Virginia Bottomley

Chair, Board Practice at Odgers Berndtson Global

There has been a profound transformation in what we do and how we do it.

Technology has revolutionised the workplace, requiring different skills, potentially releasing intellectual energy and rapidly increasing response rates and communication.

The feminisation of the workforce is growing at pace.

Within my lifetime I’ve seen the first woman prime minister, leader of the Commons and the Lords [in the UK], FTSE 100 chairperson, chairperson of the World Bank and the IMF, and even Chancellor of Germany.

The contribution of the female workforce is beyond all expectation and will only grow.

We’ve also seen attitudes to work and careers transform beyond recognition in a generation.

Few now expect a career for life, work is considered in phases or stages related to what the individual expects at different points.

There is also an expectation that work in itself is fulfilling and rewarding, with employees wanting to have pride in the business or the organisation where they are occupied and employers really need to understand that.

Lastly, the ageing population means that the conventional approach to a career from 20 to 65 will never be the same again.

We all have to embrace change and not resist or be fearful of it.

At Odgers Berndtson we practice what we preach.

Our technology is advanced, the composition of our workforce is diverse and we work to give people a sense of value and worth in their occupation.

By embracing the forces of disruption we are able to better serve our clients and assist them on their journey.

Kester Scrope


CEO, Odgers Berndtson

We embrace disruptive forces.

The speed and impact of change is irresistible, accelerating and the opportunities that it opens up are exciting.

Companies that win tomorrow will be those that exploit knowledge by having the right expert teams in the right places and that can adapt quickly.

Our role in supporting our clients in employing the right leadership skills within this environment comes with great responsibility.

It affects lives and companies more than ever.

The new world requires us to have global reach and expertise across sectors in the economy to access the best possible talent.

As a global company working collaboratively to harness our cumulative knowledge, network and reach on behalf of our clients makes our job more exciting than ever.

Mark Braithwaite


Managing Director, Odgers Berndtson Asia Pacific 

For most, the concept of disruption links directly to technology.

Technology advancements enable new business models to displace old business models.

This is nothing new as technology advances have been consistently changing the business landscape since the discovery of the wheel.

The difference now though is that speed of change is outpacing the ability of our organisations to adapt.

What most executives do not yet see is that an even bigger factor is about to compound the disruption challenge.

The workforce is shrinking in just about every economy relevant to global businesses.

The demographic tipping point that brings this problem to our front door is already here and is forecast to worsen every year until 2050.

We are facing a gaping hole in the global workforce and the war for talent is about to intensify.

For companies wrestling with the changes that technology disruption brings, employer brand is critical for attracting and retaining talent.

As brilliant as the new strategy is for the future, execution without the right people is a sure path to failure.

Odgers Berndtson has faced its own disruption.

We have evolved to providing solutions to the complex leadership challenges faced by disrupted organisations.

This goes way beyond the recruitment transaction and has a true partnership role.

We call it Search Intelligence.

As one of our clients recently said: “We are hiring on potential. Our market has changed so much there is nobody out there who has done this. It’s a new world as a leader.”

Hakan Ekstrom

Håkan Ekström

Managing Partner, Odgers Berndtson Sweden 

Disruption for our industry means we have to deliver more value around every candidate, not just a CV that fits the profile.

Focusing on a candidate’s true performance, leadership style and so on becomes even more critical.

Equally, the value that we bring at the early stage of an assignment needs to be top notch.

This includes forming the profile based on the future challenges for the company, i.e.

a true understanding of what competencies are needed for that company or industry going forward, which in turn leads to increased specialisation.

However, it also means knowing where that talent and knowledge can be found.

So we need to understand other industries as well.

Being able to find the talent and/or skills that are not present in an industry, and bring it to them from another is a real ‘value add’.

Companies cannot easily do this themselves, but executive search firms with knowledge of a multitude of industries can.

Roman Tyshkovskiy

Managing Partner, Odgers Berndtson Russia 

The way we consume information has changed dramatically in recent years, with the volume of information flows increased at least 15 times.

But the problem is that our brains cannot change that fast and is still adjusting to these changes.

That involves losing attention, becoming distracted by different communication channels and ultimately forgetting key things.

People who are open to different information sources 24/7 don’t even have time to think over what they are looking at and analyse it in depth.

That seems to be a really significant disruption and it is still not obvious how to manage it.

And that is a big challenge for every manager: how to maintain and increase human capital productivity and efficiency.

I’ve noticed that every meeting without any gadgets is much more efficient than a meeting with people who never stop using their devices.

Modern technologies create fantastic opportunities but the efficiency goes down!

That is the challenge disrupting all the previous modes of communication.

And working on a new communication behaviour, a new managing model is a priority not only for human capital industries, but for every manager who strives for efficiency.

Ayse Oztuna

Ayse Oztuna

Managing Partner, Odgers Berndtson Turkey 

We are being disrupted in numerous ways: not just by technological advances but through globalisation, digitisation and other activities.

Yet we also see disruption as innovation, a positive force.

Because innovative disruption leads to new working and business models, it is vital that we understand this new order as we work with clients and candidates.

