A vitally important task for a business leader is hiring the right team, but finding the best people is increasingly challenging.
I have just finished watching the wonderful TV series Ted Lasso. The premise is simple: an American Football coach from Kansas is hired to coach an English professional football team in London. Initially Ted’s coaching methods are met with scepticism and resistance until the team starts to win. We all instantly recognise him as a great leader - he lights up the space he occupies and isn’t selfish or egocentric – but over time his energy, purposefulness and generosity become contagious.
I can also see how the analogy of a sports team holds with what I do every day. As most successes for your company come from team effort, creating teams that have a harmonious mix of personalities is essential. The team may contain great players, but if they don’t get along, and don’t add up to a whole greater than the sum of its parts, they may never win a game.
Our clients often prioritise qualifications and experience and while specialisms are often necessary, non-conformity and versatility should not be underestimated. Broad-based background, transferable skills, a collective mindset, and having a personality that fits in can be the small differences that get big results. Even the most talented individuals will fail if they are not supported by, and supportive of, a team with a mix of personalities.
Subconscious bias is so common - and by that I mean defaulting to hiring people who are just like you. It is human nature that when you do find any common ground, you tend to exaggerate it, which means you could easily put the wrong people in critical positions. So, sometimes we encourage our clients to take a calculated risk and consider hiring the wildcard candidate - we all know that embracing change can lead to innovative solutions and better results; somebody very unlike the rest can introduce and inspire new and different ways of thinking to a group.
Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Ted Lasso says more or less the same thing, “I know that I don’t have all the answers, but I got a room full of people who do.”
In a world increasingly obsessed with data analysis and AI the differences, and the competitive advantages, could well be found in the anomalous and unpredictable.
Several boards carry out an annual self-evaluation, or an online quantitative evaluation, every three years based on the need to express and show good and ethical board behaviour. However, this is not the way forward if you ask Richard Leblanc, researcher at York University in the journal "The Corporate Board". He expresses that these simplified methods give an imperfect picture of the Board's work and efforts. Just as no one wants to assess a company simply on the basis of their accounts, one should not assess a Board of Directors based only on a quantified and outdated approach. If this method continues, Board evaluation can end up being a ritual tribal dance that adds no particular value to the company.
Board evaluations must not function as a tick in the compliance form. When basing your evaluation data from members' individual and biased understanding of what good board work is, you are taking the easy way out. One can quickly fall into a trap where the results become bland and the subsequent dialogue ends in a round of self-praise and self-glorification.
At Friisberg & Partners International, we specialize in Board Assessments. We go in-depth with a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods in the form of both online surveys, physical interviews and assessments. The data is used to uncover elements such as the Board's experience, their ability to collaborate & challenge each other and the management, collective knowledge and their professional competences. Bases on this data, the company's activities and the associated risks are analyzed along with the Board's work.
As an extra element in creating a truthful and in-depth evaluation, Friisberg & Partners Denmark recommends that the Management assesses the Board in addition to the Board's own self-assessment. Based on the full evaluation and the subsequent reporting, the Board has the opportunity to uncover the potential to become a better strategic player that matches and supports the Executive Board.
Overall, it is absolutely central to the utilization of the potential in an evaluation that the focus is not only on documenting the results achieved, but is seen as a resource for developing the Board; both in relation to current changes or future routines, structural conditions & long term knowledge building.
At Friisberg & Partners International, there is broad agreement that there is a correlation between external Board assessments and improved management quality. Board evaluations contribute to identifying strengths and weaknesses in the Board's functioning, which makes it possible to improve decision-making processes and strategic management. Furthermore, the evaluations contribute to an objective assessment of the Board's composition, working methods and efficiency. It promotes open dialogue and reflection on the Board's performance, which contributes to higher professional accountability.
As an additions service offering, Friisberg & Partners includes a targeted development and action plan as a part of our final report. This can lead to higher levels of engagement and performance.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
As of September 1, 2023, Friisberg & Partners International is also present in the Netherlands. With the opening of an office in Amsterdam, we are taking the next step in our international expansion.
Maarten van de Sande will lead our Dutch office. With almost 20 years of experience in recruitment, headhunting and executive search for both multinationals and local companies, his style of working is characterized by a high degree of involvement with both clients and candidates and an in-depth knowledge of the markets in which he operates. Maarten studied Finance & Business Administration at Nyenrode University, and followed several Master courses on HR and Strategy; he speaks four languages including Danish and German.
Maarten is trained as an accountant and started his career at KPMG in the general audit practice. Afterwards he had a number of management roles, including at the German Heidelberger Druckmaschinen, where he was Managing Director for two small Dutch entities for seven years. At that time he started his own recruitment agency, which he and a partner developed into a medium-sized player on the Dutch market.
