Key Intangible Factors Considered by Executives in Career Decision-Making.

After years of interviewing executives, we have identified a series of intangible benefits that they value when considering a career change and a new project, which they believe will determine their success.

Apart from the specific challenges of the company, the role, and the executive's experience and skills, the following are some of the key elements they consider when making a decision:

These elements vary when it comes to a listed company, versus an unlisted company. In the case of a listed company, they also consider the following:

These are basically differences in terms of shareholder pressure, financial regulations, access to capital, and strategic focus, which influence their decision-making.

In addition, whether a business is mature or not also introduces new elements into the mix before making a decision, depending on the stage of business development and the specific needs associated with each.   For example:

All of these are key elements to consider when defining an ideal executive profile for a position in a company and should be considered.

Why Humans Trump AI in Executive Search

In today's digital age, artificial intelligence (AI) has undeniably revolutionized various industries. With advanced algorithms, machine learning, and natural language processing capabilities, AI-powered recruitment tools promise efficiency, speed, and accuracy in talent acquisition.

Despite the technological advancements, we know that the human element remains indispensable in the Executive Search process - here's why:

We know that the human touch remains irreplaceable to attracting and retaining top talent.

A new challenge for Executive Search

It is normal to quantify the right salary for a position, of any level, and especially for those that are classified as C-Level. Equally daily, during interviews with candidates, we recognise those soft skills that increasingly make the difference between one profile and another.

But have we ever considered what values can be of value to a candidate? Have we ever wondered what remuneration a candidate would be willing to revise for the right job?

In light of the ‘Conscious Quitting' phenomenon that characterised 2023, the HR world will have to reflect on this question and start taking into account the importance that a personal set of values can have for a candidate.  In fact, some studies brought to the fore by major national and international media, show that with reference to ‘Conscious Quitting', the choice, the decision to leave or change jobs due to ethical conflicts, is growing significantly.

The analysis of the problem conducted by Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, and by the EIB - European Investment Bank - highlights that in an historical moment characterised by wars and massive natural disasters that threaten our stability and our future, the Z Generation are very concerned about the world they will inherit and are willing to devote their time and talent to companies that are committed to providing them with a better future. Consequently, they are willing to quit when their companies let them down'. And it is not only young people who are fuelling this trend, but also Millennials and a minority of Enlightened Boomers.

The ideal candidate, in a future that is already here, will not only be the one who demonstrates that he or she has the expertise and soft-skills needed to fill a certain role or do a certain type of work, but it will become increasingly important to understand whether their values are shared by the ethos of the firm in which they will work and vice versa.

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world leadership has taken on a new dimension. The challenges and opportunities facing organisations today require leaders to be adaptable, forward-thinking, and empathetic. As we delved into the dynamics of leadership in 2024, it became apparent that successful leaders are those who can navigate complexity, foster innovation, and build resilient and empowered teams.

Adaptability and Agility:

One of the defining features of leadership in 2024 is the need for adaptability and agility. The business landscape is constantly changing, driven by technological advancements, geopolitical shifts, and societal transformations. Leaders must be adept at sensing and responding to these changes quickly. The ability to pivot strategies, embrace new technologies, and stay ahead of the curve is crucial for organisational success.

Technology Integration:

In 2024, technology plays an even more central role in business operations. Leaders need to not only understand emerging technologies but also integrate them seamlessly into their organisations. Artificial intelligence, automation, and data analytics are no longer optional; they are essential tools for optimising processes, improving decision-making, and gaining a competitive edge. Successful leaders are those who can harness the power of technology while ensuring ethical considerations and human-centric approaches are prioritised.

Empathy and Inclusivity:

The emerging new leadership style places a significant emphasis on empathy and inclusivity. As organizations become more diverse, leaders must be more attuned to the needs and perspectives of a wide range of individuals. Cultivating a culture of inclusivity fosters creativity and innovation, as diverse teams bring varied insights to problem-solving. Additionally, empathetic leaders build strong, cohesive teams, nurturing an environment where individuals feel valued and motivated.

