Annual Report 2020

Turbulence & transformation

Oxford HR is a global Executive Search and Organisational Effectiveness consultancy, purely focused on the for-purpose sector. Driven by a passion for positive change, we search for and support the exceptional leaders that can make that happen. Our consultants all come from the for-purpose sector, leading to an impressive breadth and depth of experience and a true understanding of the leadership qualities our clients, and the sector, need for advancement. 

The impact and influence of organisational effectiveness activities are only increasing in their necessity, as we move on from 2020 and the global factors that have changed our world for the foreseeable. Oxford HR are committed to not only helping our clients find these world-changing leaders, but to also nurture, support and develop them, individually, within teams or as part of the wider organisation. 

Global Highlights

Message from CEO

Despite being in business for twenty five years this year, this is our first Annual Report. And what a year to choose for our inaugural reflection. A year in which the new liturgy of social-distancing, furlough, tele-working and ‘hands, face, space’ masked the extent to which societies, communities and workplaces underwent fundamental and perhaps permanent shifts. In which phrases like ‘next slide please’ or ‘you’re on mute’ became catch phrases for bored home workers and local council meetings on zoom went viral. A strange, difficult year indeed. 

For Oxford HR we took the time to reflect on our progress and make plans for the future. Our strategic planning process, aptly named Phoenix, led us to re-commit ourselves to the ‘for purpose’ sector and to a renewed focus on executive ‘search for a better world’, summed up well in our strap line. 

We invested in growing our pool of expert Associates and in developing our work in organisational effectiveness. And we began to focus on our key practice areas – such as conservation and the environment where our partnerships with key players such as WWF and our support of Just One Tree have really flourished. We started to look at our own structure to see how we could become stronger in our corporate citizenship and thought more deeply about how we support the need for more diverse representation in leadership of the world’s largest NGOs, development banks and across the sector in general.  

Our aim is to be close to our clients and our candidates – geographically, in the expertise we bring to the table and the services we provide, in our demography too. We hope that 2021 will give us the opportunity to develop our presence across the US and in Asia in the same way we are already active in Europe and Africa.  

I am particularly thankful to the amazing team at Oxford HR who dealt with the enormous challenges and changes that 2020 brought to us, with good humour and hard work and confident that we are coming out of it in better shape as a result. I hope you enjoy this report and look forward to providing an update next year on our progress. 

David Lale


Challenges Faced

1. Virtual recruiting & on-boarding 

2020 was the year that threw everything we knew up in the air. As an executive search firm, we work in people and in placing them in roles around the globe, which requires travel, movement and face to face interaction. None of which you could do in 2020. So in order to survive and support our clients, who still need to make that next crucial senior hire despite the pandemic, we had to adapt.

This meant working out new systems that were just as effective as the old for virtual recruiting, on-boarding and support once a new leader was in place. For some organisations that meant never meeting their new CEO or ED face-to-face, therefore putting a whole different element of trust and responsibility on the search firm in question, to ensure due diligence and to totally understand the organisation itself and the kind of person they need. Oxford HR implemented these changes through an increased number of interviews with potential candidates, working with them even more closely than previously to ensure they were fit for the role in question and writing ever more detailed reports on each applicant we put forward. For on-boarding we offered coaching and increased levels of support through our Organisational Effectiveness specialists, and, coupled with working with our clients to determine the role before they went to market, the people we put in place hit the ground running without even meeting their team. The result was our clients kept on hiring throughout the pandemic and whilst it hasn’t been easy, the new systems we have in place are robust for the future and we can offer a level of support through our OE practice, that we weren’t previously in a position to do so. 

2. Travel ban and more localized hiring 

The lack of travel in 2020 and the movement towards a more localized hiring effort for many organisations, has been both a challenge and an opportunity for Oxford HR. A challenge in several ways – we used to travel globally to meet with our clients to really get under the skin of their organisation and needs; our clients place their senior hires from all locations around the world so restrictions on geography has not been a hiring issue; in terms of candidates re-locating to find their dream job, many have been stifled and perhaps thought they couldn’t achieve the in-country role they desired.

The flip side to this is the obvious positive impact on the environment and several lessons around hiring as well. Whilst some jobs need to be carried out in-country, there is a lot more than can be done remotely than we previously thought possible and, whilst this isn’t always easy, with the right support and an enabling work environment, it is possible. And with some organisations looking to hire more locally, this is positive for the region in question. Oxford HR were able to support in this endeavour as we have offices around the world, coupled with a global network. 

3. Mental health / Employee engagement

At Oxford HR we have been working remotely for many years due to being a global company. However, as has every organisation, we have sometimes struggled with not coming together as we would normally 4 times a year and with individuals being in lockdown at various times throughout the year. We have therefore totally sympathized with organisations who have struggled to keep employee engagement high, and their teams motivated to keep performing and delivering on their mission, in the most difficult of circumstances. Within Oxford HR we have organised Mental Health support workshops, had weekly companywide virtual coffee mornings and a monthly virtual pub quiz, in a bid to stay close to each other, keep talking and support our colleagues.  

