We are delighted to welcome Sabine Pirkner leading our new office in Vienna. 

With close to 20 years of experience in international board, C-level and leadership team assessment and development, Sabine has worked with senior executives as a trusted coach and advisor. She has partnered with national and global organizations of all sizes, including publicly listed corporations, family-owned businesses and the public sector.

Sabine provides a breadth of insight and advice in talent management, CEO succession planning and executive development, leading advisory projects on cultural or organizational topics, as well as development audits, assessments for mergers, and executive search mandates. By supporting digital transformation processes, Sabine also helps drive comprehensive change initiatives, organizational design, people development and cultural audits.

Sabine was with a leading international executive search firm for five years, as a Senior Principal in Germany and Head of Leadership & Talent Consulting for Austria and worked more recently for Russell Reynolds in Germany. She also co-founded her own boutique management firm and has worked for leading multinationals, including Accenture and Aon Hewitt.

She holds a BA in human resource management from the University of Salzburg and a Master’s degree in organizational and economic psychology from the University of Vienna. She has also completed certifications in labour law and executive leadership for global organizations and is a licensed trainer and coach. Sabine speaks fluent English and German.

Zoltan Petho, Chair of Friisberg & Partners International, also extended his welcome, “We were delighted to meet Sabine at our recent conference in Madrid and it is fantastic that she is opening a new Friisberg office in Vienna. Her immense and impressive experience will be a huge asset to Friisberg globally.".

Sabine is thrilled to be joining Friisberg & Partners International in these exciting times and is looking forward to working closely with the firm’s clients across the globe.

We spoke with Jan Skvaril, who as a Czech, has lived in Bulgaria for the last 17 years, and acts in NEXT Consult as a Client Success Partner.

His experience is a blend of consulting, technology, and hands-on managerial experience. He has spent 17 years in business & IT consulting, 10 of which were in Deloitte across Central and Eastern Europe. Jan has also 8 years of experience in managing leading distribution, logistics, and manufacturing businesses in Bulgaria.

NEXT Consult is an international business consulting and digital transformation firm, operating primarily in SouthEast Europe. It was established in 2010 by former senior executives from Deloitte, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP. They are a client-obsessed team of diverse talent with 100 professionals from 6 nationalities, and it represents the world’s leading technology vendors - Salesforce, SAP and UiPath.

The IT industry has been developing rapidly for many years. What have been the major growth drivers for your business?

2020 and 2021 were golden years for technology companies. The Covid pandemic has accelerated digital adoption and transition to the cloud, it has also driven the development of new products and services. Financial institutions which were relying heavily on customers visiting their branches had to react very quickly and fully digitalized their marketing, sales and customer service processes. Many sectors were pushed to online sales and cashless payments. That is why our company has experienced 40% growth year over year.

HR professionals sometimes see technologies as an enemy, which reduces people's interactions and spoils a company's culture. What is your opinion about the balance between people and technology?

Around half of all existing work activities could be automated in the next few decades using Robotic process automation (RPA) technology. Just like people, software robots communicate with systems and applications to speed up processes and reduce the workload on humans.

One HR professional may find this technology invasive, as it could lead to headcount reduction. The truth is the opposite. RPA enables organizations to shift employees' attention from low-value tasks to higher-value ones that deliver better customer experience and ultimately support revenue growth.

For example, customer service representatives once spent a significant amount of time gathering data for different customers’ requests. This limited the time they had to directly engage with customers in consultative conversations. But, now, software robots handle that gathering work, giving employees more time to engage directly with customers about meeting their needs. In addition, the shift to more valuable work makes employees more engaged.

What major technology trends do you expect for the forthcoming years?

By 2025, more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet. Robots, automation, 3D printing, and more will generate around 79.4 zettabytes of data per year. Far-greater network availability, powered by 5G, will drive broad shifts in the business landscape towards digitalization.

At the same time, the enormous digitalization creates challenges for data security. Even before the Covid pandemic, more than 8.5 billion data records were compromised. Despite advances in cybersecurity, criminals continue to redouble their efforts.

I predict we’ll see huge growth in the area of security technology and high demand for security experts.

It is a general observation that the Covid pandemic affected the staff turnover. What has been the situation in the IT industry?

