AAW’s New People Team
Expanding to Meet Clients' Needs by Ali Kurn 19th November
Ali Kurn is the Managing Consultant of AAW’s newly formed People Team that encompasses Executive Search, Interim support & other senior leader recruitment campaigns. As an experienced recruitment professional both agency side and in-house, and with commercial and non-profit expertise gathered over the last 20 years, Ali reflects on what brought her to AAW last year and how AAW’s new search offer can help charities in the current climate.
At AAW I work closely with the founders and senior consultants managing our search campaigns, but my career in recruitment first started with 10 years in commercial operations, recruiting for a wide range of roles, both permanent and temporary.
When I moved to London, I joined an international recruitment agency in their marketing and sales team, before stepping back into a front-line consultancy role where I helped to establish an executive search team at a large recruitment agency for the charity sector. This team was very successful, and by the time I left we had three consultants and two researchers recruiting CEO, trustees and director roles, on both an interim and permanent basis.
I discovered a love for working within the charity sector, becoming an extension of an organisation and helping them find critical people who will have a positive impact. Recruitment in general can be formulaic and reactive, but in the non-profit sector, it is so much more than that. It is fascinating to work and build up a relationship with all different types of organisations to get a real insight into how they work, what they’re looking for and to then make sure you can identify that in candidates.
After the birth of my son, I moved to Nesta, the innovation foundation, to fulfil a new role for them and to bring the majority of their recruitment in-house. During the two years I was there, the employee base doubled, so it was a fast-paced, constantly changing and exciting environment. Alongside direct recruitment, I worked to establish an in-house recruitment strategy and robust professional assessment procedures that were fair and transparent and encouraged diversity and inclusion.
I had kept in touch with a past colleague who had moved to AAW, and who told me how different they were. I was intrigued by what I think is AAW’s unique offering in the executive search space, with the three founders having extensive leadership experience working in the charity sector. I kept an eye on them and after some discussions a few years later, came on board.
I knew at AAW I’d be able to increase my understanding and knowledge of charities, how they work and how they can be more effective with the right people on board. Key to the development of my experience would be AAW’s consultative approach that works with organisations to get to grips with what they really need.
After my seven years in executive search in the non-profit sector, I had come to feel that often an organisation just recruits reactively to the requirement in order to replace someone, often in haste, without having the time to give further thought on what might actually be needed in that role.
In contrast, AAW works really closely with clients to consult with them and advise them on what an ideal role would look like, exploring the recruitment needs as an opportunity to do something different or look at a role in a different way, and making sure that it is fit for purpose.
Often recruitment at a senior level is done by recruitment agency professionals whose relevant background and learning is solely in recruitment. They're not always best placed to sit with a CEO and say show me your strategy, your fundraising teams and plans, let’s look at this in detail and to make sure we're recruiting the right person for you. That knowledge, understanding and connection with the client to able to say “Actually I don't think you do want to re-recruit that particular role, I think you ought to look at this…” is the real added value to the client from AAW.
How AAW can help at the current time
The pandemic has impacted all of us in different ways depending on our personal circumstances, and that is no different for charities; some have been hit very hard by lockdown restrictions, some have fared better and the recruitment landscape has changed in all sorts of ways to reflect that.
At AAW we’ve been listening to our clients and their needs, and as a relatively small and nimble agency, we've been able to quickly adapt our People services to now include heads of departments and managerial roles, with fees only payable on appointment of the candidate. It is a service we’ve been asked about by clients and candidates prior to the pandemic.
At AAW we've established a strong reputation in a very short space of time in executive search and interim. The new service widens our clients’ access to candidates whilst involving the same expertise from our search team and their wide knowledge of the sector, their networks and contacts.
We have great candidates that we want to match with good charities so working at more levels enables us to find the right role for them.
We know from speaking to our clients over the past few weeks that a lot of organisations are going to be very keen to recruit brilliant talent from January 2021. After a difficult nine months we can now feel a real change in atmosphere at organisations – recruitment freezes are being thawed, organisational restructures are being finalised and leaders are looking ahead. And I am very proud to be part of AAW – a trusted organisation that will be right by leaders’ sides, ready to help meet the challenges and opportunities ahead.