Female Engineer

Head of Operations

The Situation

Our client is a long-standing engineering business dating back over 100 years, originating in Germany and renowned for its high-quality tool manufacturing. The business has grown considerably, to its international listed standing with 10 business units and revenue exceeding €500M. We were tasked with recruiting a highly competent Head of Operations to take the reins of a profitable, yet underperforming, engineering facility based in east Germany on the border of Czechia.

The Challenge

The Head of Operations would need to deal with an older factory that requires modernising without a large CAPEX budget. Secondly, which is of significant importance to the facility, to develop the culture of a unionised workforce, majority of which have been with the business for a long time and are somewhat resistant to change. Additionally, the Head of Operations will succeed the Managing Director (MD) meaning that the individual required must be content with getting their hands dirty with instigating changes required on the shopfloor, but also be able to lead and motivate their senior management with the right aptitude and capability to develop into the MD.

The individual was required to have fluent German and English and thus reduced the chances of finding a suitable candidate from Czechia. Further to this, the manufacturing facility is based in a small city with limited nearby manufacturing centres with the closest large cities situated approximately 150km away. Due to the low desirability of the location and the tendency of the target candidates wishing to remain where they were based, there was a strong unwillingness to consider relocation. An important hurdle to overcome is the workforce in situ that are long-standing and local individuals, thus finding a candidate that would work with the employees in a manner that would motivate, encourage, and ultimately, collectively drive change throughout the facility.

The solution

Here at Gibson Watts, we go the extra distance to ensure that the right candidate is found for our clients. Due to the location, the required experience and career positioning an exhaustive approach was taken to identify this individual. Due to the nature of the challenge discussed above, a keen focus was placed on identifying candidates from local businesses though of course to find the best candidate, a wide net was thrown. The targeting of comparable businesses encircling the site within an approximate 160km region included a great variety of manufacturing companies, including mass production of electronic and mechanical components, batch casting and electro-mechanical products and bespoke production of large machinery. Exploring these options yielded over 150 candidates which were subsequently approached confidentially. This resulted in 16 interviews internally and a strong and diverse shortlist of 5 individuals who each went through leadership assessments to provide enhanced understanding of behaviors and motivators for the client and increased confidence for a long-term hire.

Next Stage

Our work continued after the shortlist was provided. We gave detailed overviews of our feedback and assessments, coordinated client interviews, gathered, and provided character references helping to facilitate the final decision and successful hire. We remain in support of the client and candidate through their onboarding to achieve a smooth beginning for candidate and effective impact on the client’s business.


The successful individual had a passion for people, continued self-development and extensive experience in manufacturing . Developed from the shopfloor to achieving an early career management position, they have continued to expand their management capabilities over the last 15 years and have now reached Head of Operations. Gibson Watts enabled our client to make this strategic hire which will allow them to continue to grow and realise their business aspirations in Germany.

Market Intelligence

This project posed several elements that brought about difficulty when trying to find the right candidate. Within this region it became quite apparent that the local mindset is more inclined to settle where they are and reluctant to consider big changes. This was representative in the workforce of the facility, and the best individual ended up being a local candidate with a strong focus on understanding people and their development. This will enable the new Head of Operations to quickly develop rapport with the workforce from a place of understanding, demonstrative experience, and leadership.

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