For a decade now, the IT sector has not only been one of the fastest-growing business segments in our region, but also the industry that provides its employees with opportunities for a high standard of living, and steady income growth.

We introduced the home office long before the pandemic so we did not have many challenges to keep working under any new business conditions.

Like in other industries we observed a sharp reduction in staff turnover due to uncertainty. Currently, we experience industry dynamics that makes us innovate people management every day to stay competitive in the industry.

Why do organisations need HR Business Partners?

One of the most recruited roles this year in Romania were HR Business Partners. They have been actively sought, regardless the domain or level of seniority.

But how do we recruit the right candidate and which are the skills we should look for?

Just as asking the right question will most often lead us towards the answer, my experience shows that the failure or success of a recruitment process relies, in most cases, on determining the right candidate’s profile. One of the first steps towards this is to determine what function the position we are aiming to fill has in the context of a certain organization. Hence, we initiated a qualitative research project to better outline the profile and function an HR Business Partner should have within an organization. The study was performed using a sample of 37 participants - approx. 60% of which were HR Directors or Managers and 40% HR Business Partners in multinational companies.

Following this research, the following skills stood out:

One other aspect the study evaluated whether there were differences in skills between industries:

When asked “Do organizations need HR Business Partners?” 100% of the study’s participants responded “Yes”. Roughly 70% added that in smaller organizations the function of HR Business Partners is performed by the HR Manager.

In conclusion:

HR departments see the role of HR Business Partners as performing a strategic role, one that works to find HR solutions that helps organizations grow and achieve business goals.

Floriana Enescu, Partner

FOCUS distinguishes our office in Germany as #TopPersonaldienstleister in #ExecutiveSearch 2022.

In cooperation with the renowned research institute Statista, FOCUS has identified the best personnel service providers in Germany.

We are very proud to have won in the category "Executive Search"!

Matthias Zühlke, a Partner in our Hamburg office said, "We are very pleased with this award and would like to thank our clients for the trusting cooperation! It is the result of our focus on quality in personnel selection and at the same time our ambition to continue to improve in the coming year".


The study was based on a list of around 3,000 personnel service providers. Subsequently, HR managers and job seekers were interviewed.

In order to make it into focus' top personnel service provider list, Friisberg Germany had to achieve a minimum number of mentions and recommendations as well as an above-average overall grade across all evaluation dimensions.

HR managers were interviewed about:
Candidates were asked about:

Thank you to everyone who has given us their trust and their voice.

This award is both a reward and an incentive for us!


The energy company RWE is aiming for rapid growth in the renewables market with its subsidiary RWE Renewables.

Katja Wünschel is to pull the strings as CEO Onshore Wind and Solar Europe & Australia and she spoke with Thorsten Marquardt, Associate Partner at Friisberg, Germany, about the importance of communication in team leadership and about her personal motivation: "We want to realise every renewable energy project in Germany that is possible."

Friisberg: Ms Wünschel, you are also called the sun catcher. Do you like the title?

Wünschel: It puts the focus on the sun, and I think that's good. Photovoltaics play a major role in making the energy transition a success. Sun is just as important as wind and is one of our biggest growth areas. So the title reflects my focus quite well. However, the energy transformation will only work if we are successful as a team - within the company, in business, politics and society. Everyone has to work together to tackle the huge task that lies ahead of us. RWE is ready to make its contribution. We want to realise every renewable energy project in Germany that is possible.

Friisberg: What is innovative about RWE's wind & solar business model?

Wünschel: First of all, we cover everything we need for the implementation of onshore and offshore, solar and battery storage. What is innovative is that we are always looking at new technologies. At the moment, for example, we are looking at floating PV - floating solar systems. We have just connected our first pilot project in the Netherlands. Or Agri-PV - a concept for the dual use of agricultural land. There are initial development fields in Germany, France and Italy. Thanks to our engineering and technology expertise, which we have built up over decades, we can test new technologies ourselves. I find Agri-PV very exciting, but we are still in an early phase. We are testing three different application areas in three countries and can check them against each other thoroughly. Where does what work best and what do we learn from it? This way we can derive the right starting point if we want to take it to a larger scale. Besides technological development, we also look at incremental development. What's new in leaves or foundations. Because of course that is also part of it.

