Horizon talents cross finish line

From the online celebration

As you know, DFDS created the Horizon Programme in 2015 to develop and retain our future leaders and business critical talents. And now, we can congratulatHorizon Team 3 on their graduation last week.

It was no small accomplishment as Covid-19 made it even more challenging than it already was.

It started two years ago when 45 candidates were nominated by their managersAfter a very intense Assessment Centre test, including interviews with the members of the Executive Management Team, personality tests, IQ tests, individual tasksmany group tasks and very little sleep (see a video summary below), 24 talented candidates from all parts of DFDS were selected for the programme and an unforgettable training journey.

The article continues below the video.

After adjustments along the way, among others for maternity leave, 21 happy (and tired) graduates crossed the finish line last week.

Not a free ride 

The programme runs for 15 months, with three classroom modules of three or four days each, usually taking place close to a DFDS location. 

It may sound glamourous, but it is hard work.

Before and after each classroom module, participants are expected to complete pre-study, project work, individual or group reflection reports, and pass knowledge tests. They are expected to invest at least 10-15% extra time on top of normal work hours throughout the 15 months.

Participants learn from internal and external keynote speakers and facilitators, and go through various intellectual, emotional and physical challenges – and work in groups to solve real business issues relevant to the success of DFDS and present their results to the stakeholders. 

The three modules are organised around three focus areas: self-development, business strategy, collaboration. 

Throughout the programme participants are paired with a buddy to increase learning and support and receive individual feedback and support dedicated colleague in Training & Development, as well as regular sessions with an external, certified coach.

For 12 months following the programme, they get an internal DFDS mentor to guide and support them through their further development.

Covid-19 disruption 

At Klithuset participants learned about intrinsic motivation, setting goals, cross-cultural differences, change management and presentation skills. They gave and received feedback to each other, were pushed out of their comfort zone and – literally – walked on fire.

Horizon team 3 at Klithuset in June 2019

In Istanbul they learned about business strategy through lectures and games. Following six weeks of research, they made final presentationto Peder Gellert, Lars Hoffmann, Kemal Bozkurt, Fuat Pamukçu and Cenk Altun about BU Med’s intermodal strategy, pricing strategy, and potential new routes strategy. Peder says: “I was really impressed by the high quality of their analysis and recommendations, which helped the BU Med management in our reflections and decisions“.

Horizon team 3 on board Ephesus Seaways in Istanbul in November 2019

Due to Covid-19, the last module that was planned for late April on Pearl Seaways, had to be replaced by e-learninglive sessions in Q4 on topics like emotional intelligence, crucial conversations and preparing for the mentoring process.

Project work useful for DFDS 

Participants resumed their project work in September and on 17 and 19 November made their final online presentations to the EMT on business relevant topicselected by the People DivisionTalent Mindset, Integration after Acquisition, Workforce MobilityOnboarding and Collaboration across DFDS.

Anne-Christine Ahrenkiel supported each group with a sparring session at the beginning of their research and a debrief after their final presentation. She says “Congratulations to all graduates. I was very impressed by your engagement, creativity and the quality of your projects that gave us a lot of data and recommendations that we can use to improve some of our work in the People Division. You are role models in challenging yourselves and being active in your own learning. I hope you will continue this and encourage others to do so as well.” 

Torben Carlsen adds: “have been blown away by the quality of your work even under sometimes very difficult conditions. You have clearly shown what diverse teams with effective collaboration can deliverI hope you will continue to be curious, open-minded and dare stepping into the unknown. Congratulations to all graduates and a big thank you to the Training & Development team for running very professional programme and for caring. Thank you also to the mentors for dedicating their time and attention to this.” 

See the graduates of Horizon Team 3.

The mentors: Allan Bell, Anders Refsgaard, Eddie Green, Emma Leam, Fuat Pamucku, Jacob Andersen, Jesper Hartvig Nielsen, Jonas Nazarovas, Karolina Landin, Kasper Moos, Kasper Damgaard, Kim Heiberg, Lars Hoffmann, Henrik Tidblad, Pernille Dyrmose, Sarah Holloway, Sean Potter and Valdemar Warburg.

Are you next on the Horizon?

The next nomination process will be launched in the second quarter of 2021. Read more here.

Horizon – 45 talents on their way to the Assessment Centre

We are delighted to announce that 45 talents have been selected to participate in the Assessment Centre process for the third Horizon Programme put on by DFDS.

“We have spent the past month reviewing all applications thoroughly. This year we have changed the process slightly by increasing the dialogue with the nominating managers to ensure the timing is right for all applicants. And because of a very high level and quality of our prospering talents, this year the Executive Committee has decided to include all 45 candidates in the Assessment Centre process. Congratulations to all of you. We are looking forward to starting the journey with you all in the new year,” says Birgitte Kjærsgaard, Director, Training & Development.

The Assessment Centre will take place in March and approximately 20 candidates will go on to participate in the full Horizon Programme, which will finish in 2020.

“It is fantastic to see the diversity in the candidate group, which is represented by 12 different nationalities. And the gender diversity has improved since last year with 31% women and 69% men. We are very proud of this development,” says Birgitte.

