Crises: a time of intense difficulty or danger

In times of change much is on the shoulders of leaders. They have to decide with speed and accuracy, adapt boldly, deliver reliably and commit to impact while retaining their energy and health.

Rapid external change should be followed by wise and rapid changes inside the corporation.

Leaders are usually fast in processing available information, determining what is necessary and making decisions thereafter. It is easier if 3-5 priorities are defined which become the basis for decisions, be they financial liquidity, customer care, or keeping all engineers on payroll. Smart compromises are also easier to make if priorities are set.

Great managers get ahead of change

Sometimes it is smart to ask for expertise and seek new inputs. It is also good to decide what not to do and share it with team. New rules of the game should include new modes of action as the old ways sometimes halt progress. Times of big change usually mean stopping and overlooking the big financially bonding plans.

Leaders also tend to keep an eye on all the important functions that may change in quickly- supply chain, transportation and others that may need backup in the near future.

In a crisis there is nothing more important than the team

Effective leaders are acutely aware of their team's distractions and their collective and individual frames of mind so they seek ways of engaging and motivating them when communicating new information and goals.

The best leaders take personal ownership in a crisis

While many factors may not be under their control, they seek to align the team's objectives, develop new performance monitoring indicators and create a culture of accountability.

During a crisis, people will be be overloaded with emotions, and incomplete information will distract resulting in paralysis. It might be good to focus on a few things that matter most and make an scalable framework for quick decision-making.

It is necessary for an effective leader to keep themselves fit both physically and emotionally. Establishing a healthy routine such as mindfulness exercises, short gym sessions, plenty of time outdoors and time with family in the evening are all essential.

Pille Päss
Partner, Estonia

The Seven Principles of Public Life.

For over 25 years the Nolan Report has provided the underlying ethical basis for public life in the United Kingdom.

In theory it is hard to disagree with the Nolan Principles of:

and the pandemic has demonstrated the overwhelming dedication of so many to a public service ethos, often under intense stress.

I have written about the importance of ethical leadership many times before because there are still far too many holding powerful positions who behave as though rules and social norms only apply to others and not to them. It is of course naïve to think of a halcyon, scandal-free age of British politics and British business, but the pattern of ignoring standards of openness and subverting governance is often the forerunner to corruption to the benefit of those who hold the power.

There is undoubtedly a clear overlap between the principles we expect in public life and those in business because the seventh of the Principles is the important of them all – leadership.

Leaders set the tone and this forms the culture. The tone must come from the top. We always advise that a company's senior leadership should place overt importance on ethical values, they should demonstrate a visible commitment to high standards, and they should be willing to be held accountable for standards within their organisation.

The Nolan principles offer one such checklist of fundamentals to sense-check a Board’s collective decision-making process and approach. Boards are vital to good decision-making. Ethical frameworks, like the Nolan principles, can help boards fulfil their purpose in a way that adds value - especially when all else seems uncertain.

Alastair Campbell said that we live in a ‘post‐shame’ world. I worry that we live in a ‘post-Nolan’ era.

We are entering a new age. Business can be the source of inspirational leadership and an engine of positive progress – but only if it is built on solid ethical foundations.

Lorri Lowe
Partner, UK

We sat down with Magda Porizkova

Magda works with companies across various industries, guiding them through transformation and change, to build a culture of innovation and creativity.

What are the most important skills necessary for future success?

To be successful in these turbulent times, managers and leaders need to be ready for fast and unpredictable changes - they need to be able to adapt.

There are many things we need to learn to do differently, but I believe that the three most important are:

Ability to think creatively and not be afraid to experiment. Especially in larger organisations, people are not used to thinking out of the box and experimenting is not always welcome. It’s not surprising, as most of the experiments are not successful and some are costly. But if they build a baseline of an inquisitive company culture where people are not afraid to think as entrepreneurs, it is easier to come up with fresh ideas and try new things.

Ability to truly collaborate in a team and the whole organisation. As leaders we need to be able to give much more autonomy and ownership to not only build agile adaptive teams, but also cooperate between different teams much more efficiently, overcoming a silo culture. This means that managers and leaders need to re-evaluate the way they lead their teams, unlearn the command /control approach and learn how to truly empower their people.

