Thirty-three years ago I spent two years in the middle of my studies sailing in the Whitbread Round the World race on s/y UBF. It was a great experience. Then came work, family and all other priorities and duties. My friends often asked, if I would do the circumnavigating or an ocean racing leg again, should the opportunity arise? Hell yeah! I always answered but continued that no one would take a 58 year-old, grey haired and bearded office guy on-board... so not a chance.

But then luck kicked in the form of The Ocean Globe Race, a fully crewed retro race in the spirit of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race. There it was, my chance to relive my great adventure.

Sailing the Leg 3, from Auckland of New Zealand via Cape Horn to Punta Del Este of Uruguay, on a Nautor Swan 651, s/y Spirit of Helsinki was beyond great - as well as the team. 

One special element of this race is that no communication to and/or from the boat was allowed except some tweets to the organizers or in case of an emergency. So we were really 100 % offline for five weeks: no emails, no social media, no WhatsApp, no sms, no phone calls - totally disconnected from work and from families. 

During those five weeks, our universe was the boat, the ocean, the sky and the 14 team members - and being offline is inspirational.

It is possible.

You can actually live without emails, calls, news and social media for five weeks, no problem! I suppose we aren’t irreplaceable after all. My only concern was my family: was everything OK with them. That bothered me quite a lot. It was such a relief to get the phone from the sealed bag in in Punta del Este, to call home straight away and to hear that everyone was OK!

Should you have a job or a business, thorough preparation is required.

Planning of projects, managing the hand-overs to colleagues (a big thank you to my fellow colleagues at Friisberg!) and making sure that all administration eg. billing, taxes etc. are all well-planned beforehand. Nonetheless I was feeling a bit shaky when I opened my email after the five weeks offline, but fortunately there were no crisis, no big issues waiting there. My projects had gone well during and despite my absence and I had few calls from new clients waiting for my return.

Onboard we had our daily jobs and roles.

We hardly ever talked about our land based professional lives during the five weeks. The talk was around sailing, watch systems (work-schedule on board), competition, sail-trim, strategy, maneuvers, food, weather or sleep - not work. It was a time for something else for everyone. On the boat we were helmsmen, sail-trimmers, not CEOs or Executive Search Consultants. Thirty year-old Hilla, the only female on board was our most accurate and by far the fastest in celestial navigation with the traditional sextant. And our excellent second mate, 22 years old Aaro, told the four CEO's aboard what to do in the sail change.  And that worked well. Should we change our roles more often in the office work as well?

Now that I’m back online I challenge you to try being offline. Try it for a week or two at first - like on your next holiday.

The first step is to decide, then plan, and finally just to do it.

Professionals now have a much lower threshold for leaving behind their employer.

Due to remote working, many organisations have hired employees who are only tied to their working community by virtual means. This makes it easier for employees to leave their working community behind.

No one can yet say for certain how society will open up during the coming months or whether there will be new setbacks. There is an ongoing discussion at workplaces and especially in expert organisations on how to proceed as the remote work recommendation is removed after the long period of uncertainty we have all faced.

Most think that there will be increased flexibility. 

There are certainly more choices available: the employee is allowed to come to the workplace and there are different quotas as well as other models based on alternation, individual preference and common expectations. The need for automation in one’s own work may well have been increased and organisational hierarchies reduced. Everything will slowly fall into place, which may take months, maybe even years.

There is one thing of note that has seen very little discussion:

Organisational culture plays a key role

Organisational culture plays a key role in an employee’s commitment to their organisation, especially as things stand currently.  It lays the foundation for the operations of the entire organisation and constitutes a part of the employee’s work performance - even when working alone.

Organisations have not stopped hiring new employees during this exceptional period. Many newly employed people have been a part of their new working community only by virtual means. Many companies have invested an enormous amount of time and resources in personnel well-being and commitment during the pandemic.

We have also discussed these issues extensively in our own company, pondering whether we have made the right decisions. It is hard for me to say, but I naturally hope that we have.

I like to believe that an ideal working community provides its members with opportunities to work flexibly, respecting different approaches. Workplaces are now trying to find the balance between freedom and, on the other hand, approaches that relate to the needs of the clients. If a client wishes to meet the team in person instead of through virtual means, this should be weighed against one’s own individual wishes.

Leaving a company is easier now than in the past

If the employee does not have real workplace relationships, physical and intimate working community and thereby the experience that humans need as social beings, they are unlikely to be as committed to their current position as before the start of the pandemic. In this case, they will have an easier time leaving their employer and working community behind and simply working remotely.

Of course, there will be exceptions. In such a case, something has been done differently – perhaps intuitively, or maybe the interaction between the employees and management has been very successful. I believe that the new guidelines for organisational culture during the pandemic are not enough for management to keep its organisation functional. Simply giving orders from above will not do either, as there is likely to be a backlash.

Growth in the importance of the employee experience

The appreciation of the employee experience is growing. A strong feeling of commitment to the work and organisation can better motivate people to stay than salary or other financial benefits. A high degree of commitment to one’s work not only maintains continuity, but also decreases sick leave rates and improves performance and efficiency at work.

Now is the time to invest in listening to the teams and allowing them to participate. We need to take measures through which our personnel can be brought together at the workplace in a safe manner as soon as possible, and give everyone the chance to become part of the working community instead of just working remotely. There is value in being present at the workplace at least from time to time.

Employees now have a lower threshold for leaving their current job, which is something that should not be taken lightly.

Mika Rossi
Managing Partner, Helsinki

Growing a family business from the outside

The tiptoeing phase is over, and the time to start building is now. An avalanche of stimuli is about to be triggered in the global markets, and this is also becoming apparent in businesses’ expectations of strong growth.

