The Value of the Middle Manager

Norman Broadbent is probably best known for executive and Board-level search. This is hardly surprising having successfully advised clients for over 40 years in this space.  Over recent years however an increasing number of clients are asking for our help elsewhere in their organisation. It could be to provide useful and impactful market intelligence via our Research & Insight Practice; or to provide immediate assistance through the provision of a high-level Interim Executive; or maybe it’s to psychologically assess a potential key hire or understand an effective team dynamic. Interestingly, one of the fastest growing parts of the Norman Broadbent Group is our Solutions business. As Senior Leadership Teams place focus more attention on securing and retaining the very best talent, they are increasingly thinking ahead and looking at future talent as they skip generations or succession plan to make their organisations fit for the future.  This is where Norman Broadbent Solutions come to the fore …

It is unusual for a major international search firm to deploy their “A-team” on mid-senior management searches. Yet in our opinion these positions are highly critical, requiring just as much care and consideration as the appointment of a more senior employee.  The successful appointment of a strong Project Director, Asset/Operations Manager, BD/Commercial leader, Head of a technical department, or equivalent, can be a “make or break” appointment for many of clients. Although they can sometimes sit 2-3 below the ExCo and may not set overall strategy, they are central to delivering it! Getting that kind of hire wrong can impact the business and budget significantly.

The development of our Solutions service line was driven by our clients’ consistent requests for support on these types of roles. This becomes particularly apparent at the £80-150k level, where we offer a unique blend of established search firm experience and process, with a boutique level of quality and our “client-first” mentality. Sometimes a search at this level may require a non-traditional process. Sometimes the pricing or commercial structures of these projects need to be adjusted to ensure we can align with our clients’ expectations; or sometimes we are engaged on the basis that these positions suck a huge amount of resource and capacity from in-house resourcing/talent departments who are dealing with a high volume of projects due to spikes in recruitment activity.

When comparing Norman Broadbent with the much larger international executive search machines it is apparent that we are far better placed to offer an agile, more commercially sensitive client-driven approach when taking on these high-impact middle management searches. So whether you’re looking to undertake market insight via Pre-Search Due Diligence, or embark quickly on a time and commercially sensitive search in this stratum of the market, it’s likely we can bespoke a solution to support you and ensure a successful outcome.

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome your business or people challenges, please contact, Chris Smith, on 07590 245 172 or via

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“All change”

As we move into a new decade, the rail sector is bracing itself for its biggest shake up in years. With a new Government, Brexit, the Williams Review, the Oakervee Review and the continuation of regional devolution, 2020 is going to be a year of major change for the rail sector.

Of these, the one thing certain to have the biggest impact is the Williams Review. With the White Paper due to land anytime soon, we are bracing ourselves for what will be a radical overhaul of  passenger services. At Keith Williams’ appearance before the Transport Select Committee in October last year, he offered insight into the recommendations he was going to make in order to deliver on his commitment to put passengers first. These include the creation of a new national railway body to act as an ‘independent guiding mind’ similar to that of the Strategic Rail Authority. Williams was keen to see a better aligning of track and train, and the creation of clear accountability and a greater distance between government and the day to day running of the railway. Whilst the scope of the new body’s responsibilities are yet to be decided, he did suggest that it would retain revenue risk rather than passing this on to the appointed Train Operating Company (TOC).

Williams also made it clear that the current franchising model had “had its day” A new system was needed that enabled the TOCs to get on with running services in the interest of passengers, whilst incentivising them to deliver creativity and innovation. Williams has highlighted TfL in the past as a role model because of the wide range of innovations they have implemented which has had a positive impact on their customer experience.

During his speech to the select committee he also suggested that he would recommend ‘considering’ the removal of profit motives from passenger train operating contracts and the move to ‘passenger service contracts’ instead. If this change was implemented Williams suggested that the national railway body would be responsible for the letting of these contracts, with the DfT only being responsible for setting broad national railway strategy.

Finally, the future of ticketing is also high on the agenda with Williams being in favour of simplifying ticketing for passengers in order to encourage further use of the rail network.

With all these changes, the need to embrace new technologies and ways of thinking will be key. Norman Broadbent have been helping an ever-increasing number of clients better understand and further define how their target operating models will need to change to meet these new requirements. Through the use of confidential business intelligence and pre-search due diligence projects we are able to provide leadership teams with the insight required to make informed strategic decisions and de-risk the hiring of new skills and expertise required to implement the strategy.