Remote and Hybrid Working:

The global shift towards remote and hybrid work models has reshaped the traditional understanding of workplace dynamics. Leaders in 2024 must excel in managing remote teams, ensuring effective communication, collaboration, and employee well-being. The ability to foster a sense of connection and purpose among dispersed teams is paramount for sustaining productivity and organisational cohesion.

Environment, Social and Governance:

Leadership in 2024 goes beyond profit margins and market share. Organizations are increasingly expected to operate with a commitment to sustainability and responsibility. Leaders need to champion corporate social responsibility initiatives, aligning their organizations with values that resonate with both employees and consumers. A commitment to sustainability not only enhances the organization's reputation but also contributes to long-term success in an increasingly ESG conscious marketplace.

Learning and Development:

Leaders must prioritise continuous learning and development for themselves and their teams. Staying abreast of industry trends, acquiring new skills, and fostering a culture of lifelong learning contribute to organisational agility and resilience. Leaders who encourage and invest in the growth of their teams create a dynamic environment that adapts to change and thrives on innovation.

Leadership in 2024 is a multifaceted challenge that demands a holistic approach. Successful leaders will be those who can navigate complexity, leverage technology, foster empathy and inclusivity, adapt to remote work environments, champion environmental and social responsibility, and prioritise continuous learning.

By embracing these aspects, leaders can steer their organisations through the dynamic landscape of 2024 and beyond, ensuring sustained success in an ever-evolving world.

As we bid farewell to the challenges and triumphs of 2023, it's time to set our sights on the horizon of possibilities that the new business year holds. The ever-evolving landscape of commerce promises innovation, growth, and resilience.

The rapid pace of technological advancement continues to redefine how businesses operate and in 2024 companies are expected to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives. From adopting artificial intelligence and machine learning to leveraging the power of data analytics, organizations will strive to enhance efficiency, improve customer experiences, and stay competitive in the digital age.

We know that sustainability is no longer just a buzzword; it's a business imperative. As the world grapples with environmental challenges, businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of sustainable practices. In 2024, we can expect a surge in eco-friendly initiatives, responsible sourcing, and a commitment to reducing carbon footprints. Companies that align themselves with sustainable practices will not only contribute to a better world but also resonate with environmentally conscious consumers.

The pandemic has reshaped the way we work, and remote work is here to stay. 2024 will witness a continued evolution of remote work practices and companies will invest in technology to facilitate seamless collaboration, prioritize employee well-being, and redefine workplace culture to accommodate a hybrid model that combines remote and in-office work.

The shift towards online shopping has been accelerated by the pandemic, and the trend is expected to continue in the new year. Businesses will invest in enhancing their online presence, optimizing e-commerce platforms, and improving the overall digital customer experience. Adapting to the changing consumer behaviour will be crucial for retailers to thrive in the evolving business landscape.

Uncertainty has become a constant in the business world. Companies that exhibit resilience and adaptability are better positioned to navigate challenges and capitalize on opportunities. The new business year will demand agility, strategic foresight, and the ability to pivot when necessary. Embracing change as a constant will be a key factor in ensuring long-term success.

As we step into 2024, the road ahead is paved with exciting opportunities and challenges. Embracing digital transformation, prioritizing sustainability, adapting to the evolving work landscape, capitalizing on the e-commerce boom, and cultivating resilience will be essential for businesses aiming not just to survive but to thrive in the dynamic and competitive environment of the coming year. We know that by staying innovative, forward-thinking, and customer-centric, we can look forward to another year of growth, success, and positive impact.

As the year concludes, we extend our sincere appreciation to all our clients for your ongoing partnership and commitment. It has been a pleasure working with you, and we appreciate the opportunities to contribute to your success.

May the winter break offer a well-deserved respite, allowing you to recharge for the challenges and triumphs that lie ahead. We look forward to continuing our productive collaboration in the coming year.

This holiday season, we also reflect on the collaborative efforts of our global and local teams who have all contributed to the success of our firm. Their unwavering commitment to excellence is truly commendable and we all look forward to more shared accomplishments in 2024.

Everyone at Friisberg wishes you a joyful holiday season filled with relaxation and good company.