How did we get here?

When COVID-19 struck, development, consulting and purchased services were minimised and cash resources were secured. Now businesses once again have more leeway to implement their strategic plans. Success however may require new competences and new profiles – the CEO or the members of the management team may even need to be changed.

A new CEO from outside the family business?

Many external candidates have reservations about joining family businesses because every family business has its own unique cultural heritage - and this is often not openly discussed. The way the family make decisions, discuss matters, approach things and perhaps even how they operate outside formal structures - as well as all the unspoken values and powerful characters operating from within the family.

Recruiting a good CEO from outside requires the family to be transparent and clear about their organisation’s culture.

What do external candidates look for?

Someone joining a family business needs to be genuinely interested in its story. In addition to the business operations, there may also be something attractive about the family business’ values or ways of working. Some are looking for a lifestyle change and perhaps a company that commits to a long-term vision in their business operations instead of quarterly optimisation.

Family businesses must give external executives room to work and breathe.

How do we ensure compatibility with the family?

Objective methodology is vital.

Competency profiling and cultural profiling with candidates is at the heart of the process. It’s extremely important that the outsider is compatible with the culture of the family business.

The biggest risk is taken if an executive is recruited on the basis of a recommendation by an acquaintance or family member. A “good person”, as recommended by an acquaintance, may not necessarily work as the impetus for change - plus familial relationships can easily be ruined.

A successful management team

The COVID-19 era may also bring about a need to update the management team. Listed below are four typical situations where it’s a good idea to determine whether there is a need to make changes to the existing management team:

Mika Rossi, Partner

A successful recruitment process enables growth – even in the middle of a prolonged crisis

The arrival of COVID-19 in Finland transformed the economy and working life, to say the least. Like many service businesses, Friisberg Finland was forced to face facts in March 2020: the uncertain situation in Finland and around the world has increased caution for headhunting customers and candidates.

The fact is, however, that the need for competent professionals still exists; if we wish to ensure continued growth and move on from the crisis, we need the right people in the right places.

COVID-19 affected recruitment and headhunting processes

What has changed in the recruitment of key personnel over the past 10 months?

Change 1:

Successful recruitment is ensured through psychological aptitude tests and personality assessments.

More and more customers want the option of two top candidates to choose from instead of one at the end of the headhunting process with both candidates tested using psychological personality and aptitude assessments and their references checked. Why? Especially in these circumstances, customers want to ensure that they will be able to hire one of the two best candidates as quickly as possible. A diverse psychological personality assessment tailored for the position in question provides information on the top candidates’ competence but also on what motivates them and how they will fit into the culture of the business.

Change 2:

Candidates for key personnel need security and continuity.

The COVID-19 situation has made candidates more security-oriented; people are looking for a good, safe job and a guaranteed income.

There are risks involved in transitioning to a new position in a new company. Due to the crisis, businesses have seen an increase in refusals at the end of their own recruitment processes, especially if the process has been prolonged.

Change 3:

Successful recruitment is still the sum of many parts.

If the company is well-known and has a positive employer image and interesting operations, it most likely will not suffer from a lack of candidates, even in trying times. A relatively unknown company with a less appealing reputation or employer image, however, may not be able to attract the most sought-after individuals on its own.

The security offered by the employer affects the candidates’ choices

Uncertain times affect the choices made by candidates. That is why hiring companies must pay attention to the candidates’ sense of security and offer them support in changing circumstances. The employer image built by the recruitment processes should also be kept in mind.

As positions and searches become international, finding the best candidate beyond the borders of your own country is becoming increasingly common.

The best candidate may be a returning migrant with a spouse, in which case the spouse’s career opportunities will influence the candidate’s decision on switching jobs and returning to their native country. Family relocation support and levelling the threshold of making a transition are currently of particular importance.

Participating in a headhunting process and assessing aptitude should also create value for the candidate.

Regardless of whether the process results in employment, the best type of recruitment process supports a positive employer image by offering the candidate personal feedback from the headhunter. The feedback should cover an analysis of the candidate’s interviews and a report on the aptitude assessment.

Such elements leave a positive image of the hiring company while supporting the professional development of the candidate.

How to ensure a successful recruitment process?         

A successful recruitment process has an efficient schedule and open communications and does not involve unpleasant surprises at the last minute.

These three tips enable you to ensure the best recruitment results, hold on to the best candidates and allow the key employee to start their work according to schedule:

  1. Do not delay in your recruitment decisions. Choose the top candidates quickly after interviewing the main candidates. If the decision-making process is slow, the candidate may start to feel like the company is not interested in them and that changing jobs might be a mistake – or that they might be able to negotiate better terms for their current position.
  2. Be open about the steps in the recruitment process. Keep both of your top candidates up to date about the process and ready for further discussion. Do not expect the candidates to simply wait patiently for your decisions.
  3. Keep your word in the agreement negotiations. Once you have discussed the candidate’s salary expectations and start date, you should not introduce any unpleasant surprises when negotiating their agreement.

An experienced headhunting partner will help you in uncertain times

In the middle of a crisis, such as COVID-19, an experienced headhunting partner can help you avoid any pitfalls and hold on to your candidates throughout the process.

Despite the pandemic, Friisberg Finland has seen excellent success in its headhunting processes; our customer and candidate experiences are at a very high level. Last year (2020), the NPS measurement of our customers’ and candidates’ satisfaction and their willingness to recommend our services to others was +77 among customers and +87 among candidates.

Mika Rossi

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