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.
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.
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.
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.
Business organizations are now coming to terms on how the COVID-19 pandemic has become the greatest catalyst of workplace transformations of our lifetime.
In retrospect, what many business organizations did not envision was the extent to which employees would be working remotely from homes, and scrambling across back-to-back virtual meetings, while juggling the competing demands of home schooling. This evolution of work-life and the workforce has consequently impacted how HR professionals manage recruitment and talent acquisition. One of the more pronounced effects has been the increasing reliance on digital recruitment/search platforms (such as LinkedIn, JazzHR, Workable, Zoho Recruit, etc.) to source for viable candidates as fear of physical interactions through face-to face engagement peaks.
Is this true or just a perceived mental model in the post-COVID world? To answer this question, one needs to start with the endgame in mind. It is undeniable that the advent of technology will transform the way recruiters conduct searches on the way forward.
Artificial intelligence has been proven to be a capability multiplier in many aspects of work transformation. As a case in point, technology has made job search a little easier to publish and search for employee resumes, facilitating virtual interviews online, breaking down geographical separation, and allowing HR professionals to cast their net wider. However, before one is led to believe that technology can replace the “man-in-the-loop” in talent acquisition, it is important to appreciate the limits of the current state of technology and the nuances of executive retained search.
The search for C-suite level and senior executives is fundamentally a people-centric process; something that search platforms alone cannot adequately fill. Correct job fit is not based merely on CVs and past work experience alone. There are tacit work characteristics such as personality match, cultural fit, team dynamics and personal aspiration alignment. To find that best candidate, current technology (even with AI and data science) cannot adequately address those information gaps.
In essence, retained Executive Search services involve a meticulous process of human interaction that taps on the deep expertise of professional interviewers, whose skills and “gut-feel” have been honed over the years.
Securing candidates for top or strategic management roles (CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, GM, board member, etc.) requires the “feel” for the candidate in that specific organization, industry, and market. It is very different from conventional recruitment and requires a human mind that appreciates beyond titles and responsibilities – someone who knows the market and the context in which the respective candidates worked, who can read between the lines, who understands the challenges, opportunities, and trends in the industry.
We pride ourselves in being a market leader in the above methodology of retained search for the following reasons:
We are one of the leading global consulting practices specializing in financial services and digital-age technological hires with 30+ years of experience in solutions for Fortune 500 companies worldwide aimed at retaining, developing, and advancing next generation technological breakthroughs.
We have an impeccable and consistent track record of delivering top talents that have been a perfect fit for advanced technology firms, global IT companies and start-ups. This is possible because of our proven methodology of precise job profiling and multi-level deep investigative search.
We have breadth and depth. We have a team of experts and global networks with extensive market domain knowledge to help our clients secure top revenue generators, product developers, market leaders and investors; talents that are key to securing your next cycle of growth. With experts in every area of people and organizational development worldwide, we can help you envision, design, and build a truly inclusive organization.
Janet Tweed and Richard Khee Loon Foo
The energy transition was born in Germany in the 1980s and is now well known with the word “Energiewende”.
It has now become a global megatrend with the growing necessity to transform energy generation and reduce carbon emissions. In 2015, France implemented the "Energy Transition Law" aimed at developing a new energy model, "Green Growth", and so contributing more effectively to the fight against climate change.
The targets appear clear accelerated by the current situation in Ukraine: Reduce fossil fuels and transform the entire energy systems to a carbon neutral generation with renewable energies and hydrogen.
To achieve the European Climate Deal targets by 2050, France's objectives are to increase the use of renewable energies from 12% to 32% of final consumption, to reduce final energy consumption by 50% and to diversify electricity production, in particular by reducing the share of nuclear power (40% to date). The main efforts will have to focus on housing and transport, which together consume 80% of national energy.
As this example from France shows, this global and progressive transformation will of course affect us all, including with the emergence and development of new professions. Generally speaking, for the past 10 years, global renewable energy employment has been booming:
In the solar sector, employment in France will rise from 18.000 in 2020 to 25.000 in 2028. One reason companies are recruiting so much is because they have to cope with the exponential growth in demand for equipment.
The 250 main players have hiring plans for 2022 and this seems to be only the starting point. That is 40 to 100 jobs to be created per company. In demand are engineers, financial engineers, project managers, IT experts with relevant skills and executives, who are able to lead an energy transition on a large scale.