We supported our clients through coaching and in particular with team development events, which help to reinforce commitment of working together and boost the dynamics where required.

4. Events

For Oxford HR, attending events globally and raising our visibility as a provider to the for-purpose sector is crucial. We like to use our networks to disseminate thought leadership articles, innovations and to knowledge share. Attending events to network and make new contacts, was something we had placed a lot of emphasis on for 2020. However, we soon got to grips with online conferences and have seen the benefits of online events, such as opening up these discussions to a more global forum, reducing our carbon footprint and generally promoting a more inclusive dialogue. 

Sustainability and environment 

Just One Tree

Oxford HR recognises we have a responsibility to the environment beyond legal and regulatory requirements. We are continually striving to reduce our environmental impact and improve our performance, as an integral part of our business strategy and operating methods. We also encourage our customers, suppliers and stakeholders to do the same.

As part of this commitment, since January 2020 we have been supporting the not-for-profit organisation Just One Tree. For every candidate that we place we plant 10 trees in Madagascar and 25 trees when placing a CEO level role. In addition to this, Oxford HR have committed to a regular planting of 25 trees a month. We are incredibly proud that this relationship to date has culminated in almost 1800 trees being planted and we look forward to many more plantings with Just One Tree in the coming year.

B Corps

In 2021, Oxford HR is undertaking the exciting process of becoming a Certified B Corps Company, joining the nearly 4,000 companies in 74 countries in the pursuit of becoming a business that balances purpose and profit. We will be required to consider the impact of our decisions on our staff and associates, customers and suppliers, the community and the environment. We are looking forward to joining a community of leaders that are driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good, for our people and our planet.

Oxford HR internally

Championing diversity and inclusion is something that Oxford HR takes very seriously and have done for many years, but with the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020, the world and attitudes globally changed. We are passionate advocates of diversity being a prerequisite for strength and success within any organisation and the promotion of equality is paramount in how we operate as a search firm. We work with our clients to discuss, create and deliver on their D&I targets but more than that, we ensure that the people we place with them are not just there as a tick box, but they are the right people for the job who will genuinely enhance and drive forward an organisation in its mission. Enabling a supportive and equal workplace is just as important to Oxford HR as placing the right leaders within it and we are proud of the work we do with Boards to strengthen their capabilities in this area, although there is always room for improvement, and we continually strive to do more.

Ambitions for the future


Oxford HR has long had a presence in Asia, but with three new associates based in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Melbourne, this is an area of focus for us in the coming year. With our global experience with local knowledge of these areas, we can really offer our clients in this region a tailored and expert service.


We have been working with clients in the Americas intermittently for years, but it is an area that we are looking to expand into and to have a presence there in 2022. Compounded by our recent successful sponsorship of the WILD forum based in the States, we already have a network in this region and feel we could offer knowledge and expertise to clients here.

Oxford HR Interim Service

Launched in early 2021, an interim service is something we have been looking at providing for a few years. Finally, we have put the resources and processes in place and are looking forward to working on senior interim placements in 2021.

Organisational Effectiveness

First set up in 2019, our OE practice has gone from strength to strength in 2020. Maybe unsurprisingly given the pandemic, but our clients seem to be taking a much more focused approach in this area and as such, we have grown the practice to include an additional two Associates and a new Head of OE, Susanne Skoruppa, to really grow this area of the Oxford HR Group in 2021.


Launched in early 2021, OXygen is the strategic design and communications arm to Oxford HR. Off to a great start winning three clients within the first few months of launching, OXygen wishes to bring all of the expertise, passion and quality that you would expect from Oxford HR, but for our client’s design and communications needs. Watch out for more information on our website and social pages. #designingabetterworld

Board & Advisory

Oxford HR has a highly successful Board practice area, but this is an area we are now placing more focus on. With numerous Board and Trustee placements over the last two years, we are now looking to separate our Board work out into two areas 1. UK and 2. Global Board and Governance. With our UK Head of Board & Advisory Practice, Sarah Engerer, heading up the UK section and Dr. Rachel Barlow, our Associate Director in Europe heading up the Global Board and Governance area, we can offer unrivalled expertise in placements, consultation and governance. Keep an eye on our website and newsletter for more updates coming on this soon.

Higher Education

One of the newest members to join the Oxford HR team in 2021, Eugenia Gonzalez is our Head of Practice for Higher Education. Bringing with her a wealth of expertise, Eugenia is already in conversation with numerous clients about senior level roles and is keen to get this focus area off the ground to a great start in the 2021.


Shortlisted for Best third sector recruitment – Recruiter Awards 2020 

NGO Whisperer

Oxford HR enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship supporting the NGO Whisperer during 2020/21, supplying several articles around the topic of HR and Leadership, which were well received and well read by the NGO audience. You can read these articles here.

