The Adecco Group Chair of the Board Jean-Christophe Deslarzes talks about the importance of leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and the Adecco Group’s ambitious diversity objectives. The article was originally published in the Schilling Report.


What have you learned from the Covid-19 pandemic?


The priority during this crisis was on ensuring the wellbeing of our colleagues as well as supporting our customers. Also, it is important not miss out on any opportunities. We used 2020 to develop our new strategy called Future@Work. The Adecco Group started with its implementation in January 2021. The focus to continue developing the company over the longer term should never be lost out of sight, even during turbulent times.


What strategic measures in relation to gender diversity have you taken at the Board of Directors (BoD) and Executive Committee (EC) level and how do you supervise them?


The group employs about 30,000 employees on a global level. Our objective is to achieve a female share of 50% across all management levels by 2030. I am proud to say that on the Board of Directors, we have already achieved the objective of gender parity this April with four women and four men. The objective of gender diversity is also a part of the variable compensation of our EC and senior management, i.e. the top 300 leaders of the company. The CEO and the Chief HR Officer (CHRO) are reporting to the BoD about the progress achieved on a quarterly basis.


What results have those measures achieved and what do you expect to see as a result going forward?


From 2019 to 2020 we increased the share of our female leadership from 26% to 32%. About 66% of our employees are women. It is important to us to promote female leadership such as by including two women among the three candidates we put forward in our succession planning. We are hoping to achieve a better diversity across all management levels but also to increase innovation, creativity as well as deliver better results as a company.


As part of the demographic development, we will see more managers retire over the coming years. How do you deal with this at the Adecco Group on a strategic level?


The CEO and the CHRO are discussing succession planning of the EC on a regular basis with the BoD. Also, a forward-looking succession plan shouldn’t just focus on the most senior leadership but should ideally start on the front line leadership level. It is important to identify potential leaders at an early stage and promote and prepare them for future tasks.


What competencies will gain in importance in the BoD, considering the increasingly fast economic developments globally?

The right combination of professional experience, personality, origin and gender will become more and more important in the BoD given the strategic challenges ahead. A solid knowledge around technology and digitalisation along with emotional intelligence are already crucial abilities, which will be even more in demand going forward.


Digitalisation, automatization and workplace of the future are important developments of the current work environment. How are you meeting these trends?


These trends were already identified and addressed before Covid-19. The crisis only accelerated the digitalisation and new forms of working. Companies that invested heavily in their IT and digital infrastructure as well as the necessary knowhow have a clear competitive advantage at this stage.


What are you doing to improve the quality and impact of the BoD’s work and what role does the Board Assessment play?


When recruiting Board members, it is important to focus as much on personality as on competencies and experience. An efficient BoD is a true team with complementary personalities and not merely a group of experts meeting every quarter. Thus, a balanced recruitment is of enormous importance. The Board Assessments are helping us to continuously improve ourselves.