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  • CXO Outlook

Transforming the Executive Search Industry and Making an Impact

About Natasha Makhijani:

Natasha Makhijani is the Founder and CEO of Oliver Sanderson Group. Having set up executive desks at both Hays and Michael Page, Natasha decided to launch her own business. Oliver Sanderson was born in her dining room, and what began as one lady and a laptop has grown into an international business at the cutting edge of executive search. Oliver Sanderson has built up a strong track record of senior and c-suite appointments at FTSE 100, FTSE 350, and Fortune 500 companies. Natasha combines purpose-driven leadership and a strong understanding of executive search with an expertise in digital recruitment solutions. She is a pioneer in this field, leading the creation of Oliver Sanderson’s new executive apps and Snapp CV, the world’s first mobile job board with voice technology capability and Amazon Alexa connectivity. Natasha is passionate about tackling D&I challenges with clients and is currently establishing a charity to address a range of issues related to race equality, disability, and gender. A founding member and co-chair of APSCo’s HR Sector Group, Natasha’s advocacy has helped achieve progress on these issues across the industry and beyond.


1. According to you, what are the top three recruitment trends to expect in 2023?


Flexibility will be a priority for candidates

In December 2022, the government announced plans to ‘Make flexible working the default’, and as part of this plan will give millions of employees day one rights to request flexible working, empowering workers to have a greater say over when, where, and how they work. Flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office – it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours. Businesses are set to benefit from higher productivity and staff retention as a result.


LinkedIn Sales Director Cara O’Leary recently revealed that flexibility has become the number one priority for candidates searching for a new job on the platform. It’s clear, then, that employers will need to be offering flexibility in location, hours or other areas to attract talented candidates in the competitive market.


The 4-day working week will become a reality for many

The traditional 5-day, 8-hour week has been challenged over the past few years, with working habits changing dramatically as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 2022 also saw the UK undergo the largest trial of a four-day working week, which saw more than 70 companies cut their employees' working hours to 32 hours a week while still paying them their full salary. At the midpoint of the trial in September, 95% of the companies surveyed anticipated that productivity had either stayed the same or improved since the adoption of this model. We are likely to see more companies adopt a four-day week in 2023, especially if the final results from the trial are positive, and candidates may begin to favour companies that have already adopted a four-day week.


The recruitment tech ecosystem will continue to grow

A shortage of talent and a rise in openings since the pandemic has seen recruiter workloads grow rapidly, and they show no signs of slowing down. The widening gap between supply and demand is forcing recruiters to work harder to find talent and fill roles. This is where technology and automation can help massively to reduce recruiter workloads and help relieve pressure. New tools and evolving technologies are entering the recruitment space all the time, and 2023 will be no different. Of course, there’s no substitute for a talented recruitment team, but HR tech stacks can include solutions for chatbots, candidate screening, AI skills matching, video interviewing and much more! This can all help to streamline the recruitment process and help the recruiter focus on what they do best.


2. As an Executive Search and Recruitment Consultant, what does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

How important is it to have those authentic conversations with people to create more acceptance across industries?


Oliver Sanderson integrates Diversity and Inclusion at the heart of its search processes, shortlisting programmes, and consultancy work, helping clients to create a more inclusive culture and to improve representation in their organisations.


Research shows that companies that champion diversity and inclusion are more successful and innovative, and more attractive to customers, staff, and potential job applicants. McKinsey’s study (2018) showed that companies with ethnically diverse leadership are 33% more likely to outperform on profitability and 21% more likely to have above-average profitability with gender diverse leadership teams. D&I is no longer just a box ticking exercise, but a pivotal part of developing a strong and successful business and more important than ever.


Oliver Sanderson is at the forefront of an evolving industry, developing research-informed practices to foster change and tackle diversity and inclusion challenges for clients.


3. Natasha, please tell us about your professional and personal background.


After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from City, University of London and a Master’s from DePaul University in Chicago, I began my recruitment career on the Graduate Scheme at Hays. Fast-tracked into management roles, I achieved four promotions in four years and took a team from billing £10,000 to £80,000 a month.


From Hays I then moved to Michael Page, where I worked on a hybrid desk across permanent and interim senior leadership roles. I was given responsibility for growing Michael Page’s Public Sector division from its offices in London. I soon became the company’s number one biller in HR across the UK, but I always wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial route. Having already set up executive desks at both Hays and Michael Page, I switched my focus to establishing a business of my own, and in 2011, Oliver Sanderson was born.


4. What inspired you to start Oliver Sanderson? What sets it apart from other market competitors?


I left a comfortable job as a recruiter to go it alone and set up my own company. It was a leap of faith, but it was always a dream of mine to build something important and lead a team. I come from a very entrepreneurial community, and I knew that I could make a wider impact as a business leader. People questioned whether it was the right thing to do, but I took the risk. I knew it was right for me, and I have never looked back. What started as one woman on a laptop has grown into an international business at the cutting edge of executive search, working with big clients, winning awards, and making a difference internationally!