How can you assess DHL’s contribution to the crisis situation in Ukraine during the war and the innovation of the DHL brand as a whole for the Ukrainian economy?

In June 2022, we resumed our work in Ukraine. We had to completely reformat the company's business processes as we used to deliver postal items by air to achieve the desired delivery speed and high quality. At the moment, we use road transportation in Ukraine, deliver to Poland, and there all our cargo is already included in the DHL network. This requires additional time and restructuring our processes within departments. We purchased additional trucks, our couriers received additional category driving certificates, but we understand that for many of our clients we remain the connecting force in Ukraine. Our clients are mainly business companies that need to run their businesses in order to survive this fundamental time for our country.

We pay taxes to support our country and provide paid work to all our employees. There were no staff reductions in the company and we added additional bonuses to employees to support them during this difficult period. We also consider it our duty to maintain the salaries of mobilized employees. - they are our protectors and heroes. We also help demobilized employees adapt to the workplace. They all have funding issues, and we're changing our processes so people can continue to work.

How do you motivate your employees at this difficult time?

Currently our plan embodies simple golden values: understanding with the ability to listen and help. At the moment, it is very important to us that our people feel cared for and supported.

We continue to pay salaries, we even meet our obligations to raise salaries once a year. We provide all the social benefits, vacations, sick leave, continue to insure employees, etc. We allow those who can work from home to do so.

We care very much about people's safety. We turned our office into a real hub of stability: we purchased generators, beds, blankets, non-perishable food in case of blackouts. Employees can come to the office, warm up, wash things, take a shower and eat.

We practise constant communication with those who serve in the military. We constantly inform our employees about how the service is going, which of our mobilized defenders need help, visit them in the hospital, and proudly share information about who have been given awards - for example, two of our employees were awarded the Cross for Courage!

We also made reservations against the mobilization of 40% of men.

Employees support our company's attitude towards them, they value us and do everything possible to support the business during this difficult time.

Could you please tell us about DHL program GoTeach?

Even though there is a war in our country, we continue to support our Ukrainian children. We believe that this is our strongest contribution to the future of our country. These are mainly children from large foster families and many of these families were relocated from the East part of Ukraine.

In October of this year, we signed an agreement with SOS Village and agreed on a number of useful and interesting  activities for the next year.

For example, at the end of October, we invited children from large families to come to us for a career guidance excursion - 40 children accepted our invitation. We told the children about the history of our company, our business and corporate culture. The children visited key departments where managers told them about what the department does, showed how employees worked, and what knowledge and skills they need to have to get a job in our company. It was a very fruitful discussion because we received so many questions from the children. Then they visited our warehouse to see our processes, and see all our our vehicles.

DHL Central Europe region, which includes 14 countries, within the global Volunteer Day had an initiative to help get Ukrainian children to school. 14 countries in CEU region sent us stationery, school backpacks, other interesting school goods and at the end of the excursion we presented the children with big packs full of such presents.They were very happy!

We received great feedback from the children, so next year we plan to have more activities and master classes for children.

We are proud that in times of war, when many companies have halted their business activities in Ukraine, our company continues its charitable activities.

I know your schedule is full, thank you for taking the time for this interview. This year you took over a role desired by many, People Director at HEINEKEN Romania. Why did you choose HEINEKEN?

I think a more difficult question would be the other way around because for me it was quite simple. I still remember the first call I got to gauge my interest. I was in a good place with my career, so they said, I am happy for you, but this is the one you have been waiting for! They were right. The brand, the business model, the level of autonomy, the chance to drive success across the entire value chain - it was all too magnetic for me. And that was all before I met the people. The sheer excellence of HEINEKEN people is the company’s true competitive advantage, and I feel together we can really amplify the value we create in our entire ecosystem.

What do you enjoy about working at HEINEKEN and what are your biggest challenges?

Let me start with the sense of joy. First and foremost, I get that from my team. The insights they teach me, the laughs we share, the passion and effort they put into our work; the sense of belonging in this team is simply amazing. I get my energy from having people around me and working with others towards ambitious goals. HEINEKEN provides ample opportunity for that. There is a level of transparency and authenticity that is quite unparalleled, and that creates the perfect environment for people to come together and really solve problems.

