Oana Ciornei is Managing Partner of Amrop in Romania and heads Amrop University, the learning platform for the consultants and staff of the global Amrop partnership. She shared with doingbusiness.ro some key reasons for the firm’s continued high performance:
Q: How was the year 2018 for AMROP Romania and what are the perspectives for 2019?
Oana Ciornei: We had a great 2018. In 2017 we became market leaders (based on the revenues generated by the two legal entities we operate) and this great achievement fueled our aim to get better and better. In 2018 we enlarged and strengthened our team, we grew our international exposure and collaboration with other Amrop offices in the world and we further developed the partnerships with our clients locally. In many more projects than before we are asked to become solution finders and future leader architects rather than executive searchers. We invest more time in understanding the client’s context and in matching the challenges with the available talent in the market.
For 2019 we expect a slightly different market evolution. Some industries will slow their development pace and will get into a realignment mood, looking for additional talent to either refuel their growth or right-size. On the other side, digital processes will further develop and will touch more industries, therefore we expect talents around RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and Digital Transformation to be in the limelight again.
Q: What’s your view about the workforce crisis in Romania? When will this crisis come to an end?
Oana Ciornei: This is here to stay and it might be a huge opportunity for Romanian companies to shift the focus from competitive cost structure to extra value creation. We, as a country, are known internationally for a low cost base. We need to prove otherwise, through investing in developing talents that can provide a higher service level and higher added value for clients. Hiring a full time employee should be the last solution to cover our business needs: working with freelancers, with part time employees and with service suppliers, developing cross-industry partnerships and digital/automation of processes should be the first options. This will have another positive effect: developing the entrepreneurial spirit of the Romanian workforce, because we desperately need it.
Looking at the demographic forecasts, I am afraid we will have to live with this workforce crisis for the rest of our professional lives, and we will not be around to witness it coming to an end.
Q: We witness a general scarcity on the workforce market. What about the scarcity of the crème de la crème – executive leaders for companies?
Oana Ciornei: Apart from the local trends in the workforce, we witness a global shift in leadership as well. Each industrial revolution brought in not only a dramatic improvement of the technology, but also a big shift in the human mind. Not all the current leaders are able to make the shift from the 20th century leadership to the 21st century leadership i.e. a leadership that is more humble, more hands-on, less hierarchical and much more inclusive.
Q: What are the criteria for selecting executives for companies in Romania? Can you give us some examples?
Oana Ciornei: We walk the talk when we say we are a context driven executive search organization and we invest a lot of time in understanding the client before we start a new search. Once we understand where the organization is in its dynamic, what are the issues to be solved and what are the needs beyond the current issues we start searching for the right candidate. We search for the leader that can bring in the skills and experience to solve the issues but who also has the right cultural fit. For a multinational we will most likely search for a great functional leader who can be a successor to the CEO in few years, while for a local company we will most likely look for somebody that could realign the organization and find new ways to grow the business, and to improve both the financials and the attractiveness of the organization to potential clients and employees.
Q: Which was your most dynamic segment in 2018: executive search, HR consulting services or leadership assessment?
Oana Ciornei: Executive search continues to be our strongest arm while we have started some very promising strategic partnerships on talent scouting, onboarding and leadership assessment. In terms of dynamic, talent scouting, where we look proactively for high potentials (Leaders for What’s Next – as we describe them) brings us the most satisfaction because we really feel we are part of our client’s journey and we address leadership and capabilities needs in a very proactive way.
Q: What does executive search look like in the digital era? Can we state that technology has disrupted how executive search professionals look for people and how candidates are assessed?
Oana Ciornei: Technology will continue to disrupt what we do - or, to put it better - it will continue to improve what we do. While technology is now part of the recruitment process for lower levels (blue collars, entry level, and specialized workers), for executive level we are very connected with the developments in one particular area: gamification. Gamification developed greatly over the last years and the moment it gets better developed to identify weaknesses, not only strengths, it might become a tool for executive recruitment as well.
Q: Getting personal now, how do you prepare yourself, as a leader to become better? How do you get out of your comfort zone? How do you find the right work-life balance?
Oana Ciornei: There are two essential ways for me to get better: increase the time dedicated to learning and increase the connectivity with clients and the global network. I constantly have topics on my learning agenda on the evolution of artificial intelligence and human intelligence, be it big data, block chain, gamification, agile, reframing or design thinking. As the Global Amrop University Lead, I engage with top business schools and consultants to develop programs for our Amropians on both technological and leadership developments. As a consultant myself, I engage daily with my clients in discussions around their own quests for answers and solutions, about how these trends impact their business and industry.
And, let’s face it, in most fields, Romania is 10 years behind what happens in the developed markets, which is why I constantly travel abroad to engage with my colleagues, with clients and with scholars and every time I do this my mind opens up to new possibilities. And when I do this, I forget about work-life balance because I can hardly see the difference.
Q: In your opinion, as a CEO, what is the most important question to ask in the investment committee: what can go right or what mistake can we not afford to make? Why? Is there another question that you ask your investment committee for 2019?
Oana Ciornei: The most important questions to ask are: Are we still relevant and important to our clients? Are we part of their goals? Can we engage with them and understand them better? Are there any other ways to look at a situation? Then, as a leader, go and try out new things and have no fear of being fired by your company but do fear being fired or rejected by your client. I like the tagline of Singularity University: plan to grow 10 times where others plan to grow 10%. Think big, be bold but, as they say in Silicon Valley, never mistake a clear view with a short distance!
Q: What’s your ‘’Be careful about…’’ advice for 2019?
Oana Ciornei: Be careful about becoming irrelevant for your clients and for your people. Be careful about the risk of missing a purpose in what you are doing. Be careful about what you can afford to lose without losing yourself and your dreams.
Q: These are all our questions. Please share with us if you have something else to add for our readers.
Oana Ciornei: We live in times when everything is accelerating. The place where you are is extremely important. Stay curious, put yourself in situations where you do not have the answers, engage with as much diversity as you can and train your resilience daily. Be a Leader for What’s Next!
Q: What other advice for 2019?
Oana Ciornei: Our customer’s needs. Despite the political uncertainty in Romania, I do not see room for a major crisis approaching.
Originally published in December 2018 by doingbusiness.ro.