With his experience as HR Director, CEO, Board member and adviser to Sweden’s most senior executives, Fredrik Hillelson has a very good insight into the importance of the HR role for businesses. Today Fredrik is the Managing Director of Novare Human Capital and Novare Executive Search and has completed more than 1,000 recruitment assignments for management group and board roles. Fredrik is also a board member of Nordic Interim.
How has the HR manager’s role developed during your time in the industry?
“In the past, HR, to put it simply, was mainly an administrative role, managing salaries, recruiting and supporting managers. Today, more and more business leaders see that strategic HR work is critical to the business and it is a must to have HR Director on the management team. HR has become a key role. Strategic HR, succession planning and skills planning wasn’t on the board’s agenda in the past, but today it is on the agenda and everyone is aware that it is necessary to be competitive. HR Executives with a business-minded approach will be highly sought after. Previously, we saw CFO:s promoted to CEO roles, now the trend is that HR managers will be our next CEOs. HR has a great future.“
What are the challenges that HR face today?
“Ensuring the supply of skills is already and will continue to be, the biggest challenge. We are seeing a big retirement exit now and the younger generation has completely different ways of working and is motivated on other grounds than previous generations. A gold watch is not something that millennials strive for. The future will require constant development and education in order to keep up and be relevant, even at management level. So far, further education, as an MBA, is unfortunately not as highly valued in Sweden as abroad, but there we will see a change.
A huge shortcoming within certain occupational and knowledge categories lies ahead of us, and here we really must work strategically with HR. In many cases, the expertise we have in Sweden is not enough, and we have to bring in expertise from outside, especially when it comes to digitalization. In order to attract the right people, we must be able to offer new forms of incentives, career paths and compensation.
In certain phases you will need specific key skills, and there the interim will have a given place.”
You saw the need for interim leaders early. What is your view on interim management?
“We knew that there was an interim market internationally, but in Sweden people were hesitant to include external leaders in decision-making roles. But the discussion with our customers about different forms of fast solutions came up more and more. Together with Investor, we started Nordic Interim in 2004 to meet our customers’ needs in both the short and long term. Now it is becoming a more frequent way of working during a critical period, or while recruiting a permanent solution. In the beginning, we focused primarily on medium-sized companies that were open to this type of skills provision. Now, for example, the PE companies have also adopted interim solutions as rapid changes require a different type of leadership than what you have internally. The bigger companies are still lagging behind, and I wonder why. The truth is probably that interim management has not been tested and most companies try to solve their problems internally. However, we can see a clear growing need. Normally a permanent recruitment process takes between 6 and 9 months, time that is not available. The pace of business is increasing, which indicates that interim management will increase. Having interim management in their toolbox will be crucial for HR managers.”