In terms of challenges, I would say most of the things that keep me up at night are also the things that give me energy in the morning. Biggest one would be maintaining the growth path HEINEKEN is on, even through an increasingly difficult business and labour context. Luckily, I found a solid organization, with motivated and engaged people, which is unquestionably due to the Management Team and my predecessor.

How would you describe the HEINEKEN culture? What makes HEINEKEN different?

Ever since day one, I acknowledged that I had not met another organization where people use such terms as psychological safety, autonomy of decisions, or accountability so much, so naturally, and so freely. These are key cultural elements for delivering in such a fierce business environment, and at HEINEKEN, they can be summed up in one word: TOGETHER.

I also bow to the natural generosity of my colleagues. Starting with my team, who gave me all their time to help me integrate as quickly as possible, all the way to the managers, whose obvious interest is developing their teams. I am happy to see the premium brand we produce translates into the premium people we have. Or is it the other way around?

Can you take us back to your early life and how did you find the path to a career in HR?

HR was a surprise. I often say I stumbled into HR, because in the beginning of my working life, I had no idea what it was. I had not studied it, and I had not really encountered an HR person in real life, so I was not even considering something I was unaware existed.

And then, about 13 years ago, I applied for a Sales role with an FMCG company. I went through all the interviews and the tests, and was actually offered the role. And just I was accepting it, the manager said , You know, we probably have something else you might be good at, but you’re probably not interested, because it’s in Poland. I basically said I will do it without even knowing what the job was (I assumed it had to do with Sales, but did not really ask). Mostly because at that point in my life I was really craving an international experience. Long story short, I started my HR career in Employee Service Delivery and Compensation & Benefits, which worked out great because they played into my analytical side. From there, I just kept finding new ways to develop myself, and the organization, through a function that has a lot of untapped value to give.

It is said that Beverages is one of the most challenging sectors from the HR perspective. Would you agree?

I think this is my fourth sector as an HR person, fifth overall. This day and age, I do not know any industry that is not challenging for HR. What I believe works “in our favour” is the speed and complexity of the market, consumer behaviour, legislation, and sustainability developments. They all challenge HR to really flex our creative muscle, and ensure we are building a winning organization. But then again, this is exactly what I signed up for.

You have a successful, international career, but you are also a dedicated father & husband. How do you manage your professional and your personal life?

Thank you! With all the professional milestones I’ve hit, my family is still my biggest accomplishment. I often share that as a kid I was changing my idea of a dream job quite often, but I’ve always known I wanted to be a father.

I guess I was lucky to work for organizations that supported me in my search for balance, and that helped me be more engaged and deliver more heartily at my job. HEINEKEN is one for the books from this perspective. With clear priorities and accountability, and even clearer rules of engagement with one another, it not only allows, but promotes people’s wellbeing. For me and my family, this is extremely important, and it works the other way as well. When the pressure is on at work, I get the support I need to strap in and be there for the organization.

Do you have any secret advice?

Would not necessarily call it advice, but lessons I’ve learned along to way. One would be that I only assume two things about the person in front of me: positive intent, and that they are smarter than me in (at least) some things. It is hard not to come out of any conversation richer than before. And the second one is a personal KPI of mine: number of smiles in meetings. I don’t actually count them, but I try to make sure they are there, even through tough times. Smiles are an extremely powerful retention tool, and a brilliant catalyst for problem solving.

I’ve heard you are passionate about chess and football. Do you still have time for your hobbies?

That is a tough question, because the answer is still not what I would like it to be. Although I am getting better at carving some time for myself as well. Adapting to the new reality is key. With three kids on my back, I rarely have time for a standard chess game, but I’ve come to love speed chess games, where I would play anything between 2-to-10-minute games. I also try to join a friendly football game every couple of weeks, usually after the children’s bedtime.

Which are your core values?

