaders. 

Posted on 29.11.2022

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