Ability to simplify. Excessive bureaucracy is one of the main bottlenecks of efficient work. Without simplifying, a skill of getting rid of processes and procedures that don't make sense, your organisation is going to be heavy, slow and indecisive. Simplifying is a lot of hard work but it pays off - in the process you must focus on the customer and adding value and look for better ways of doing things.

What other abilities and skills do you think need to be focused on?

Mary Keane, Partner
Andrea Chladkova, Partner
Czech Republic

We spoke with Dorota Serwińska and Anna Rudzinska, our Partners in Poland, to hear their Friisberg story.

You have both been Partners in Friisberg for a few years. What was the career path you took to get to where you are today?

We have been partners in Friisberg since 2018 - although we first started working with the organisation in 2016. Together we bring over 20 years of experience in Executive Search gained from our time with Korn/Ferry, Kienbaum, and Spencer Stuart.

What do you enjoy most about being part of Friisberg?

We are lucky to have observed a significant shift within Friisberg during recent years, not in terms of people because we always considered our colleagues from different countries to be the greatest assets of this Partnership, but the fact that we now cover such a range of different markets.

Our company is growing quickly with increased online visibility for clients and candidates.

The investment in Friisberg's AI diagnostic tool (FNA), is great!

It is a genuine pleasure to work with our Friisberg colleagues - to exchange knowledge and share best practice with those in different geographies.

It is also very refreshing that we cooperate so effectively - we do not suffer from a competitive approach which is all too often observed in other global  firms. Our strategy is to be transparent and fair so we are always happy to benefit from each other's experiences.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in Management Consultancy and or Executive Search?

Although the consulting/executive search industry has changed a lot over recent years, there are always unchangeable factors necessary for success. We operate in a very sensitive marketplace, so to become successful you must have an in-depth knowledge of the market, maturity/gravitas to position yourself as an equal partner while talking to your clients and you must be trustworthy. Besides that, the most important competence in consulting is the ability to convince your client that you can do the job, so one must have the ability to sell projects. Many people who try to succeed in this field forget about selling skills.

What qualities do you look for in a new consultant when joining Friisberg in Poland?

You must be trustworthy, a good communicator (as well as being able to actively listen), a good negotiator, resilient and have great sense of humour.

What has been the biggest change in Management Consultancy and Executive Search over the last 10 years?

The 4.0 revolution has been the most significant impact. The development of social media (e.g. LinkedIn) has made potential candidates available to almost everybody. Also, AI is a more and more significant part of the recruitment processes, but we still believe our human touch is irreplaceable, and we hope it always remains that way.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time when you are not working hard?

We both have great families and friends. We love our country cottages and enjoy outdoor activities and sport.

Dorota Serwińska, Partner
Anna Rudzinska, Partner

We asked more than 500 senior executives what they were most looking forward to when they return to the office, a staggering 28% of them said “Nothing.” Many said that they simply find their work environment unmotivating and can work better at home.

After a year of WFH, many people are genuinely worried about returning to their offices. They feel a real sense of dread and anxiety about wasting hours in traffic, or on crowded public transport, paying for overpriced lunches and not spending enough quality time with their families.

But for how long will employers remain flexible?

Very soon I suspect many will start to demand that people return - and quickly. David Solomon, the Goldman Sachs CEO, called remote work, “an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible.” And Amazon told its employees that it expected, “to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”. Office-centric – now that is an interesting way to define your culture.

Some employers are actively preaching the gospel of flexibility – being overtly receptive to concerns and appreciating that the free time given by the pandemic is something their employees are simply unwilling to relinquish

Not wanting to lose great people, some companies have spent the past year trying out different models, to figure out which one works best.

Whether that's allowing a hybrid of WFH and in-office work, or treating the office as a clubhouse where you gather for specific reasons, there are lots of innovative ways to approach this transition that keep both employee preferences and productivity in mind.

But most organizations still seem to be struggling with what will actually work best. There is however a rare opportunity to rethink formerly rigid conceptions of what an ‘office-centric’ culture should be.