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome both your business or people challenges, please contact Nick Behan on +44 (0) 0207 484 0106 or via


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An Unexpected Brexit Dividend?


McKinsey recently released a report exploring the impact of Brexit on UK talent supply and demand. Interestingly, their findings demonstrated how companies had, so far, failed to revise their long-term talent strategies as part of their Brexit preparations.

Data shows that Brexit has affected the UK talent pool – EU migration is at its lowest level for seven years, and non-EU migration only slightly up. With British employment levels at record highs, companies are finding it more difficult to recruit top talent. Challenges are seen across many areas such as engineering, pharmaceuticals, high value manufacturing, automation, and digital. If one factors in competition from other international hubs, the challenges are compounded further.

McKinsey argue there is an imperative for businesses operating in the UK to take a deeper look at the future talent landscape and approach their talent strategy with just as much rigor as their business strategy. That means answering questions such as:

  • What are the critical roles that will disproportionately drive value in the medium term?
  • Do the right employees hold these roles?
  • How will a business retain the talent in those roles while preparing potential successors?
  • How will a business retain talent in the at-scale roles needed to deliver the strategy and attract the next wave of new hires?

One thing we have been considering is how this will affect the way companies approach external senior level hiring, specifically across highly technical or engineering led sectors where a reliance on specific sector experience is prevalent. If talent availability is reduced, the old mind-sets and expectations will have to change. This has been talked about for many years with the ageing demographics across industrial sectors and the challenges of attracting diverse talent. We now wonder if Brexit will finally have the unintended consequence of forcing organisations to become more focused on leadership capability and behavioural competence.

In our view it will.

There will be a need for organisations to become broader in their search for key leadership roles, looking at aligned and related sectors for talent, and assessing potential candidates much more deeply than they have before. Often, this will be combined with gaining an ever deeper understanding of their own organisation, the behaviours and qualities of their previously successful hires as well as understanding the mistakes that have been made in the past. Analysing failure can be difficult, but is often revelatory. The trends identified influence future hiring and can be tied into the search process. Engaging with professional search firms who can help guide and shape a hiring process based on these principles, helping you analyse previous successes or failures, will become more important than before. Couple this need for deep sector expertise and a broader appreciation of aligned sectors, the pool of search providers narrows greatly.

Norman Broadbent has focused itself on addressing these challenges and helping organisations mitigate associated risks. How do we do this? Our Leadership Consulting capability allows us to analyse current and past processes to asses and understand the traits of previously successful leaders; and our Pre-Search Due Diligence gives us the opportunity to deep dive into a market to understand where the talent is to totally de-risk a search process.  Our search process is proven, ‘data-rich’, and designed to assess behavioural and leadership competence as well as functional capability. The outcome is then deliberate and sometimes surprising. However, as 40% of leadership appointments are deemed a failure after the first 18 months we go a long way to ensure a successful outcome is achieved.

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome your business or people challenges, please contact, John Begley, on 0774 893 1911 or via

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Environmental Risk is REAL

This month The World Economic Forum published its Global Risks Report for 2020 which has presented us with some fascinating yet potentially surprising insights – as some critical risks are no doubt manifesting at a rapid rate, it’s the first time in the Global Risk Report’s history that all the top five risk are related to the environment.  This surely cannot be ignored!

The Top 5 Risks highlighted in the report were:

  1. Extreme weather events – from bushfires in Australia and floods in India, extreme weather destroys homes and businesses, damages infrastructure, threatens human life and has a huge impact on wildlife, with huge numbers of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and other species killed.
  2. Failure of climate change mitigation and adaption – we are all threatened by our changing climate, and although the world has started to respond to the climate crisis, we are not doing enough yet to adapt to stop the effects of climate change, or adapt to our changing world.
  3. Climate change and massive biodiversity loss – humanity has already caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, and insects have declined by 40% in recent decades, one study estimates, and humans need a variety of species to thrive. Biodiversity pollinates crops, cleans water and provides medicine. Planting trees, protecting the ocean and reducing pollution are key to restoring ecosystems.
  4. Major natural disasters – such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and even geomagnetic storms.
  5. Human made environmental damage and disasters – this includes environmental crimes like oil spills and radioactive contamination.

