Managing Director, Odgers Berndtson Australia
One of the best ways for me to describe collaboration in action in this region is to tell you about one of our current assignments: our ongoing work with the University of Western Australia’s Leadership Team.
The University of Western Australia (UWA) is a research-intensive university in Perth and an important member of the Group of Eight Universities (similar to the Ivy League universities in the US or the Russell Group in the UK). It is the premier university in Western Australia.
The recently installed Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dawn Freshwater, appointed Odgers Berndtson to assist it in building a new corporate services executive to support the university’s stated aims of growth, quality and excellence. UWA’s key strategic goal is to be one of the top 50 universities in the world by 2050.
The corporate services roles are the key leadership positions focused on the operations and governance of the university; strategy and planning; finance and commercial; technology and digital; plus real estate and architecture.
To help UWA, Odgers Berndtson Australia formed an integrated team of four Partners and three senior researchers plus an analyst. The team members were made up of functional Partners from the CIO and CFO practices combined with Partners from our Public Sector team. The key was to ensure we represented the university in Australia and overseas with the same messaging and clarity about the leadership and experience needed in each portfolio leader.
To ensure UWA had deep insights into the way this new team could work together required constant discipline, cross-practice collaboration and coordinated review as the candidates emerged. Rigorous analysis, creative thinking and collaborative teamwork were vital as we looked at the ‘whole’ as opposed to individual searches. Fit with the university and Vice-Chancellor’s vision was a core component of our work.
The Partners and senior researchers worked closely and collaboratively at every step of the process, sharing information gleaned from client and candidate discussions and addressing a broad range of issues, right down to the detail of evaluating complementary skill sets of candidates for these appointments.
Many candidates were not from the education sector, so our analysis around capacity to work in a complex, matrixed organisation with ambitious timelines and public scrutiny was tested. The longlists were characterised by diversity in gender, country, sector and leadership and management of large and complex portfolios.
The success of the project to date has seen UWA appoint an Executive Director, Corporate Services (COO equivalent) who was promoted from within and understands the university’s ethos, and two world-class functional leaders from outside the Higher Education sector – a Chief Information Officer and Chief Financial Officer.
The project continues with the same collaborative underpinning as we look to place a Director of Campus Management, an HR Director and Deputy HR Director.
Despite the case for more gender-diverse boards being made many times over, there is still some w...