Siân Goodson is the managing director of Goodson Thomas, an executive search and corporate insight business based in Cardiff and London.
She founded the business in 2015 after working as a principal consultant for headhunters Odgers Berndtson.
Tell us a little more about Goodson Thomas
Goodson Thomas provides executive search services for organisations in the commercial, public and not-for-profit sectors who are looking to recruit senior executive and non-executive positions, and delivers leadership development projects for multi-sector clients.
How was Goodson Thomas formed and when was it established?
I founded the business in July 2015 because I recognised a gap in the market for a business that not only provided professional services to aid executive hires, but that could also aid organisations in their wider organisational development, leadership development and governance work.
I wanted to establish a business that could credibly compete with the blue chip companies but offer something different. I’m passionate about helping organisations develop from within, through successful leadership development and succession planning.
How has the business developed so far?
Goodson Thomas is still very much a start-up, and proudly boutique in nature. We recently completed a great first year of rapid growth, during which we successfully delivered assignments 83 per cent above target.
We have led executive searches for organisations including the Care Council for Wales, the National Museum Wales, the Principality building society and the National Botanic Garden of Wales.
My ambition from the outset was to grow an entity, but to maintain a boutique offering and establish ourselves as the go-to business for executive search and talent development services. We have recently taken on two new associates to deal with a growing client base, invested in a new CRM system, and are now actively exploring new premises in South Wales to accommodate our planned growth.
What is the key to success?
Practicing what you preach. Our business is all about searching for and harnessing the best talent. As we have grown our network of non-exec directors and associates, and have done so with three key principles in mind:
- Do they convincingly share a passion for the business’ goals?
- Do they possess strong, highly engaging inter-personal skills and an inquisitive mind?
- Do they demonstrate real skill in the analysis and reporting of industry trends and people?
I am proud of my associates and my colleagues and as a team, we have proven ourselves as real challengers in the market.
What training/induction programmes exist in your company for new consultants?
We have purposefully not designed a standard induction or training programme. Any new associate or recruit will be briefed on the company’s vision, values, approach and behaviours. These are critically important as collectively, they help define us and set us apart from your typical recruitment business.
Other forms of training or induction very much depend on the individual. Those who may be new to executive search will benefit from a briefing on the end-to-end search process, our obligations in respect of recruitment and information guidelines etc., while those who are perhaps more experienced senior recruiters will be advised on the Goodson Thomas model, but will be expected to suggest or recommend other forms of delivery. We are constantly evolving and want to ensure that we are less process-led or constrained by traditional models, and more agile, flexible, adaptable. No business should shy away from the need to continually learn and develop.
What is your opinion of the UK’s vote to leave the EU?
My main concern is to what extent will we now be able to attract EU candidates for prestigious roles in the UK? It wasn’t an easy ask previously because of how the different member states’ education systems were set up and because of the various EU rules and regulations, but it was always an option to include EU candidates in our listings.
My concern now is that EU candidates will have a degree of nervousness. I think there might well be a reluctance from EU candidates to look at the UK as an employment destination. ‘Brand Britain’ is strong at the moment, but Brexit might make us relatively unattractive as a place to work in future.
What do you think of the growing use of social media in recruitment?
I monitor Twitter and I’m amazed at how extensively it’s being used by some very well-established recruitment firms. Twitter has a role in notifying people about job opportunities, but it’s dangerous to assume you will get a strong, diverse field of candidates. While you may receive a flow of CVs as a result of a putting out a tweet, you will have to do a lot of work to filter out unsuitable candidates.
What is your top tip for organisations looking to recruit top talent?
When I engage with any client one of the first things I look at is the extent to which they have already got good people or talent within their own organisation. I always ask up front what their internal talent looks like. They will of course have a view of their own but I would always recommend we consider internal candidates.
We carry out a mapping exercise where we investigate the quality of talent available within an organisation to provide an objective view. It might be that the ‘higher-ups’ have not considered a potential internal candidate – often until an opportunity comes up they simply do not see the person in that light.
You’re big on leadership development. So how can businesses develop the leaders of tomorrow?
In less than a decade so-called Millennials, the generation of men and women born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s will account for three quarters of all UK workers.
Businesses should be developing Millennials as leaders as early as possible in their careers. They should have systems in place to spot potential leadership talent and to nurture it at every step on the career ladder.
Traditional leadership skills and qualities will still be needed, but leaders of the future will have to be able to lead in a more complex working environment.
Therefore they will need to be more agile, more creative and able to adapt to constant cultural and technological change.
If a change of senior leadership is a long way off, businesses should look for other areas in which to give Millennials leadership responsibility, such as setting strategies or running one-off (but important) projects.
If they don’t become more proactive, they risk losing potentially vital future assets.