Adecco’s Young CEO Shares Her Secrets To Success

The future of work is changing. Landing a job is always challenging, but especially for youth with no work experience. Everyone dreams of sitting in the CEO’s chair but many struggle to get their foot on the ladder. Youth need a helping hand and some professional experience behind them to kick-start their careers.

This is exactly what Adecco aims to achieve. Through their Way to Work programme, Adecco are giving youth a special opportunity to be the ‘CEO for one month’ and run a multinational company around the world.

Not only is this a unique opportunity for Country leaders to learn about youth perspectives on work, Way to Work also raises awareness about the impact of high youth unemployment.

This year, 54,637 ambitious youngsters from 50 countries applied to become ‘CEOs for One Month’. Online vetting was followed by a specific recruitment and interview process, before selection by candidates’ respective Adecco Country Managers.

The 50 chosen are now spending a month on the job with their Country Managers and local leadership teams. Their intense programme will include learning about the HR solutions and staffing business, grasping broader management, finance and marketing principles, being exposed to clients, and having opportunities for public speaking – a unique experience that will boost skills, confidence and employability.

The top 10 ‘CEOs for One Month’ will proceed to a further stage – the Boot Camp – after which one alone will be recruited as the Adecco Group’s ‘CEO for One Month’. Global CEO Alain Dehaze will personally mentor the candidate, sharing his knowledge and experience in running a Fortune 500 company with 32,000 employees worldwide.

We spoke to New Zealand’s CEO for one month, Anna Zam, who is currently studying for a conjoint degree in Law and Arts at the University of Auckland while also taking up the big chair at Adecco.

What made you apply?
I applied because I am passionate about helping youth succeed. I understand how hard and scary the workplace is compared to “school”. Having heard, tutored and mentored youth going through these similar experiences made me realise that employers, businesses and government needs to take youth employability seriously. Especially since I have worked in disadvantaged or lower socio-economic communities before, I know that work is very empowering. It means the world for a young person to get their first “real” job or enter into the workforce. I applied believing that it would be a great way to learn about how one company is taking a stand on the issue of youth unemployment. Adecco aren’t just giving young people an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, they’re influencing all their major clients or business partners to do the same – take a chance on youth!

How are they working for the community?
The Way to Work programme is about giving youth a learning opportunity. I am a great example of this. Before the month started, I had little idea what a business case plan was or how Adecco functions as both an employer and recruitment agency. Not only does Adecco provide this support but there are also other great corporate social responsibility initiatives. One example is their Win 4 Youth

Adecco has great but one thing I have learnt is a lot about the practical business sense side of thing. We might have the vision of getting more youth into work or achieving higher education rates so they can get into more qualified, high skilled jobs but I need to break that down into a strategy and a business plan.

Why do you think you won?
Making it through to the second stage made me realise how talented everyone was. It must have been tough for Adecco and the Country Coordinator but my only guess would be that I was passionate about reducing youth unemployment rates. It’s an area that I had recently studied in my policy papers at university so it was ideal for me to see what little impact I could have around the issue. Since this programme runs through our academic semester rather than through the summer like other CEOs for one month have, I think the passion is essential to making the most of the opportunity, as well as keeping up with long days juggling both work and uni.

What qualities do you think you have that make you a great leader?
I think a great quality to have as a leader is the ability to genuinely listen. Leaders who listen will always know more than those who don’t. I am always learning this but especially, youth feel as though they aren’t often listened to. The best thing for leaders is to be a pair of ears and act as a speakerphone for youth. You get taught advocacy, leadership or public speaking skills but often the tendency to listen well isn’t emphasised. I think it’s a key skill because people respond better when they feel as though they are being heard. Another important personal trait is resilience and persistence in the face of risks. A leader often makes tough or new decisions and you have to back yourself up on these.

Hardest things you have had to overcome?
I’ve had to adjust to not having a set routine like I am used to. There are days were Mike will suggest we take the opportunity to do something or issues might come up that we have to deal with. There are also surprise weekly challenges from Adecco Group globally that will tell me what task I have to achieve within the week. Not having a day to day plan, but still having deadlines to meet means it has been a mental challenge to switch into different mind-sets very quickly.

Key skills that you have learnt being here?
A key skills is presentation. I haven’t done a business case before and this commercial reality is a very different environment than I have been exposed to. I spent a day beforehand preparing for a business presentation which was nerve-wracking. I’ve also understood a lot more how businesses need to position themselves for a point of difference and how social media marketing is important to get your name out there.

Skills you are hoping to improve
My leadership skills. In terms of understanding how different leadership styles might be required in different circumstances, I like learning about how management runs in an organisation this large.

Best part of experience?
With my innovation project I really wanted to look at youth with disabilities to see how they can get into work. We did a visit to Altus Enterprises and seeing their business model employing people with disabilities was inspiring. That is just one of the many experiences I have had over this month. I have met some incredible people and networked with many different businesses which has been one of my highlights.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I guess working on something I feel is challenging and will make a true positive impact on ordinary people’s lives. That is really important to me but it is interesting to know that you can work for a company like Adecco and there are lots of added layers to a company. On top of your day job of securing people work,  you are also running, swimming or cycling for the Win 4 Youth and clocking km’s for that. I would like to gain some international experience to better connect New Zealand to overseas. We’re very unique here but I’m appalled to know that because of our size, there are still educated people that think we’re a part of Australia or miss us entirely. I’d like to help put New Zealand on the map somehow.

What has been your motivation to succeed?
I’m motivated to succeed because I know that I’m in a very privileged position that someone else could have taken. Because of this, I never like to take these special opportunities for granted. My grandmother was born in Kiribati so it’s a very different world, as you can imagine. She’s been an inspiration and role model because of her resourcefulness especially through a world war. It means that I push myself to make sure I don’t slack off.

If you do make it through to the final stages, what is your dream project to work on?
My mission for this month was to understand how top-complying companies such as Adecco can partner with youth and the public on addressing a key issue that is multifaceted. I think there needs to be a crucial link in order to make an effective change. It’s a global issue that while it doesn’t seem like a priority here because our NEETs rates are low compared to other European countries, if we fail to help youth into work before they reach 24, we are losing out on a lot of missed potential and talent. Looking at how companies can work around those issues too, especially with future working situations changing, is exciting. I’d like to work on a project that seeks to solve how we innovate alongside these changes, to prevent talent mismatch of jobs, and skills shortages.

What advice do you have for youth?
Just go for it. A lot of the time your ownself-doubt can really hold you back from biting the bullet and seeing where it leads you. Even if you don’t think you have all the required skills, just apply and show them what you can bring to the table. Often, like I have, you’ll be surprised.