HRM Middle East Summit

In Nov 2020, Oxford HR partnered with the HRM Middle East Summit to deliver a talk on The Chief HR Officer Talent Profile redefined: What CEO’s are now asking Executive Search Consultants to find for their HR Leadership roles. Noha Shawky, our MENA Associate Consultant led the talk, which was well received and attended.

International Development Alliance: Global Development Beyond Covid

In October, Oxford HR’s Head of Practice for Education, Philanthropies and Foundations, Dominic Bond, attended the Scottish International Development Alliance’s Digital Summit on ‘Global Development Beyond Covid. It brought together over 300 representatives from the diverse international development and humanitarian community in Scotland, the UK and beyond to share practice and explore the big picture implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on our sector and the communities we work with.

Responsible Innovation Summit

Our CEO, David Lale, sat on a speaker panel in October at the Responsible  Innovation Summit, on the topic of ‘Leaders of Change’. This 4th edition of the Summit aimed to inspire innovators from business, research and policy sectors to ‘build back better’ after the COVID19 pandemic, by adapting Responsible Innovation and sustainable business practices.

Partos Innovation Festival

Now the third year running that we have attended Partos as a partner organisation, this year was as much of a success as always, despite COVID restrictions. Our Associate Director for Europe, Yolanda Weldring, presented on the topic of hiring and recruiting during COVID times and the challenges that come with that, to fit in with the theme of Digital Civic Power.


We were delighted to be invited to participate in the Oxford Forum for International Development. The discussion topics featured vital issues and trends including The Role of Sustainable Finance, COVID-19 and Climate Change and Opportunities and Threats for International Development. Our Director for Europe, Thibaut Mills, sat on the panel for Career Guidance in International Development.

International Women’s Day

Supporting the advancement of women in leadership is something Oxford HR feel very passionate about and strive to achieve with all of our work. So for International Womens Day in 2020, we set about to support the pledge activity of #Ichoosetochallenge, by calling on leading female figures within our network to send us a short video of what they were pledging to challenge. We had an overwhelming response to participate in this video, which was then seeded out across our social media estates and culminated in over 10,000 impressions, giving great visibility to the cause. Trees were also planted with our partner Just One Tree, for every leader that participated. You can watch the video here.

Knowledge Festival

2021 saw the launch of our first OXHR run event, The Oxford HR Knowledge Festival. We were in awe at the insights and experiences that were voiced in our Zoom room from both our wonderful panellists and our attendees. With four panels over four days, all were well attended and discussions were thought provoking and challenging, with one attendee commenting ‘it was like being round a lively dinner party table!’. The four topics we addressed were: 

1. New Frontiers in Funding 
2. Inclusion for Climate Progress 
3. The Power of Partnerships 
4. Enabling Diversity on the Board  

We created the Knowledge Festival in the hope of stimulating meaningful and important discussions within the for-purpose sector, using the wealth of experience within the Oxford HR community and are looking to run this as a bi-annual event going forward. 


Having attended as a delegate in 2020, Oxford HR were thrilled to attend this years WILD forum as a sponsor. This inspirational and thought-provoking event had over 900 participants from over 250 organisations, from 120 countries. There were 84 sessions offered to participants and an additional 750 networking opportunities. Oxford HR hosted a Masterclass on ‘Challenging Your Inner Imposter Syndrome’ with two amazing guest panel speakers, Carole Wanju of Teach For All Africa and Farida Aliwa of Practical Action and hosted by our Regional Director of East Africa, Helen Dalton. Attended by almost 100 participants, it was a lively, honest and engaging discussion with the three main takeaways from the event being :

1. ‘Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help’ 
2. ‘Never underestimate the power of humility’ 
3. ‘Be open and bring your whole self to work’


Oxford HR’s Josje Reinartz, our Associate Director for Asia and the Pacific, attended the 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference of the Centre of Humantarian Leadership, Melbourne, Australia, where Oxford HR was a ‘Knowledge Change Partner’. 

The conference was titled ‘Who Are The Humanitarians’, where 8 keynote speakers, 50 presenters and thousands of participants worked together to explore the decentralisation of humanitarianism, and how to transition from rhetoric to action. They gathered to interrogate what a genuinely transformed humanitarian system could look like based on economic, environmental and political justice for affected communities. A system where the affected communities, local organisations and business communities, and their national governments themselves are the ‘humanitarians’. The conference investigated where change is needed and what a reshaping of the humanitarian ecosystem might look like. The conference challenged traditional humanitarian systems, actors and perceptions through several sub-themes, like ‘Decolonising the humanitarian ecosystem’, ‘Leadership in a world of upheaval and crisis’, ‘Transformative ways of working’, and ‘The political economy of aid and solidarity’.

Income by Region





Organisational Effectiveness


2020 in numbers


Candidates registered


Candidates placed


Clients Worked With

Female placements

We Placed Diverse Candidates

Our Global Team


Staff Members




International Offices

of our team are women