Oh, I actually know the answer to this one ! About five and a half years ago, when my wife was pregnant with our eldest daughter, we moved into a bigger place. And as the landlord gave us the keys and left us in the empty apartment, we took a minute to cherish the way our lives were changing. And we did something that will always stay with me. We decided then and there what our core values were, so that as parents, we would live by them, and try and instill them in our children. So we took a bit of chalk and scribbled these four words on the kitchen walls: TRUST, COURAGE, KINDNESS, FUN.

I won’t go into details on any of them, only say I found them in plenty supply here at HEINEKEN. The company’s mission of brewing the joy of true togetherness strings all of them together perfectly.

What advice would you give to youngsters, in the beginning of their career?

Be kind. Be brave. Be patient.

Ovell Barbee is a highly accomplished, visionary Human Resources Executive who has been a client, a subject matter expert, and a friend of our firm for over 20 years.

He has a Masters of Human Resources from Michigan State University and has been recognized as a Top-50 HR Professional, Top-100 Chief Diversity Officer and Most Influential Minority.

We wanted to offer our congratulations on the successful publication of his first book, The Big House: A Human-Centered & Progressive Approach to DEI and Positive Workforce Engagement. It became a #1 Amazon bestseller of new releases.

When we asked Ovell about the impetus behind writing this book, he said, "Most companies invest money, time and energy in diversity equity and inclusion without creating and cultivating a human-centered environment.

"This How To book delivers essential advice to company leaders on how to stop the silence, have difficult conversations addressing race and diversity and learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable to achieve an environment where everyone can flourish."

We know that many companies fail when trying to create and cultivate an environment that truly embraces diversity and its benefits .

Challenges and Strategies

In today's fast-paced and competitive world, the significance of mental health in the workplace cannot be overstated. We all know that the well-being of employees not only affects their individual lives but also has a profound impact on organizational success. Addressing mental health concerns within the workplace is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity. Based on my talks with various firms, let me explore the challenges associated with mental health in the workplace and discuss effective strategies for promoting a mentally healthy work environment.

As I see, one of the major challenges concerning mental health in the workplace is the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues. This stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help, as they fear negative repercussions on their careers or reputations. Consequently, mental health problems might go unnoticed and untreated, leading to more severe issues down the line.

Moreover, the nature of modern work, characterized by high demands, tight deadlines, home office environment and long working hours, can contribute to stress and burnout. These conditions, if left unaddressed, can lead to decreased job satisfaction, increased absenteeism, and reduced overall productivity. Additionally, the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life due to technological advancements can make it challenging for employees to disconnect, exacerbating stress levels.

Managing and improving mental health in the workplace requires a comprehensive and honest approach that involves both employers and employees. Obviously there are many effective strategies to consider, including:

Raise Awareness and Reduce Stigma

Employers can take the lead in creating a culture of open conversation around mental health. This involves destigmatizing mental health issues by providing information, resources, and training to employees and managers. Encouraging honest discussions about mental health can help create an atmosphere where seeking help is seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness.

Workplace Design and Flexibility

Employers should strive to design jobs that consider the mental well-being of employees. This includes manageable workloads, reasonable deadlines, control of work and the autonomy to make decisions. Furthermore, offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, can help employees manage their work-life balance more effectively.

Mental Health Support Programs

Many organisations established already Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or provided access to mental health professionals can offer employees a confidential outlet for discussing their concerns and receiving guidance. These programs can play a crucial role in early intervention and prevention.

Promote Work-Life Balance

We must encourage employees to take breaks, use vacation time, and disconnect from work outside of working hours to help prevent burnout. This can be reinforced through company policies that prioritize employee well-being.

Training and Education

Providing training to managers and employees on recognizing the signs of mental health issues and how to provide appropriate support can contribute to a more compassionate and understanding work environment.

Regular Check-ins

Managers can conduct regular one-on-one check-ins with their team members to discuss their workload, challenges, and well-being. This not only helps address potential issues but also shows that the organization values its employees' mental health.

If you are not confident dealing with this topic as a business leader, CXO or a senior HR person, you may ask for help or advise from a professional. The gains are incredible. This can make your company a healthier, happier, and more productive firm.

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