After the sale of this agency at the end of 2019, Maarten shifted his focus towards specialist Headhunting and Executive Search assignments, mainly for medium-sized companies, often international and many of them family-owned. Together with his team of experienced researchers, Maarten guaranteed high quality service and the best solution. Joining Friisberg & Partners was therefore a logical step for Maarten to serve both his existing and new clients even better in their ambitions to attract the best local and international candidates.
Zoltan Petho, Chair of Friisberg & Partners International, gave a warm welcome to Maarten:
“It has been never easy to expand and find a new Partner in a new geographical location. Especially when it is a mature market, like The Netherlands. Friisberg is not only looking for a professional with proven track record in Executive Search or Management Consulting but also someone who is a great fit for the Friisberg family and shares our values from the very beginning. Maarten is very honest when describing his experience and ambition, and understands the business, which was clear after the very first talk we had - he never hesitates to ask questions showing his ability to be open and learn new things. Maarten has also a sparkling personality and a great sense of humour….and our common Danish background was just the icing on the cake! Welcome to Friisberg, dear Maarten!”
“When I first met my new colleagues, during the conference in Budapest earlier this year, I became acquainted with the characteristic Friisberg culture: friendly, collaborative, entrepreneurial and ambitious. It fits like a glove!”
The first summit was held in 2021 to bring the world’s first ladies and gentlemen together to promote dialogue and find effective solutions to global humanitarian challenges through soft power, partnership, public diplomacy, exchange of experience, and implementation of joint initiatives.
The 3rd Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen, founded by Olena Zelenska, the wife of the President of Ukraine, took place in Kyiv on the 6th September 2023.
It was hosted by British actor, director, and writer Stephen Fry and Ukrainian journalist Hanna Homonai.
The theme of the 3rd Summit was 'Mental Health: Fragility and Resilience of the Future' and opening the conference Olena Zelenska noted that it has long been an axiom for all conscious people, at least in the free world, that human life is important and mental health is the basis of this quality. She said that a life of constant anxiety, fear, and uncertainty cannot be called of high quality.
Elena Maysyura, from our office in Kyiv, was an invited guest and the participants discussed how wars and conflicts affect mental health and whether it is possible to adapt to it. She said,
"I was happy to attend as a guest and benefited greatly from the panel discussions. Sarah Brown and Stephen Fry are both incredible experts whose participation made this Summit unforgettable."
The summit consisted of three panels: 'Mental Health: The Balance of Resilience and Fragility', 'The Impact of War on Mental Health', and 'The Generation That Will Lead the World in 15 Years'.
President Zelenskyy noted that people's resilience has its limits. He said he was grateful that this Summit and such a representative discussion was dedicated to the topic of mental health.
Ukraine today demonstrates to the world a people united by common values - a people who value human life.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We all crave good experiences.
We all hate bad experiences.
This increasing trend towards experience is so strong that in 2023 we are seeing Chief Experience Officers (CXO) being appointed to ensure that it is made a foundational element of business strategy.
A recent PwC report noted that it is what every company strives for. Yet so many fall short of expectations – perfectly reasonable expectations.
“Call it an experience disconnect: companies tout the latest technology or snappy design, but haven’t focused on, or invested in, the most meaningful aspects of customer experience”.
Communication. Consistency. Convenience. Speed. Friendliness - and of course the human touch.
As well as Customer Experience, businesses increasingly need to think about Employee Experience as competition for the most talented and skilled workers grows more intense.
Over the past year, we have seen huge movements of talented people, referred to as the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting, as workers reassessed the impact of work and what they want to get out of their lives.
We often see companies try to retain their key employees by offering financial incentives. However, in our experience, many of those employees would have stayed put anyway and others have concerns that money alone can’t address.
Praise from leadership, frequent promotion, the flexibility of hybrid work, a positive company culture and opportunities to lead projects are often more effective in terms of retention than simply cash. Effective leadership-development programs designed to retain key employees identified as being at risk of departure are also hugely effective.
Customer and Employee experience is a critical component of loyalty and, as a result, revenue.
The success of the Board is 100% dependent on the success of the CEO the Board has hired.
Hiring is an extensive effort and is only worthwhile if the Board makes the right decision. Interviews, resumés and references give important information, however to avoid subjectivity and unconscious bias, cooperation with an Executive Search Partner is often the solution.
Using an experienced Executive Search Partner will bring additional benefits.
The Board‘s Chair should conduct individual discussions with each Board member regarding the organization‘s strengths and weaknesses, internal as well as market-driven challenges, and leadership needs for the future.
As a result a profile of the leadership attributes and behaviours necessary to successfully fulfil the CEO role can be developed and reviewed with the entire Board of Directors.
The Executive Search Partner will ensure the profile is both comprehensive and well tailored to the situation.
The most successful CEO appointments include consideration of both internal and external candidates.
It is important to remember that succession is rarely a neat process and the Board needs to have realistic expectations.
We recommend benchmarking to gain an objective perspective on the internal candidates and to assess the quality of CEO talent externally — particularly when the context, competitive landscape and company‘s strategy is changing.