In France, ENEDIS, the EDF subsidiary, is seeking to recruit 2,000 people, has set up recruitment hubs in many French cities in order to attract talent directly on the ground. But also the large Oil companies such as BP, Shell, Exxon and Total, and in Germany RWE and E.ON are desperately seeking a talented executive workforce to orchestrate this energy transition.
From the point of view of the economy this is critical as there is clearly competition for the best talents and companies tend to search for employees with a ready to start skillset. As a consequence companies are trying to hunt for talent from their competitors. An increase of salary level is to be expected as companies tend to pay retention bonuses to avoid “bloodletting” of their competencies. Experience from our own international executive research shows that currently the willingness to change jobs has focused on expert levels but also executive levels have significantly decreased.
Not only from the perspective of the EU economy, but it makes sense elsewhere to attract excellent talent from other industries which are also in transformation but with less future certainty, such as automotive industry.
Bearing this in mind it makes sense for the energy, engineering and manufacturing sectors to put effort into reducing their carbon footprint and to elicit support from a trusted international Executive Search partner - one who has an in depth knowledge of the market and relevant industry networks.
The digitization of unnecessarily complicated processes / misunderstanding automation with transformation, introduces the risk of radicalising obsolete practices, making them even more complex and reducing the possibility of changing them.
People skills, process simplification and then the adoption of digital technology are the essential ingredients. Digital Transformation (DX or DT) is increasingly the undisputed protagonist of technical and managerial literature.
This attention given to the opportunities offered by DT, a belief in the thaumaturgical power of digital technology in solving problems and achieving corporate objectives emerges. Before evaluating enabling technologies to be adopted, it is advisable to ask yourself if your organization is ready to face it, decide where and at what depth to apply it and fix its expected value.
It is therefore necessary to analyse whether the operational models adopted by the Company are adequate to the context, to the opportunities offered by the market - to the needs of the Customers.
Complexity is an external factor, specific to some industrial sectors, markets or regulatory contexts in which the Company operates. Conducting a business in a complex sector requires strong skills, a focus of internal structures on common objectives, operational dynamism and streamlined decision-making.
Complication is an internal factor, independent of the context in which the Company operates. It is often useless and therefore can be harmful. It derives from successive sedimentations accumulated over time in terms of processes, behaviours, structures, roles and procedures that are no longer necessary and appropriate to the context. Sometimes it is even generated by some functions within the organization itself, to affirm their existence.
Companies that operate in complex sectors and who react by introducing excessive complication internally are destined to fail, or in any case face economic losses. The internal complication is in fact among the main causes of:
Unnecessarily complicated organizations tend to become "self-referencing"; failing to deal with the outside world, recognizing themselves as different from all the others.
They focus their energies mainly on themselves, failing to transfer the desired value to customers.
The growing complexity that companies and organizations face is well known. Not so well known is the increased level of complication introduced in business management.
A study of Boston Consulting Group calculates and compares the growth of the complexity of the business with the growth of the business complication in the 6 decades 1955-2010. The order of magnitude that separates them is surprising:
Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated - April 1, 2014 - Yves Morieux, Peter Tollman
Surprisingly, for those involved in digital technologies, this incredible trend of business complication has been detected in the decades in which technologies have been made more and more available and therefore adopted by companies. One could wonder: does digital help companies simplify processes, reduce complexity, mitigate complication?
Digital technologies have been sometimes used to merely replicate the way organizations operate, generating only the value of the speed of execution of repetitive processes that may not even be necessary anymore.
Digital Transformation cannot be delegated to brilliant “techies”. Managing change and directing the organization towards transformation requires strong and new managerial skills. Digital vision, knowledge of phenomena and creativity are needed, but also "organizational strength" in change and execution. As evidenced by the survey published in the MIT Sloan Management Review of April 2019.
"How Digital Leadership Is (n’t) Different" Gerald C. Kane, Anh Nguyen Phillips, Jonathan Copulsky, and Garth Andrus
Digitize does not mean Improve.
Digitalize does not mean Transform.
It is necessary to become aware of the useless complication, to address its simplification and therefore to digitize its transformation.
A strong and visionary leadership is key for success.
Associate Partner, Milan
Magda works with companies across various industries, guiding them through transformation and change, to build a culture of innovation and creativity.
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.
