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“Write about the year we’ve had. What’s been happening in the world, and how we fit into it.”

That was the brief for this column on our last newsletter of the year, from my demanding comms director, and it feels like no small task. Generally speaking, I like reflecting on things: Describing a good meal to a friend even days afterwards can bring back the very smells and flavours of one of life’s great pleasures. And if you’re in the area, I’d strongly recommend the goats cheese, honey and pear starter at the Parlour bistro pub in Kilburn, London.  

Reflecting on the year just passed is more of a challenge and the smells and flavours definitely more chaotic and often less harmonious. I’m not here to deliver the news, and we all know how significantly challenging life has become or continues to be for displaced people, people in conflict zones and those living with the rapidly increasing impacts of climate change. It would be easy to lose heart. However, one great pleasure for all of us at Oxford HR is to work alongside organisations and individuals who are committed to positive action and this year has been a terrific opportunity for us to do just that.  

We’ve launched over 300 search projects this year, for leaders working across five continents, and in organisations impacting the lives of millions of people across the world. But out of those there are one or two projects it would be impossible not to mention. We’ve been delighted to partner with AFENET – the African Field Epidemiology Network, funded by the MasterCard Foundation, recruiting 92 specialists to support the ability across the continent to respond to disease outbreaks. This has been an exercise in moving at speed and at scale to search for, assess and recruit people working in five different languages across 54 different countries in a short space of time. 

A key goal for us is to evolve from being an executive search agency into a leadership consultancy. For us this means helping organisations build resilient, sustainable leadership teams, and not just hire great people. We’re interested in helping increase the impact of these organisations and this year has also involved expanding our team providing Leadership & Change support with colleagues in the UK, Southern Africa and across Europe. At a practical level this work often includes coaching and support to individual members of the leadership team, and getting involved in understanding and helping shape the culture of an organisation itself. This year we have been delivering board reviews, leadership coaching, staff engagement and succession planning to a variety of organisations looking to strengthen their leadership teams. And its work we love to do, too. 

The need for organisations in the ‘for purpose’ space to be as strong on the inside as they are on the outside is a given for many. And for us this has led to starting down the path of B-Corp Certification. The opportunity to reframe ourselves along societal and environmental objectives is a challenge that many of my colleagues have leapt at and has led to us starting to look more closely at ourselves – how do we speak authentically to our clients on topics such as equity, diversity and inclusion unless we have really rooted ourselves in an understanding of what these topics mean to our own staff and associates and how they influence the way we work?  

Sometimes the answers to these questions involve partnering with others more expert than us and spending more time listening than talking. A good example of this was our opportunity to run a real time, face to face (no screens) Knowledge Festival, partnering with the THNK School of Creative Leadership in Amsterdam. We were able to look at what leadership really means to the attendees from across the for-purpose world and present some of our own research on the topic, whilst getting input from the expert facilitators and practitioners at THNK.  

In the last five years Oxford HR has grown tenfold – and on pretty much every metric – staff size, projects run, turnover. Despite the pandemic, recessions and general turmoil we have been incredibly fortunate to attract and keep a really amazing team of people, representing over 30 nationalities and speaking over 20 languages. This also makes it difficult to name check them all here but I want to take a moment to thank them publicly for making Oxford HR the brilliant place to work that it is. 

Looking forwards, we have some exciting new projects in front of us. Firstly, we are finally opening up in the U.S., and are busy recruiting a Managing Director for the Americas. If you’re interested, drop me a line. Secondly, we’re recruiting a head of EDI, someone who can help lead us and our clients along this critical seam of organisational life. We’re looking at developing our work in co-leadership, working on our board effectiveness services and our embryonic design and comms agency OXygen is quickly developing a life all of its own.  

I hope you’ve got a flavour from this of life at Oxford HR in 2022 and some of the challenges and opportunities that lie in front of us. Thank you for being part of that journey with us, after all you’re the reason we all get up in the morning to work.   

David Lale
David Lale
Group CEO at Oxford HR

David is the Group CEO of Oxford HR having worked alongside and within the charity sector in executive search and recruitment for over 25 years. David is passionate about supporting and transforming the ‘for purpose’ sector. He has a particular interest in innovation and re-thinking the way the sector works. He’s also Chair of Charity People, the specialist UK Charity recruiter, and former Chair of Tiny Tickers, a charity supporting babies with congenital heart disease. He is a guest lecturer on the Trustee Academy training programme and has recently been honoured with an award as a Global Leader in Corporate Responsibility. He holds an MBA, is a Fellow of the RSA and currently studying for a Degree in Computing and AI.