Our pioneering digital solutions set us apart from the competition. With our innovative suite of digital apps, including Snapp – the world’s first voice-technology enabled mobile jobs platform with exclusive Amazon Alexa integration – we are leading the way in discovering the next generation of business leaders.


5. In your current role, what kind of challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?


The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on our daily business operations, but we have managed to survive and thrive since the first lockdown. Our firm has had to adapt quickly to meet new challenges, becoming more flexible in our delivery models and transitioning to digital platforms through our in-house recruitment software Snapp and the OS Executive app. Thanks to our flexibility, we have managed to grow and expand our team.


In my view, the recruitment industry has already undergone a process of transformation triggered by the pandemic. We are now seeing a candidate-led market – talented candidates are in demand, and they are now setting their own terms, especially with regard to flexible working arrangements. There is also a bigger global talent pool to choose from, but the competition for talent is also increased. We work with our clients to help them understand what they need to do and what to offer in order to attract top talent in today’s competitive market, and the right candidates for their organization.


6. You are also a board member of the Black Leadership Advisory Council. Can you please tell us about this UK based charity and your role in it?


Statistics show that black people are still the most underrepresented racial group in UK workplaces and career progression. By any measure, work to improve black representation at leadership levels in business is failing, despite the recent rise in the Black Lives Matter movement, the critical reports, and the marketing and awareness campaigns. The Black Leadership Advisory Council aim to engage decision makers and those on the front line in a different kind of dialogue about these critical topics and find a route to making progress. Our aim is to open up the possibility of a new kind of commitment through a co-created programme of research-led innovation, alliance building, championing values of dignity and mutual respect, and supporting breakthrough action.


7. Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?


Marija Simovic is an ambitious and dynamic COO with Transformation & Change experience. She was originally a client of mine, who I recruited for and got to know well. She subsequently became an NED and investor of Oliver Sanderson. Marija is a corporate entrepreneur and businesswoman at heart who has inspired me to believe in myself and make the impossible possible. She has stood by me and the business through good times and bad times and has encouraged me as an Asian female leader to become a thought leader and an example in the marketplace. Being a headhunter in executive search is second nature to me, but being a business owner and running a business was and still is my biggest learning curve. This is where Marija gave me the strength and insight to think outside of the box and empowered me to scale Oliver Sanderson.


Another person who really inspired me and was my partner in crime who encouraged me from a young age was my partner Ash Daswani who sadly passed away after a short illness in August last year. Ash was proud to watch me grow Oliver Sanderson from nothing to become an international business with major clients like British Airways and Aviva. Together we founded Snapp CV under the Oliver Sanderson Digital Division. Together we took on the world, and often won.


8. Which one of your accomplishments makes you the proudest till date?


I am lucky enough to have celebrated a number of achievements throughout my business journey. A major highlight has been watching Oliver Sanderson become established in the UK and begin to grow overseas – having set up the company from my dining-room table, it is so rewarding to see how far we’ve come! Other successes include winning exciting new client relationships with major businesses like British Airways, Aviva, and Engie, and winning many different awards.


Most recently, I was honoured to be invited to feature in the 2022 Platinum Jubilee Pageant Commemorative Album, as an organisation with aligned values. We were selected for “our transformational contribution” to the sphere of business. It is one of my proudest achievements. Being a British Asian, my life has been shaped by our Royal Family. In particular, I have always been inspired by our Queen – her values, her global presence, her exceptional work ethic, and the way that she has always upheld service, even in the most challenging circumstances.


9. What is the one lesson learnt that’s unique to being a woman leader?


Never be afraid to speak up in the boardroom and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other leaders, but at the same time be open to listening and change. Nobody knows everything and there is always room to learn from others in industry.


10. Where do you see Oliver Sanderson in the next 5 years?


I would like to accomplish growth to an exceptional level in the interim side of our business. I would also like to open offices internationally, and have already started exploring New York, India, and The Netherlands. I think it is essential for us to diversify our working practices and reach out; there is still so much for us to learn and expand.


We also recognise that we must be mindful of a changing workplace due to the pandemic and companies changing working practices and how they hire. There is a rise for change embracing new ways of working is vital. Change brings opportunity, but it’s about navigating your way through the choppy waters to ensure a successful outcome.


11. What piece of advice would you give to aspiring professionals across the globe?


Being specific with your market proposition is probably the most important part of the initial journey as an entrepreneur. I believe it is essential to know what your goal is, devise a strategy and a business plan, and continuously refer back to it. This way you never lose focus on what your goal is and where you want to go. Throughout your journey always be open and adaptive to how things can change. There will be stumbles and knockdowns, but you can’t let them define you. What matters is how you get back up and get back on track.


I think it is vital to be aware of the needs of the sector, the job market, and the requirements of one’s company and people. I firmly believe that a leader should have passion, drive, energy, honestly, integrity, and humor, to name a few! A leader has to be open-minded and find solutions through difficult times. Leaders must be challenged, actively listen, constantly know that they are always learning, and be open to others guiding you. As a business grows, a leader should be apt at identifying and cultivating talent; proper succession planning can lead to great leaders.



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