Never before has the energy topic been so much the center of public attention as it is today. Energy security and energy independence present society with important new challenges that affect each and every one of us. For executive search firms, this means that they too must be prepared.
In this Q&A, Tobias Rummeleit, Partner at DHR Global and expert for renewable energies, explains how this can be done.
Tobias Rummeleit specializes in the renewable energy sector. This focus is particularly important, says the executive search consultant, as it not only speeds up search projects and makes them more efficient, but also creates credibility and trust.
Mr. Rummeleit, everyone is talking about energy – what does that mean for you as an Executive Search consultant specializing in the renewable energy industry?
TR: Until a few months ago, the topic was already important, but mostly associated with climate change and sustainability. Since February, there have been two additional aspects that affect all of us significantly: Energy security and energy independence. There’s a lot happening in this market, and this will continue even further, as every country will require more energy and ideally would want autarky in this field. Mobility alone is and will be causing a huge need for energy. In the past 10 years, I have successfully searched for and found 60 to 70 executives in the renewable energy sector, and this demand will rise as well.
Why is it important for an Executive Search consultant to focus on one industry sector?
TR: Companies enjoy many advantages when they have a contact person at a search firm who is knowledgeable about the sector in general, who is at the pulse of current market trends, who knows the political framework both in Germany and its neighboring countries, etc. I can often envisage what questions the client will ask the candidate because I am deeply involved in the subject. For clients, this means that there is someone who basically comes from “their” industry and has a profound understanding of business models and processes as well as their specific challenges. Additionally: the executive search business is very much based on trust. It involves business-critical management positions and often sensitive search assignments. It also makes a difference for the candidate whether or not you know what you’re talking about.
How does this improve the search for suitable candidates?
TR: If your search projects involve different sectors day by day, you would often start from scratch. When I get a new assignment in the energy sector, I often have one or two people in mind right away who might be a good fit. Or at least people I can call to get some tips. This makes the entire process often more efficient and hence faster.
It depends on the subject matter, but also on other factors. What are they, and how do you use them in your work?
TR: For instance, I recently spent half a day at a potential client’s company. Simply to understand their corporate DNA. On site, I met Board Members, the Global Head of HR, the Head of Corporate Strategy and other key stakeholders. The goal was to really understand who my potential client is, how they actually live their company culture, how the working environment portrays, and how the food tastes in the staff canteen (laughs). Is the company located in an industrial area or by a lake? How heterogeneous and diverse is the workforce? These are all very soft factors, but they help you gain credibility with candidates. The more you know about the company and the industry, the more credible you are. To sum it up, knowing the industry helps you build trust.
So how did you get involved in renewable energy?
TR: Thirteen years ago, a friend of mine bought two wind turbines. This was the first time I came in close contact with the subject, and I have found the topic exciting ever since. Even back then, I had an inkling that this area would soon become increasingly important and would grow. At some point, I decided to deliberately build up expertise and knowledge of the subject to ideally have a competitive edge in the future.
As the importance of energy grows, so does the need for qualified personnel. How big is the problem of skills shortage in the energy sector and how does that affect DHR?
TR: Shortage of skilled labor has also arrived in the world of renewable energy. However, this industry has experienced a huge boom in terms of branding and is very prestigious. When we contact candidates from the automotive sector, for example, and talk about renewable energies, the rate of people showing a basic interest is close to 100%. If it would be for the paper industry, for instance, it might be 10%. Renewable energies have a high social value; people have the feeling that they can make a difference and help shape things that matter – as well as rise quickly in their careers. Nevertheless, DHR is only looking for senior managers, not specialists.
Diversity also plays a very significant role at DHR. How about diversity in the energy industry?
TR: At the level of our searches, the energy industry is also still dominated by men. Matters look different in certain functions, such as marketing. There is no parity yet, but things are developing in the right direction. Companies in the renewable energy sector were often founded by idealists, who favor a more modern and progressive spirit. In these companies, people already knew about home office five years ago, when more traditional industries sometimes still associated it with hammocks!
Meet the Expert
Tobias serves as a Partner in the firm’s Industrial Practice in Europe. His focus is primarily on renewable energy, material sciences, automotive and manufacturing systems engineering.