There is no doubt that for some people, return-to-office anxiety is real.

It is important that businesses take steps to support their staff to feel safe when returning to work.

Avoiding a knee-jerk approach to reopening and strictly dictating when employees come back, and on what terms, might just be the safest option for everyone.

Lorri Lowe
Partner, UK

We met with Tanya Kosseva-Boshova, Managing Partner of Park Lane Developments, part of AG Capital.

Tanya is also the Chair of the Association of Commercial Building Owners in Bulgaria, a member of the RICS, and Chair of the Ladies Forum - a not-for-profit organization of professional women in Bulgaria.

More than a year has passed since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic. What kind of approaches have been implemented by organizations around the globe to tackle various issues related to the workplace and the working process?

Many organizations have implemented a hybrid approach – working from home for 1-2 days as opposed to 3-4 days in an office setting. This model has provided the employers with the opportunity to exercise the precautionary distance anti-COVID measures while also ensuring a better work-life balance for the employees. The hybrid model is certainly not a novelty and was adopted by many companies in the technological sector years ago.

Some companies (predominantly based in the US) have decided to limit the availability of office spaces in order to prevent further spread of the virus. Personally, I believe that this approach is rather extreme and, in the long term, it could cause several serious organizational problems related to hiring, training, and retaining key employees, as well as inducing emotional fatigue.

With the notable exception of call centers, many large organizations that have shown growth both before and during the pandemic are progressively shifting towards more spacious offices. The reasons for the latter include, but are not limited to, the pandemic situation – and this tendency is in line with the general goal of modern companies to induce a positive office experience and comfort at the workplace.

The majority of tenants are companies that seek a new office building with quality ventilation and air filtration systems. For example, in our Park Lane Office Center building, we have installed specialized UV lamps inside the ventilation systems in order to ensure that the majority of virus and bacterial pathogens are neutralized (99%).

What are the most important takeaways for employers in connection with the 'new working process'?

I believe that the office space is being recognized as aspect of great importance for an organization, given that it signifies the physical representation of the company – its culture, its spirit and its mission. There was a time when our employees operated mainly from home, but I believe that it is particularly unhealthy for a company to exist in such a way in the long term. Working from home is certainly not ideal for everyone – people need face-to-face informal communication. Precisely these instances of spontaneous verbal interactions are often the source of brilliant ideas and unexpected synergies.

The claim that employees constitute the most valuable asset of an organization seems more viable than ever – human communication and creativity cannot be substituted with artificial intelligence, however advanced it may be.

What are the most noteworthy consequences (positive or negative) that companies have experienced during this period of working from home?

The evident increase in short-term productivity that many organizations boast about is a direct result of existing structures and teams. Before the pandemic, these teams had the chance to communicate in an informal office setting. This is the way a working relationship is best developed – in person. In the long run, it is expected that employee productivity will decrease as a result of the increased workforce “burnout”.

I believe that working from home also has a negative impact on decision-making agility – managers grow tired of the increasing number of the often unproductive calls and interruptions due to technical difficulties.

One positive result of working from home for some is the significantly reduced traveling time, but in our region commuting is significantly faster, as compared to some regions and city clusters, so the positive office experience of our employees outweighs their traveling inconvenience.

Recent studies have shown that junior employees are the most adversely affected by the work-from-home paradigm, due to their limited access to mentors and more experienced colleagues. As a result, their career growth process is hindered.

On another note, a different study has suggested that working mothers have been seriously impacted by the pandemic – one in four mothers is forced to make a compromise with their career in order to be able to look after their children at home. This seems like a major setback for the career advancement of women and would counteract many recent measures to enhance the gender balance in the workplace.

What particular office space usage tendencies can be observed lately? How are the needs and demands of the organizations evolving?

The tendencies that are evident in the office space construction sector have been steadily developing in companies that endeavour to attract quality workforce – highly paid, educated, and demanding. The organizations that are most interested in office spaces in Bulgaria mainly deal with IT, finance, and trade. They have been requesting increasingly cozy, modern, and spacious offices for their employees.