The Horizon Programme is a demanding and intense learning and development process including three modules as well as ongoing group projects and individual coaching, running over a period of 12 months. It is dedicated to developing and retaining DFDS’ talents, including future leaders and business-critical talents across the organisation. The purpose is to support our strategy by increasing the participants´ business understanding and developing their future strategic competencies.

CEO Niels Smedegaard explains: “Horizon provides the framework needed to develop some of the exceptional people we have in DFDS. I am excited that this year we’re again seeing a great pool of talent coming forward with a strong wish for personal development and to contribute to the company. This is a very unique opportunity for growth. Being nominated as one of DFDS’ talents is a great achievement itself, so let us congratulate all candidates on this fantastic acknowledgement.”

Dieppe – Newhaven concession celebration

Earlier this week, Peder Gellert visited our French colleagues in Dieppe for a special celebration. We won the tender to operate the Dieppe – Newhaven route for another five years. As you might recall, four years ago DFDS took over the route.

“The first extension was only for two years, which was then extended by two years, so we never really had the chance to look at our collaboration in longer terms,” said Peder Gellert. He had invited staff from the terminal, ashore and the ships for a night of celebration with dinner and a speech.

“With this five-year concession, we will be able to set a new future for the Dieppe – Newhaven route. We have already successfully implemented the booking systems Phoenix and Seabook, which I know you all made an extra effort to do. Thank you for that. We move for all to grow – personally, in the company and for the route – and we will make sure that you have the necessary support from our group functions to keep developing. Thank you for accepting DFDS as your employer and for your great support in achieving this concession. I am confident that we will be able to develop on various levels,” said Peder Gellert.

During the afternoon, Peder Gellert met the crew on board Seven Sisters. “It was a great opportunity for the staff on board and ashore to meet Peder and celebrate the signing of the contract. We are very pleased to have Peder Gellert taking part in this important moment and for giving such an inspiring speech,” says Jean-Claude Charlo.

Horizon talents set the direction for Port of Dover

Utilising the young talents within DFDS is very important, and that has just been demonstrated in Dover, where four of our Horizon talents met with representatives of the Port of Dover, Kasper Moos, VP BU Channel and Jesper Christensen, Operations Director, to discuss future opportunities for Dover.


As part of Module 2 in the current Horizon programme, the talents were given different tasks relating to Dover and how to increase shared services within the port. One of the groups, consisting of Declan Walsh, Selina Lindquist, Emil Hausgaard and Neil Ward, came up with what Kasper Moos thought was a brilliant idea.

“During the presentation I became convinced that these four bright people actually had some really valuable points, which we had never thought about before,” says Kasper Moos, who invited the group to make the same presentation for Port of Dover, which took place earlier today.

One of the main aims of the meeting was to encourage cooperation across companies in order to achieve common goals.


“It was important for us to bring Port of Dover on board in the future plans for the port area, and we all think that it went really well. Everyone seemed delighted to be part of the conversation, and is ready to seize this exciting opportunity. Now it is up to Kasper Moos and the Port of Dover to follow up on the things we presented and bring them to life,” says Selina Lindquist, Project & Business Development Manager


It is too early to go to details about what the future plans will be, but we will of course bring you updates via The Bridge and DFDS News.


Pictured from the left: Jesper Christensen, Kasper Moos, Neil Ward, Tim Waggott (Chief Executive – Port of Dover), Barbara Buczek (Director of Corporate Development & Operational Businesses – Port of Dover), Selina Lindquist, Emil Hausgaard, Declan Walsh

Horizon talents visit real-life business in Dover

The future and the past: future key players of DFDS at the historical Leeds Castle where the second training module for the second batch of DFDS’ Horizon talents took place this week.

Take a good look at these young people. They are among our most talented colleagues and you should expect to see many of them in key positions in the future at DFDS. This is what they were selected for during the assessment process in February, and what they are being extensively trained for.

This week, the second training module (of a total of three) took place at the historic Leeds Castle in Kent, where the participants enjoyed a comprehensive programme, taking them through strategic training and how to use a strategic toolbox, with support from external expert Mark Thomas. There were games where they worked with sales and revenues on an imaginary freight route, and much more.

“Before the training module, we split the talents into four groups, each of which had to present a DFDS Business Unit. As a very important part of this, we gave them group tasks based on the real business in BU Channel, such as the check-in process, on-board experience and profit growth. So, on Wednesday, we went by bus to Dover to meet Kasper Moos and his management team and hear about the business from those who have general responsibility for it, and visited the business on Côte des Dunes and at the terminal,” says Kasper Damgaard, VP Training & Development.

Part of this field trip was to enable the participants to see the business from a different perspective and offer the management team suggestions for business development.

Kasper Moos, VP BU Channel, says: “It was a really great experience. Having the perspectives from our young talents is highly valuable to us. We were highly inspired by the presentations that were put forward to us. The groups succeeded in gaining ideas and knowledge, which made us all see our business in a new light.  In addition to this, I learned quite much about myself and my own career as I – for  the first time –  had the opportunity to answer question about my career and personal life at the fireplace session,” says Kasper Moos, VP BU Channel

“It was an extremely successful module, and even though the groups worked until three in the morning, and we had expected total silence on the bus home on Thursday, there was plenty of talk, joy and excitement,” says an equally excited Kasper Damgaard whose team is responsible for the Horizon programme.

Next week, we will share some great photos, videos and more details about this very successful module and the visit to Dover.