I admit it; last month was exhausting. But eye-opening and thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. For all of October I was shadowed during my entire working day by a young German woman, Lisa Frommhold.
Lisa is this year’s Global CEO for One Month - the person chosen from more than 204,000 applicants from across the globe to spend a month with me, as the chief executive of the world’s leading human resources solutions provider, and a Fortune 500 company.
Lisa emerged as the strongest candidate through a rigorous selection process. She progressed through a country-level an assessment in her native Germany, where she was selected to shadow her local Adecco Group CEO. She was one of 47 young people selected as the national CEOs for One Month. For these 47, the top 10 went on to a grueling boot camp in London, designed to identify the single Group CEO for One Month. Lisa came out strongest in terms of leadership, innovation and future potential.
Working together has been an enriching experience for me. In many ways, Lisa, aged 23, is similar to her three predecessors in my time as Group CEO. All of them have been fearsomely intelligent and possessing immense personal skills, along with a ceaseless curiosity that singled them out as outstanding inpiduals. Three were European, one Japanese. One an engineer, and the others from the humanities. But all were very special. In Lisa’s case, we saw a winning combination of entrepreneurship, a passion to learn and very strong communications skills.
I’m surprised more big companies don’t run schemes like ours. To the best of my knowledge, the Adecco Group is unique in the scope and ambition of its global CEO for One Month program – part of our wider efforts to prepare young people for the world of work. Each year, the number of applicants has risen. And even those who don’t reach the final cut benefit from an array of advice and information about getting onto the first rung of the employment ladder. With youth unemployment still high in so many countries, those are valuable tools.
Like her predecessors, Lisa has been a sponge, with a seemingly insatiable ability to absorb knowledge – experience I’m sure will stand her in good stead for her future career. But what’s struck me most is the benefit all our CEOs for One Month have brought me and my fellow members of our leadership team.
I learned a lot from Lisa as well. Something that stands out is that many young people today want constant feedback. They want to be told where they can improve or hone their perse skills. They also want responsibility – far earlier than for my generation, where we so often silently accepted menial or basic tasks before climbing the ladder. By contrast, many young people today want a more active role from early on. They want to raise their impact – say by being given genuine project work to get their teeth into.
In Lisa’s case, I also asked specifically for insights into how we might improve our company. While she found our onboarding process broadly excellent, she also identified room for tweaks.
Such insights are all the more welcome in a business like ours, where personal relationships are so crucial. Digitization is changing the way we work - particularly our sector of human resources solutions. But the human touch will remain paramount, whether in terms of relationships with our clients, our direct employees, or to the hundreds of thousands of candidates around the world who find jobs through us every day.
Exhausting it may have been, but I’m already looking forward to greeting next year’s CEO for One Month, whomever that may be. The experience is wholly fulfilling and beneficial. Obviously, you need a certain, special type of corporate culture, founded on fundamental trust, to make such schemes work. But, based on our experience, I can only commend the idea to other big companies – both in the interests of young people entering the world of work, and their own.