The preference disparity between building classes A and B is becoming even more evident. Many of the potential tenants in the Park Lane Office Center have expressed their desire to transfer to a high-end building situated at a more accessible location. These companies need to find a way to reattract their employees back to the office and they cannot tolerate any compromise when it comes to the quality of the facilities.

What will the workplace of the future look like, in your opinion?

The workplace of the future will be a hybrid one. Employees will have the opportunity to choose whether they would like to work from home, the office, or shared office spaces. Office spaces that resemble the cozy atmosphere of one’s home and provide many new experiences to their inhabitants will dramatically rise in popularity. The needs and demands of the employees will be the primary drivers behind the design and space management of these office spaces. The office will be divided between several autonomous sub-spaces – for work, collaboration, video calls, entertainment, dining, sport, etc. The corresponding effects will be an increase in productivity and employee satisfaction, complemented by relative ease in hiring and retaining employees.

Nevena Nikolova
Partner, Bulgaria

Reputation and its importance to company branding

Steve Jobs said that it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. You should hire smart people so they can tell you what to do.

Employees are vital in creating your company's reputation and reputation creates value for your company.

Today, more than ever, a company’s reputation counts. We live in the digital age, where people (stakeholders, aspiring collaborators or just curious people) turn to social media and websites to get references and news about companies - and your employees can promote or destroy your corporate image.

The basis of a good reputation is employer branding - the ability of the company to become a recognised and valued brand relies on your reputation as being a great employer. In many ways your employees  are more important than your customers, because if you take care of them, they will then take care of your company.

Employees are the only people who really appreciate the ethos and culture of your company. For this reason, their opinions can have an important impact on your business and future revenue.

Employees are crucial in the creation of the company values through:

Reasons to invest more in employer branding:

Guglielmo Sallustio
Partner, Milan

We spoke with Nijole Kelpsaite, Managing Partner, Lithuania, to hear her Friisberg story.

You have been a Partner in Friisberg since 1994. What was the career path you took to get to where you are today?

Initially I was approached by Kurt Kaariainen, a Partner from Finland, because we were selected as the best among eight consulting companies. I started as an assistant/ researcher cooperating with the highly experienced Partners from Denmark and Finland.

In 2000 we became a Partner firm, and I became the first female Partner – and the youngest!

It has been a long journey and even today, the Lithuanian market is not as mature as others. Eastern Europe has a complicated history and while even 25 years ago we were at the forefront of our industry, there is still more educating to do regarding clients understanding the services we can offer. We have undoubtedly gained a great reputation and the future looks good.

What do you enjoy most about being part of Friisberg?

Like any business that grows from a small business to a global firm over a few short decades, Friisberg has seen its share of organizational changes. We now have defined practice areas and they are undoubtedly one of the keys to our success. Working closely with other Friisberg offices on cross border assignments over the years has certainly helped us promote Lithuania as an up and coming economic business centre.

Everyone in Friisberg loves the challenge involved in finding the right candidate for a company, taking into account not only their knowledge and experience, but also the strategic visions of the client. Getting “the cultural fit” right is absolutely crucial and we genuinely understand why this is so important because in Friisberg we all share the same values and ethos. Our shared philosophy is to have consultants in our local markets, but with the ability to serve global clients as necessary. As a result, local office culture is vibrant but all consultants feel connected with their peers.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in management consultancy and or executive search?

Before turning to executive search, I suggest gaining experience in different sectors and in different corporate positions. Accumulating experience, getting to know people and building good contacts is vital to creating a credible network. Knowing yourself is important too - you will spend a lot of time communicating with people from all walks of life and you need to feel confident in your own skin.

What qualities do you look for in a new consultant when joining Friisberg in Lithuania?

You must be resilient, so positivity is essential; never giving up is such a great attribute. I also admire openness and curiosity – you must always be interested in and enjoy meeting new people as well as having the intellectual rigour to learn about new businesses and sectors. We are a people business, so emotional competence is essential; being sensitive to candidates and clients makes a great consultant.

What has been the biggest change in Management Consultancy and Executive Search over the last 10 years?