The global economy is no doubt facing an increased risk of stagnation, whilst climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than expected, and fragmented cyberspace threatens the full potential of next-generation technologies. The challenges before us demand immediate collective action, but fractures within the global community appear to only be widening. Stakeholders need to act quickly and with purpose within an unsettled global landscape.

Impact of the Industrial Sector

The industrial sector as a whole is among the sectors that emit the most greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide globally – whilst this includes sub sector industries such as manufacturing, food processing, oil and gas, utilities, and construction (iron, steel, and cement production are some specific examples), these sectors together produced 21 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in 2014.

Almost all countries now acknowledge the issue of climate change, however even after signing the Paris Agreement in 2016, many are still finding it difficult to cut back on their carbon emissions – for example Germany, considered to be a leader in climate change policies, remains strongly dependent on coal, one of the dirtiest sources of energy and a major contributor to carbon emissions.

But, in order to understand the connection of our impacts to climate change and why countries are having difficulty reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, the carbon emissions intensive industries must be analysed.

In recent years, with the emphasis more on environmental protection, the global energy landscape is now changing – the proportion of traditional energy is gradually decreasing, and renewable energy and its associated technologies are developing at a rapid rate. In this context, the energy sectors, and in particular the oil and gas industry, is still in the early stages of the low-carbon emission energy transition, and perhaps has the faces the greatest industry challenge in achieving a better carbon footprint.

We know that there is no easy path to reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint. There is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to success. But over the years, there have been some solid best practices that have surfaced.

So what is a CFOs role in reducing Carbon Footprint in the Industrial sectors?

One of the common themes that keeps surfacing with our clients is how much CFOs are counted on to be pillars and champions of their organisation’s carbon reduction and overall sustainability strategies. There is a lot is involved when it comes to a CFO being that champion, especially in a landscape that seems to be continuously evolving.

Here we highlight three ways finance leaders can take advantage of the demand for more sustainable business operations whilst navigating any regulatory changes.

Data and Analytics

As finance professionals, there is a requirement to rely on numbers to guide recommendations – and the same principle applies to putting energy numbers to work. Just like organisations today have quarterly financial reports and billing statements that indicate their financial performance, they also have data that reveals their energy performance.

This data is found in utility bills, and, increasingly, in reports from connected sensors and operating systems about equipment energy usage and performance from the plant floor to the corporate office.

Utility bills can reveal fluctuations in electricity consumption, and connected machine or Internet of Things (IoT) data can reveal symptoms of a larger problem, such as alerts indicating that a warehouse door is continuously left ajar, causing the AC to expend extra energy to cool the facility.

Without the hard utility data, managers would be blindly implementing energy saving measures that might align with a company’s financial and sustainability goals, but have minimal impact.

Either on their own or as a pair, utility and IoT data can be the backbone for first assessing current energy usage and environmental impact, and then instituting company-wide goals to reduce carbon emissions.

Business Partnering

Building a company energy-saving plan requires change and cooperation across many departments, including finance.  As CFOs, there is a unique role to play here. Not only is there a need to manage the financial risks of implementing energy-saving measures, but also need to communicate those risks and rewards to internal stakeholders – starting with the board of directors.

CFOs play a critical role in a carbon-reduction campaign, particularly for global organisations, where there may not be a system in place for financial leaders to be briefed on every business action that would affect carbon emissions goals.

A business development team, for example, might look to build a new facility to house a growing research team. That’s great news for the company as a whole, but unless there’s a line of communication from the business development team to the finance team, the financial benefits of adding energy-saving measure to the new facility might not be realised until it’s too late.

Communicating through effective business partnering gives the CFO an opportunity to work energy-saving and energy monitoring measures into any major business plan.

Regulatory Changes

Employees and customers are demanding more sustainable business operations, forcing financial and business leaders to align their goals to see how they can adjust in a financially sustainable way.

As financial leaders, efforts must support carbon-cutting goals, but they must also recognise that you aren’t policy or energy experts. A few groups have recognised this need, and are sharing information to help businesses navigate policy changes. One of these groups, the Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures (TCFD), focuses on disclosing climate-related risks to businesses.


By putting data to work, building new lines of communication through effective business partnering and paying attention to regulatory changes, we move closer to having the tools we need to influence the financial and environmental health of our organisations.

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome your business or people challenges, please contact, Marcus Blackburn, on 07483 015 595 or via

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