So we use tools, methods, science to help us reconsider our value proposition and to position ourselves as trusted advisors to our clients.

We adopt a smart, intelligent approach because we know that today’s talent is more connected, more informed, more mobile than ever before.

They are open to opportunities but are also very fluid.

In Turkey we have a very young talent pool and it will remain so for the next 10 years.

We have a special responsibility, at least in an emerging market like Turkey, to deeply understand this new – and rapidly evolving – group.

Quite simply, if you cannot adapt you cannot survive.

Michael Mellink

Managing Partner, Odgers Berndtson Netherlands 

The disruptive age is having a significant impact on human capital trends.

Technology such as social media has already altered business models, the way that society is organised, and also the way in which you can find people.

We’ve quickly changed from a closed society to an open society.

Many employers are now using search engines.

It has become standard to ‘Google’ people or search them on Facebook or LinkedIn during the recruitment process.

It has actually become a very effective way to discriminate, which in my view means that there is a real ethical struggle accompanying this disruption.

Now people open up their lives on the Internet, making it easy to gain access to data that is no longer private and that has a great effect on human capital trends.

We’ve had to change and adapt because there is more open access and more data available for all of these potential candidates.

LinkedIn can be used almost as a phone book now, so it means that it is not very easy to make a decision between who is the best person for the job.

However, companies are finding it is not the best way to recruit.

We’re seeing that they realise that the best thing is to come back to an executive search company like Odgers Berndtson to do the job properly.

We have the experience and knowledge to really find out who is the best fit for the job.

And that point is becoming increasingly important in a world where people can be approached every day by email or LinkedIn.

Klaus Hansen

Klaus Hansen

Managing Partner, Odgers Berndtson Germany

You can find both positives and negatives in disruption.

The key point from our perspective is that the growth in disruptive technologies is making our candidates far more transparent.

And by transparency I don’t just mean being able to see their employment history, but rather if they have done things that perhaps they should not have done.

Disruption has made our work easier in some respects as it has enabled us to speed up parts of our process that are not related to initially assessing the candidate, such as generating candidates, inviting them to interview and collating information about them.

All of this work is far more efficient because now we have so much more that we can easily store, sort, look after and manage.

I recently celebrated my 2oth anniversary at Odgers Berndtson and if I look back to my early days our key service to our client was to find candidates.

That was our real asset – to know where the good candidates were.

Today this is almost completely irrelevant because this part of the service can be done by anyone and is far more accurate and far more up to speed than it has ever been.

This has dramatically changed our business model because today our value added service is the assessment of the candidate to check their cultural fit.

To find candidates is a commodity, a no brainer, but to offer that value added service of ensuring they are exactly right for the business is the real skill.

Converesly if the universe of candidates is much more transparent then our clients believe that they can do their own recruiting.

The more general expertise and knowledge that people have, then the less important is the assessment of the personality.

If you’re looking for an SAP consultant for example, it is not really critical what their character is like as long as they know SAP.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a board member, which is our core business, the expert knowledge is almost irrelevant and the personality is absolutely paramount for making a good candidate.

For that reason assessment of the candidates has become crucial.

At the upper end of our services our business is still very healthy because the recruitment agencies and HR departments of our clients do not have the experience to operate in that senior level.

If you are able to create your own profile on LinkedIn then you are able to push it as you wish.

Candidates are increasingly fine tuning the information about their career that is visible on the Internet, which puts incredible responsibility on us to ensure that all the information is correct and, most importantly, can be proven. 

Patrik Kvikant

Managing Partner, Odgers Berndtson Finland

 Disruption in business life is increased by both digitalization and globalization.

It is visible today and will become stronger in the future.

This directly effects the required leadership competencies for top executives.

The ability to make fast decisions with limited amount of information becomes a necessity.

It is likely that there will be less room for ‘pure growth’ leaders that only perform well during upturn phases.

The ability to renew yourself and your business becomes more and more critical.

Good leaders must demonstrate this continuous behavioural pattern in their daily work as safe career environments and long careers are most likely gone for the foreseeable future.

Companies, and more specifically boards, must be alert and evaluate the CEOs competencies constantly because of the increasing disruption around us.

Today your CEO is spot on for your needs but they can quickly become the wrong person because of sudden market changes caused by disruption.

Steve Potter

Steve Potter

Managing Partner, Odgers Berndtson USA 

When it comes to the disruption of business models, North America is leading the way.

Recently, John Chambers, the outgoing CEO of Cisco, a worldwide leader in information technology, predicted that as many as 40 per cent of companies that exist today will no longer be in business in 10 years’ time.

The message from Chambers: “disrupt or be disrupted.” Google’s announcement that it is going after the car business is just one example of how all industries will be affected.

The need for innovation and challenging the status quo at the board and senior executive table has never been greater.

Companies need different perspectives and out-of-the-box thinking to help them look forward and rethink their business model.

As trusted advisors to many Fortune 500 companies, we believe that disrupting the traditional leadership model will determine whether companies adapt and thrive in this new environment.

The ‘same old’ simply won’t cut it anymore.

Disruption is here to stay.



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