The biggest change is the impact of the Internet and social media. I started working in executive search at the same time as the internet’s early development so I had to work much more with the sourcing of candidates through contacts. The evolution of the Internet, LinkedIn, and other search process tools have significantly speeded up the search process, especially for sourcing diverse candidates, and our clients expect results quickly, and without any compromise in quality. Of course human contact is essential from start to end and will always remain the most valuable part of any Search process.

Over the years, long-term relationships have become more and more stimulating. For example, being able to work with a client for over 15-years has been fantastic, and it is a privilege to share their ups and downs.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time when you are not working hard?

I think of myself as the child of nature. I grew up in a village, on a forest farm, and I love gardening, canoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking – basically, I love being close to nature.

Nijole Kelpsaite
Managing Partner, Lithuania.

After a year that has shocked the whole world, we have become aware of how vulnerable we are and it is time for analysis and introspection.

The rules of the game have changed, and they could change again at any time. We have a duty not to superficially believe that a simple change in” how we work”, will be enough for our new reality.  We must evolve, we must learn taking this rare opportunity for self-analysis and rethinking our corporate strategy, our values, and our purpose.

Companies must be adaptable and flexible, with the ability to withstand moments of uncertainty, and with the foresight to anticipate when unfavourable circumstances might arise.

The strategy should be simple to enable prompt analysis and agile decision-making.

An organizational structure should be flat and process-oriented, where the information flows easily and where there is access to pertinent information facilitating timely reactions to unexpected situations.

We must trigger the essential part of the organization: THE TEAM, redefining the organizational culture to encourage motivation and ensure we are all rowing in the same direction. A culture of innovation, together with interconnected and continuous learning means people can develop the skills this new model demands.

Solid HR basics are essential to adapt to the ever-increasing global transformation of business. Team selection and development become a key factor, as well as the use of Business Intelligence or Big Data tools so that HR professionals can make quick decisions based on data.

Perhaps reading this article was your first step, but we would be happy to support you on the rest of your journey.

María Figueroa, Associate

The Digital Revolution:

Many companies are in a process of epochal change.

The Italian Experience...

Digital transformation is now a strategic priority for companies in all sectors and the past year, due to the pandemic, has highlighted even more gaps in larger companies.

Digital technologies are present in our daily lives and are also forcing companies to change - it is no longer possible to procrastinate.

The increasingly widespread adoption of the Cloud, the introduction of the IoT (Internet of Thing), the need to give value to the enormous amount of data, are causing to all industries to undergo a radical change in processes, in their ways of working and in the corporate culture itself.

Research conducted by Accenture The European Double Up: A twin Strategy that will Strengthen Competitiveness of 4,051 executives of European companies was presented at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum last January. It underlined that for European companies to return to levels of profitability before the pandemic would take 18 months and only 32% of companies expect to realize an increase in profits in the next 12 months. These latter realities, defined as "the leading companies of tomorrow", will focus on the adoption of digital, together with the implementation of sustainability actions. The study shows that around half (45%) of European companies are prioritizing investments in both digital transformation and sustainability, with 40% of companies planning to make large investments in the field of artificial intelligence, 37 % in the cloud and 31% in sustainability.

In Italy, a survey made by the European Investment Bank, still highlights a low focus of Italian companies on innovation with just 17% having concentrated investments in innovation relating to the introduction of software and digital technologies. Proof of the benefits of digitization is the analysis of the productivity level which shows that digitized companies perform better and are more dynamic than non-digitized ones. The EIBIS survey shows the average productivity of digital companies in Italy is 12.3 %, more than 11.7% of non-digitized companies. Furthermore, in the last three years, companies that have undertaken innovations in the digital field have had a growth trend of the workforce higher than that of companies that have not implemented digital technologies. There is no doubt, in fact, that digital transformation requires a profound cultural change and the acquisition of new skills and profiles, which often come from the digital world.

The technologies that drive this transformation are many, such as:

Production and logistics managers as well as network managers will need to acquire more and more new skills in this area to be able to lead the change.

Guglielmo Sallustio
Partner, Italy

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