Friisberg: You have been in the wind and solar business for almost 15 years. What is your personal recipe for success?

Wünschel: I am extremely passionate or energetic. In addition, I like to work with a team. That's the only way we can be successful. I love the "go to gemba" - being on the construction site. I combine this reality check outside with the business and its demands inside. Working in the renewable sector is just crazy fun. You know very quickly where you stand with me.

Friisberg: What hurdles have you had to overcome as an executive and what advice would you give to others?

Wünschel: I would talk less about hurdles and more about what has worked and what has not. It is important to always have clear goals - not a one-way street, but a kind of option space. You also have to communicate this. No one can read minds. Only if you communicate goals and plans, others can work with them. And of course a high level of commitment: you should go the extra mile. One thing I also always tell my mentees, and which I also experienced myself once: If you have a supervisor who doesn't share your development perspective and it's not foreseeable that he will share it, then you should leave. I experienced this once at the beginning of my professional development. It is often better to take the initiative yourself.

Friisberg: Would you describe yourself as successful?

Wünschel: It is important to me that the job is fun and that I can create something. That comes together perfectly now. I have fun and can design and implement a lot. That is a luxury in this job, that I can create added value. We are actively contributing to the energy transition in Germany. By 2030, we will invest up to 15 billion euros in our green core business in this country alone.

Friisberg: Did you ever have a low point where you wanted to give up or quit everything?

Wünschel: I'm not the type to quit - I'm more the type to close a chapter and open a new one. Rather, the more difficult and tricky it gets, the more incentive I have to solve and tackle the issue.

Friisberg: How do you deal with failures?

Wünschel: My family and my team give me energy. When I see a problem, I exchange ideas with colleagues. And when I need to recharge my batteries, I spend time with my family and friends. I'm not the type to go for a walk alone in the forest.

Friisberg: RWE is on a long and exciting journey. It needs business focus. How do you take people with you to go full throttle together?

Wünschel: It's a mix of different methods and approaches. I have learned a lot from Operational Excellence. Others also call it the New Way of Working. Just like good communication, which for me is a key to success. With each further stage of development, I became more aware of how important good communication is. In the sense of listening, that "go to gemba", always asking for opinions and feedback and entering into a dialogue. I communicate our goals and expectations consistently. And I always have an open office door for questions from the team.

Friisberg: As a corporate unit, RWE Renewables is comparatively young. How do you want to prevent your team from falling into a sluggish corporate mode?

Wünschel: At RWE in 2021, we looked at the renewables business together across all technologies and country borders. The growth potential is huge, but we also have to take into account the differences in technologies and countries. This is how the division into different business areas came about: on the one hand, offshore with its huge and very complex projects, and on the other hand, onshore wind, solar and battery storage - in the USA, Chile and Mexico as well as in Europe and Australia. This division makes sense, because in Europe we have a lot of projects that, with an average of 20 to 25 MW, are much smaller than those in the USA. This requires different processes, ways of working and a different mindset. Thanks to our more than 20 years of experience in developing, building and operating renewable plants, we have an excellent position in Europe and Australia. We use this and set up our teams country-specifically and very locally. Our goal is clear: we are setting the pace for expansion.

Friisberg: What lessons learned do you draw from the past years?

Wünschel: You can't communicate too little. You have to focus strongly on the team and what is happening there. At the same time, you must not lose sight of your goals.

Friisberg: What message do you give to the energy world 4.0 out there - especially now against the background of the enormously streamlined goals?

Wünschel: I have always said in the past that we have to turbo-charge. It is a Herculean task that we have before us in Germany and in Europe. We can only achieve decarbonisation or the energy transition together. Economy, politics and society must pull together. With the Easter Package, the government is continuing what it announced in the coalition agreement. Even if there is still a need for adjustments, it is a step in the right direction. Now it is a matter of using the momentum to achieve the goal of an independent and green energy supply.

(Image: Andre Laaks/RWE AG)

Thorsten Marquardt, Associate Partner, Germany
As part of the series "Shapers of the Energy World 4.0" for energate.

Natasha Joseph recently joined our team in Johannesburg, South Africa.

We are delighted to welcome Natasha to Friisberg & Partners International.

She joins us as a Senior Associate with an impressive background in Executive Search and Management Consulting.

