Boyden Executive Search

Alicia Hasell of Boyden United States gives her views on the industries, talent and functions best positioned to adapt to change and thrive in the future.

By Alicia K. Hasell

What industry stands out as being particularly well-positioned for the future? 

Hasell: Industries that are more technology-dependent or cutting edge have an advantage as “industries of the future.” It’s not just that they’re better positioned, but more likely that the talent they hire and cultivate is, by nature, more inquisitive about “what might be” and less constrained by any perceived limitations.

What functions are more prepared and which are more resistant to change?

Hasell: Typically, human resources and IT functions are naturally adaptive and receptive to changing dynamics. Operations and finance, which are typically more structured due to compliance and process requirements, will generally face more challenges to evolve. Our clients are seeking executives who can access creative solutions and not maintain the status quo.

Alec Ross believes diversification is the key for future boards. Is there a “tipping point” or key moment that companies need to experience in order to commit to diversification? 

Hasell: There may not be a tipping point per se, but the point of recognition is different for each company, and that often depends on its “vintage.” Newer companies are more likely to bake diversity into their practices, which makes them easily positioned for the optimal future structure. 

If social media and the growth of peoples’ networks can speed political movements, one can assume the same applies to corporations. How should execs of the future harness this?

Hasell: Our clients are telling us they want innovative, forward thinkers who are passionate about building from scratch, while leaving their own mark. The days of a precise position profile and a resume that fits perfectly are gone.

It is more about recruiting the best talent and allowing him or her to serve as a utility player, who as a senior executive has great flexibility and perseverance. It is the new normal that executives are embracing, since the benefits of improved profits and lower turnover far exceed the cost of resisting change. 

You work frequently in the broader energy market. Compared to other sectors, how do energy companies, and their executives in particular, need to evolve to be positioned for the next generation?

Hasell: The cyclical nature of the energy industry creates significant entrepreneurial opportunities as well as resourceful, resilient, independent managers who are not afraid to take risks. However, the industry also loses a great deal of strong human capital in every cycle.

Freshly graduated engineers who enter the job market in a negative cycle take their skills to other industries. This creates a talent gap for managerial positions that shows up many years later. It’s a challenging issue for the industry, and the answer may lie in greater operator-service company collaboration.

In the end, partnering with businesses that have global reach will be key to gaining a competitive advantage for the future. The mergers and acquisitions currently underway are not just about consolidation, but largely driven by the need to extend companies’ reach.


A companion piece to Leadership Series, The Boyden View puts the spotlight on in-house experts from Boyden offices around the world, who share their perspectives on issues relevant to the current edition of Leadership Series.

For more detailed insights, read the full Leadership Series interview with Alec Ross, author of the New York Times Number One Best Seller The Industries of the Future.

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