Mary Keane, Partner
Andrea Chladkova, Partner
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.
An interview with Antti Kleemola, CDO at the Finnish Rail Company, VR Group.
Digitalization has transformed the business world, depending on your point of view, for at least the last couple of decades. The change has been immense, not only in terms of processes and systems, but also in terms of the need for new competencies and working cultures.
Major changes require skilful management and many companies have reacted to digitalization by hiring a CDO to manage this change.
Is there still something left to be done in this digital transformation and is an appointed Digital Director required to successfully manage it?
We interviewed Antti Kleemola, CDO at VR Group, a government-owned railway company in Finland, operating in public transport services in both long-distance and commuter traffic, as well as in logistics and maintenance, about this topic.
From measuring kilometres to assessing customer satisfaction: digitalization means to VR above all a change in their thinking culture
VR is a textbook example of a giant organization where the need for a CDO was determined through experience. The changing business environment and with it the new measures of success drove the traditional logistics group, which has long had a monopoly over rail transport, to reflect on its capability in change management. Kleemola explained:
“Strangely enough, the focus of VR earlier was on the train instead of on the customer. For example, not that long ago our performance indicators focused mainly on kilometres driven.
“Due to both digitalization and the fact that competition for passenger rail transport will increase in the coming decade, our focus has shifted more than before from our fleet towards our passengers. Nowadays we focus on both the number of customers and customer satisfaction when measuring our success.
“Changes are happening on many fronts, which is why we need the entire organization to coordinate as to how to prioritize accordingly”.
The CDO is always busy – the need for change management due to digitalization shows no signs of slowing down
Kleemola's journey zigzagged, with the help of headhunters, through various leadership positions in the information administration to the digital executive of VR. Originally, he joined the organization to set the passenger transport sector in order, from the perspective of digitalizing the customer value chain. One of his first tasks was to make purchasing tickets easier, with the help of information technology.
“Quite soon it was noticed that it would make sense for the whole organization to think about how our business can better benefit from technology. It was desired that insights gained from the digitalization of passenger transport be applied to the entire organization. In this light, the need for a CDO was also identified,” Kleemola says.
“In a big organization like VR, reacting to changes isn’t always that simple. When both technology-driven reforms and demands for change from the authorities have an ongoing impact, it takes a strong digital leader to successfully hold everything together”..
The responsibility for digital change doesn’t lie solely on the CDO’s shoulders.
Whose responsibility it is to implement change in organizations, especially at giants like VR? Should it be only among CDOs, or possibly include someone else?
“To allow true change to happen, someone proactive and able to invest enough time and effort is needed. I doubt that a CDO alone has the power to do this. People in the organization are the key, and both employees and executives have a lot to take on when it comes to digitalization.
A viable partnership with business leaders is also of the utmost importance for a digital leader. This means digitalization throughout the entire organization’s agenda, not just in that of the CDO and his inner circle.
"The partnership and networking with both internal and external stakeholders need to be in good shape to succeed in times of digital transformation. Not even we at VR have all the answers; we need partners across industries,” Kleemola explains.
If the organization were an electric locomotive, information technology would be its fuel.
A successful digital leader turns his attention not only to making business more efficient through technology, but also to how such changes affect the overall customer experience.
“The goal of all our activities is ultimately to ensure that our customers are satisfied and have access to our services as easily as possible, be they train passengers or industrial customers who need an unbroken flow of goods. Therefore, we actively collect our customers’ insights and experiences and use them to draw useful conclusions about any developmental needs.
I believe that excellent customer experience still requires, in terms of digitalization, making organizations more collaborative and sharing common service platforms for the benefit of the consumer. There is still plenty of work to do in building these ecosystems for us digital leaders”, Kleemola states.
From IT's perspective, one of the biggest transformations has undoubtedly occurred in the area of cloud transformation. As data has moved from organizations' own servers to the cloud, its overall meaning has also fundamentally changed.
“With cloud transformation, information technology, as I see it, is becoming more of a “basic electricity”, so to say, that sustains operations. This “electricity” can then be recharged from the charging station if necessary, to allow the journey to continue.
As it stands, technology itself no longer requires that much management; the perspective has changed even more to people and change management. I believe that this will become even more pronounced in the job description of the CDO in the future,” Kleemola concluded.
Who knows, maybe the digital director of the future will be the title of CTO — Chief Transformation Officer.