With 17 years’ experience, Natasha has carved a formidable reputation of outstanding service delivery and excellence with her clients. She is a passionate Head-Hunter who enjoys imparting specialised knowledge and headhunting skills to fellow colleagues and new employees. Natasha is extremely adept at sourcing, attracting and placing hard to find skills specifically, but not limited to, Financial Services.

Zoltan Petho, Chair of Friisberg, said, "Natasha has extensive experience in Executive Search, and the strength of her client relationships, combined with her people-focused skills means that she is a valued addition to our team."

In her spare time, Natasha enjoys all sorts of  indoor and outdoor activities and also loves cats - especially her beloved pet Katniss.

She is delighted to be joining Friisberg, South Africa and is looking forward to working closely with the firm’s clients and Partners.

Diversity & Inclusion is at the core of who we are, what we value and how we operate.

This International Women's Day we would like to celebrate the talented and determined women of Friisberg.

This year’s theme is #breakthebias which encourages us all to strive for a gender equal world.

We are proud that Friisberg & Partners International has been a long term champion of equality achieving 50-50 representation and ensuring women are fairly represented at all levels of the business.

We know that gender balance is non-negotiable.

It is a business-imperative and something that is increasingly seen as a differentiator in client relationships.

To attract and retain top female talent, we need approachable role models. Current and future talent demand it and, if it’s not authentically experienced in the workplace, that talent will vote with their feet and businesses will simply fail.

International Women's Day gives us a chance to focus on gender balance - the magic ingredient to make a team great to work in, and great to work with.


An alternative to Reality is the Metaverse.

The Metaverse is a virtual world, one to which we will connect using a range of devices to make us think that we are really inside it - interacting with all its elements. It will be like actually teleporting to a whole new world through virtual reality glasses and other accessories.

Virtual worlds are nothing new, they have existed for a long time.

We have experienced them for decades in the videogames' industry, where by creating a character you can live adventures through your computer. However, the metaverse is not looking to be just a fantasy world, but perhaps now a kind of an alternative reality in which we can do the same things we do everyday, but without leaving our room.

Facebook and other companies are betting on the creation of a parallel, but completely virtual, universe, accessed via virtual and augmented reality devices, so we can interact with each other 'realistically'.

The key to this metaverse is that we can be fully immersive in it  - or at least much more than the current and rather basic virtual reality that exists today. We might initially need to use glasses similar to those currently available, but additionally we will use sensors to capture our physical movements enabling our 'avatar' to have a fully immersive experience.

Devices to enable interpretation of facial expressions will mean that our avatar in the metaverse can recreate us, and other people with whom we are interacting can understand how we feel. Body language will be imperative for these virtual interactions to feel 'real'.

At Friisberg & Partners we are excited about these concepts and their future applications.

We will continue to analyse how can we can utilise new technologies in our everyday professional lives - might we soon be able to evaluate candidate competencies through their behaviour in the metaverse?

Javier Uruburu
Partner, Spain

Integration in a selection process:

It represents a practical assignment where differences in experience and personality emerge clearly. The case also provides an objectivised basis for comparing and ranking candidate presentations.

We see, even with experienced executives, that proposed solutions vary sharply in terms of the ability to shed light on the specific case, to prioritise core issues, and to apply their own experience and expertise.

In their initial meeting with the client, the candidates learn about the business, its strategies and the people involved.

The client learns about each candidate’s experience, motivation and ambitions. In this round, three-four candidates normally stand out with a relevant background, good motivation for changing jobs, personal ambitions and potential cultural fit.

In the next round, we want to develop the dialogue further. We will become better informed about how candidates approach relevant company issues. Together with the client, we therefore develop a case which gives all the candidates the same starting point for the next meeting.

The following parameters apply:

The case will reflect commercial issues at the client and is formulated in a sufficiently open way that the candidates can be invited to make their own assumptions, delineate and prioritise

Candidates receive the case two days before the meeting in order to see how they apply their knowledge and experience rather than how much time they are able to devote to preparations

Candidates are free to choose the form of their presentation

The candidate will use 20 minutes to present their solution, followed by 40 minutes of questions, elaboration and discussion.

Benedikte Stiff / Hild Kinder
Partners Oslo

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