An experienced Executive Search Partner will deliver job market insights in a short period of time.
An external Search should be led by the Chair of the Board together with the trusted Executive Search Partner to ensure that the very best candidates are considered.
The Partner that has trusting relationships with candidates, information sources and referees can help the Board to develop a long-list of prospects based on candidates' previous roles and industry experience.
Once a long-list is settled, all candidates, internal and external, should be ranked against the core competencies and attributes agreed in the CEO Profile. Those that best meet the profile should be included into the short-list.
The Nomination & Remuneration Committee and/or the Executive Search Partner will typically conduct interviews to reduce the list to a small group of 2 or 3.
The Board can get excited about a candidate‘s resume without fully understanding whether the executive’s views about strategic direction and leadership style are fully compatible with the Board’s own view, and within the framework of the organization’s desired culture.
Therefore the final candidates are typically given an opportunity to present to the Board, followed by Q&As. The presentation is useful to understand differences in the candidate's vision of the company‘s strategic direction, approach to leadership, personal motivations and aspirations.
All Board members should be involved in the interviews of the final candidates and use an interview guide that the Executive Search Partner can provide. The guide outlines critical competencies for the position and the key organizational culture attributes for rating the candidates in these areas. This eliminates subjectivity, helps to focus on concrete skills and performance, and allow agreement on a single candidate.
The Executive Search Partner is in position to arrange thorough reference checks. Ideally, the checks should be done in person with members of the Board present, so critical non-verbal communication is not lost.
We know that the most successful hiring processes are those in which the right people are brought to the table, the specification is designed with the future strategy in mind and the candidates are assessed holistically.
While there can be immense pressure to make a decision quickly, the Board must resist that urge and take the time necessary to make a fully informed decision.
Agata, over the last year you have introduced a very interesting benefit program for your employees related to health on the market. It seems to be the beginning of a long-term trend in HR. How did you come to this?
From the perspective of the HR department, the pandemic had a very positive impact on jump-starting the serious discussion about the mental health of employees. Until the pandemic, mental health was a taboo, which led to negative consequences for incumbents and businesses. For example, it had often led to stigma against the affected. Today we are talking about providing mental care as much as we are talking about healthcare. It is simply another very important benefit for employees.
During the pandemic it turned out that many people suffered in isolation. Our reaction as companies was only: "manager, your job is to take care of your people." In fact, we have shifted this burden onto them. This was a big challenge for many leaders, who did not know how to help their employees; they didn't even want to ask questions to employees about their well-being, because they lacked the knowledge on how to react to these answers.
It turned out that organizations are not completely prepared for this and the level of education in these areas is very low.
Have you found a way to help them?
Yes, maybe not solve the issues but relieve them.
We have created an educational program for managers - Mental Health First Aiders, which trains and prepares for psychological first aid. It is a global program.
We entered into cooperation with several organizations but we were primarily looking for a systemic support. Our partners in this project made selections and out of 100 people (of 800 employees in the company) who applied for the program, 20 were selected, trained, and certified.
These people are in the first line of help. They do not so much solve problems, but rather show our people where/how to find professional help.
How did your employees react to this?
Very well indeed. Though, as might be expected, not everyone utilizes the program to the same extent. However, the representation is so large that it also gives an insight into general and cultural problems within the company. We have an additional benefit in the form of identifying watchouts. We have also introduced 3 additional days off for psychological well-being.
Surely you are at the forefront of this change in the market, aren’t you?
Fortunately, our global CEO Wendy Clark attaches great importance to well-being, hence we have her support in this matter. Companies are beginning to expand the range of options for taking care of mental health. When it comes to the availability of psychological or psychiatric care, the statistics, especially in our part of Europe, are alarming. That is why such help must be developed. This is obviously an additional burden for companies, yet the trend is right and there is probably no turning back.
You say the topic was caused by a pandemic, but could it also have anything to do with other aspects of our lives?
Of course, with the whole geopolitical situation and lack of stability and predictability, etc. Additionally, the "snowflakes" generation is growing. They are extremely sensitive, emotional people who are not prepared for what they are about to find in the outside world. Then, what is a strong point may turn out to be a weakness and vice versa. Disagreeing on certain things in the company’s space is young people’s forte, however, the pandemic seems to have hit them very hard.
You say that the issue of employee benefits is changing. What other trends are you following?
Taking care of one’s career and competences of the future. Still few organizations deal with career counselling and re-skilling. This will be a very important change due to the rapid development of AI and digitization. We know that some professions will disappear, although, we cannot predict when it will happen. We are not yet faced with this challenge, but it may surprise us very quickly. It is necessary to do an in-depth analysis of what will disappear, what will appear, whether we have education in specific areas, or whether we can search for talents in other countries. Thus, it will certainly be another challenge that companies, especially HR departments, will face.