Odgers Berndtson extends CEOx1Day future talent initiative in UK for 2017

Cabinet Office head embarks on CEO day as UK Students from diverse backgrounds recount benefits from 2016 pilot

Odgers Berndtson, the leading global executive search firm, is to expand its CEO for a Day initiative across the UK in 2017, giving more British students from a diverse range of backgrounds the opportunity to spend the day with the CEO of a leading organisation.

Fifteen CEOs of top organisations participated in a pilot of the scheme in 2016 and the firm aims to exceed this in 2017, with many more universities, companies and chief executives joining the UK initiative.

The move comes as John Manzoni, Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office and Chief Executive of the Civil Service, today shares a day with Arun Aggarwal, a law student at Southampton University, in the final phase of the pilot.

Mr Manzoni’s involvement is particularly significant since the government has promised to do more to promote fairness, amid rising concerns over restricted opportunities for many young people to top jobs.

“Trust and confidence in business and leadership have been falling, and companies need to do more to re-connect with society at large. This gives chief executives a unique opportunity to make a personal contribution, whilst also investing directly in the next generation of talent,” said Mark Freebairn, a senior partner at Odgers Berndtson leading the CEO for a Day initiative in the UK.

Students participating in 2016 have said that even one day with a business leader can be transformational. “You learn a lot about how the working world works. Many graduates do not have much experience of the day to day business schedule, what it entails, how to dress, how meetings are co-ordinated,” said James Perkins, who shadowed Ed Williams, UK CEO of Edelman, noting that a key challenge is “the degree of experience you need to get a job in the first place.”

“The biggest challenge facing my generation is rebuilding trust between young people and business leaders,” said Oliver Scholten, who spent the day with Kester Scrope, CEO of Odgers Berndtson. “The experience on the whole far exceeded my expectations and completely changed by perspective on executive management.”

Beth Seddon, who spent the day with Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General agreed. “This has opened my eyes to exactly how much work and dedication go into being a CEO,” she said. “I now understand this isn’t something you leave behind at the end of the working day.”

“Trust and confidence in business and leadership have been falling, and companies need to do more to re-connect with society at large. This gives chief executives a unique opportunity to make a personal contribution, whilst also investing directly in the next generation of talent,”

When they originally applied to take part in the initiative, many of the British students flagged the importance of making a difference to the world at large through their working lives. Some of those who went on to do the days were surprised to find scope for this in a corporate setting.

Jack Covey, studying environmental science at Southampton University, spent the day with Kier Group chief executive Haydn Mursell. “Being an environmental scientist, going corporate hasn’t always been in my life plan,” he admitted, noting that many of his peers are deterred by the idea of working in an office.

“It was definitely an eye-opener and a milestone to aim for,” said Christina Le, studying chemical engineering at Manchester University of her day with Stephen Kelly, CEO of Sage. “I think my generation has developed a strong sense of fear towards failure, to the point where some are too scared to step out of their comfort zone and try something new,” Christina added she had learned the importance of just trying. “If you don’t try you won’t fail, but you won’t succeed either.”

Meanwhile, the participating CEOs have also reported very positively on the scheme.

“Almost all the chief executives who’ve so far taken part have told us they found it useful to see their organisation through the eyes of a young person with whom there’s otherwise no direct connection. It gives them a fresh perspective and helps them better engage with the Millennial generation,” Mr Freebairn said.

Odgers Berndtson first launched the initiative in Germany 12 years ago, subsequently rolling it out across offices in other countries including Scandinavia, Spain, Finland, Brazil, Belgium and Canada. Including the UK, almost 350 organisations and over 700 CEOs and students will have participated.

For further information, please visit the CEOx1Day programme page.