Updated: Apr 29, 2018

A view on recruitment and careers in the global cement industry

Every company is different - current situations are shaped by the visions of the founders, the history, culture and values. Boards and management teams must therefore plan for future success in their own unique way. At, our view is that successfully meeting the challenge of commercial competition and external pressures such as reducing CO2 emissions and improving profitability requires some changes in approach. Important questions that cement industry leaders should ask include: What kind of people will help us be successful in the future? How we can attract and develop them? How can we retain them?

As for how the industry can recruit the right people, we think there are three ways.

Consolidation and re-organisations, major themes at the moment, typically free-up talent and can open up new op- portunities. Another source of talent is other sectors. Using subcontractors is a third, indirect, approach. Of course, the development of existing resources to release their potential is always important.

We have seen people joining cement from other sectors and making strong contributions, with man- agement talent coming from the mining and metals, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), industrial manufacturing, oil and gas services and professional services industries. This is perhaps unsurprising - similarities of geographical focus, core processes, commercial activities and corporate functions facili- tate inter-sector moves.

Commodity sectors such as oil and gas and mining and metals are inherently cyclical. In the down-cycle they can release talent for other sectors. However, they will aggressively recruit in the up-cycle. Cement companies need to monitor the broader economy, taking advantage of these cycles. Timing is key.

One example of an inter-sector move was a rapidly-expanding regional cement player that appointed a new senior finance manager. His back- ground was in private and listed companies in the FMCG, food and beverages and mining and metals sectors. He brought exceptional skills, experience and personal qualities from corporate finance, multi- country and multi-company operations. His impact was reflected in strong financial results, increased company visibility to international investors and strategy implementation.

The Jinping-1 dam in Sichuan, China. The two Jinping dams generate an amazing 8400MW of green energy. China is one of the main countries responsible for growing cement consumption so far in the 21st Century.

Another example is of a young and talented man in his mid 30s who moved into cement management from oil and gas operational management, bringing very strong international experience. He doubled the capacity of one of the company’s cement plants and then initiated a benchmarking study to iden- tify potential cost reductions, monitor competitors and increase sales performance. Subsequently pro- moted into CEO roles, he has successfully led many major achievements.

In a third example, recently helped select a CEO to turn around a failing invest- ment in the mineral sector. The CEO was experienced, motivated and determined and quickly built a supportive team. Great success followed within just 18 months, attracting a takeover bid of over US$2bn.

Elsewhere, functional man- agers in IT, HR, Legal and Tax have also brought key skills and experience from other indus- tries into cement.

Outsourcing is an indirect source of talent. It is a major feature in the oil and gas and building sectors, with many key functions often subcontracted.

Taken to the limit, the result is a ‘virtual’ company directly employing little more than its directors.

A survey into outsourcing practices in the cement industry has revealed that it is quite widely used - not just for general services but for operational activities in- cluding quarrying, maintenance, logistics and production. Three broad approaches were identified: 1. Subcontracting mainly general services; 2. Extending that to encompass operations, and; 3. Further extension to perhaps 75% of company ac- tivities. There appear to be regional factors influencing such decisions.

Such changes shift traditional in- house functions to external suppliers. No work disappears as such. However, such operators require specialist resources within the company reducing its in-house functions. These include economic, cost- ing, risk assessment, control system and post-implementation review specialists. The long-term success of outsourcing, in individual cases, significantly depends upon appointing the right subcontrac- tors and implementing rigorous cost and quality controls.

Finally, the cement industry needs people who can shape its future and cre- ate value. Looking to that future, leaders need to be aware that younger workers that they currently em- ploy seek fulfillment, appreciation and being part of a greater goal, rather than just job security.

Staff: Know your strengths

What about the effect of consolidation in the cement industry on the careers of people working in the sec- tor? It can certainly bring out fears, confusion and negative mental states. However, taking a proactive approach to one’s career, knowing one’s unique talents and strengths and developing effective communication at all levels are keys to success and will help you to stay in charge of your destiny. Here we outline seven key points...

1. Develop a plan: First of all you need to decide to take full responsibility for your career success. Responsibility - and ‘response ability.’ This is very rel- evant in the current consolidation climate. It means being proactive in career management at all levels, not just management and executive levels.

I don’t recommend starting by dusting-off one’s CV / résumé and updating it. Instead, initiate a ‘career review.’ This should ideally be an annual event. It encompasses: Where are you today? What is work- ing and what isn’t working? Is there anything you could do better in your job? Are you growing and learning or are you stagnating?

The next step is thinking about how your next job might look. Get as much detail as possible. Connect your future goals to your emotions. How would you feel if you achieved your goal? Don’t forget to inte- grate your career goals with your overall life goals. There is no point winning career success but not having overall happiness in life. A career review also involves developing broader perspectives of develop- ments in the cement sector and the global economy, which can be instructive in themselves.

2. Get clarity on your unique selling point (USP): It is important to have clarity about your USP. Whether looking for a job, finding yourself with a redundancy package or competing for a role post-merger or re- structuring, knowing your worth is crucial. We are all unique and knowing your USP helps with position- ing, confidence and communication.

3. Identify and address limiting beliefs, fears and obstacles: The psychology of career development and job-search is the most challenging part of the process. What internal conversations do you have with your- self? Do they support your goals or hinder growth? This is one of the key areas addressed in coaching. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a person to do this on their own. Remarkable results can be achieved when mental blocks and inner conflicts are resolved.

4. Develop confidence in the future: It is often said ‘being made redundant was the best thing that happened to me.’ However, to anyone facing the loss of a job, through consolidation, cutbacks or reorganisations, such sentiments can sound very hol- low. Thinking through what might happen in such a situation and having a plan to deal with it, really is important. Could one survive on a partner’s income for 12 months until another position is found? How would credit card debts and the rent / mortgage be handled? Once the fear of those things has been re- moved through a workable strategy, the job search challenge becomes the focus.

5. Present yourself effectively: Does your CV / résumé effectively communicate your career achieve- ments and clearly describe why you are suitable for your ideal job? Many managers have CVs that present them very poorly. Most of us are weak at describ- ing ourselves in an effective, confident and concise manner that really grabs an interviewer’s attention. I have worked with coaching clients in this area with great results, proving it was poor presentation that had been holding them back. I strongly recommend having an effective profile on social media platforms such as LinkedIn.

6. Develop your network: A common difficulty that senior managers and executives experience when working on their career goals is their very limited networks. Often, they have been too busy doing their jobs to develop one properly. Deliberately building a network of contacts is part of career management and development. People who are good at developing strong connections in different fields of life expose themselves to a far greater number of opportunities over the course of their career.

7. Be a star, not a grey mouse: Make yourself notice- able! Proactively seek to develop and present yourself, your skills and experience to make you really stand out from the crowd.


In conclusion, as executive search consultants and ex- ecutive career advisors we see exciting times and great opportunities ahead for the global cement industry. With the right approach, challenges can bring major career opportunities and tremendous commercial benefits. We wish you every success!

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