Challenging Times Leading to New Opportunities 

In meeting what is turning out to be the biggest challenge of their careers, business leaders are adopting a more strategic-focused mindset during the pandemic, says a new report by Cochran, Cochran & Yale. The vast majority also see this as a moment that is ripe to gain a leg up on rivals.

June 1, 2020 – Over the past few weeks, Shawn Baker, president of Rochester, NY-headquartered recruiting firm Cochran, Cochran & Yale, has interviewed a variety of C-level leaders from across a broad range of industries who have all reconsidered how they approach decision-making since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “These leaders have all adopted a strategic, focused mindset during this pandemic,” said Mr. Baker. “All of those that I have contacted are on the same page with the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic will be the biggest challenge we have faced.”

“At the same time, 85 percent of those I spoke to felt that the situation also creates a massive opportunity to accelerate past their competitors and develop their strategy, at least over the next three to six months,” Mr. Baker said. “This is a short collection of ideas and solutions focused on arguably the single biggest success factor, talent.”

“Many executives have lost their minds,” a chief operating officer of a FORTUNE 100 financial services company told Cochran, Cochran & Yale. “These are people I respected before the crisis. I can now see very clearly who is taking accountability, who is leading, but also who is falling behind; this pandemic has exposed who can perform and who cannot when it matters. We will be taking this opportunity to strengthen our teams for the future.”

Proactive Mind Sets

The organizations that have adopted a proactive, strategic mindset during these times are best positioned to succeed, said the Cochran, Cochran & Yale report. “In the past two downturns, those that pressed on and weathered the storm out performed in profits by 40 percent,” said the study. “These companies also grew at 12.5 percent during recession vs. their counterparts at 0/-. They experienced three times faster growth coming out of recessions due to their continued growth and efforts during the tough times.”

“Ninety percent of our leadership team is panicking,” a CEO of a private equity group told Cochran, Cochran & Yale. “We need to be showing the stakeholders that we are calm and collected in our decision making. We have an opportunity to take market share, and position ourselves for significant upside.”

Develop a War Room Team

Cochran, Cochran & Yale also said it is important to stress-test your company. “This crisis is going to put you in a cash crunch both internally and externally with clients and vendors,” the search firm said. “You must communicate daily with your team and leaders. Hold regular face-to-face, one-to-one engagement philosophy meetings with all members of your team. Encourage them to do the same with their employees. We are all in a remote work environment, and it is important to ensure accountability as well as to assist people who may not be adapting as quickly.”

Related: Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic

Many executives said that this crisis will have effects on your business through year end 2020 and into early 2021. “This is a perfect time for M&A opportunities,” the Cochran, Cochran & Yale report said. “Many companies that are over-leveraged may become appealing. Take time to forecast what your company looks like at the end of 2020, 2021 and three to five years out. Do you have the right people in the right seats? We encourage you to run the lifeboat scenario. If you have 10 employees, select five that will weather the storm with you and position you for growth when the storm passes.”

Finding Opportunity in the Face of a Crisis
If there’s anything we’ve learned from crises since the Great Depression, it’s that companies that choose to transform and innovate are those that will continue to thrive and grow. A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) showed that companies that invested significantly in innovation delivered four percent higher shareholder value when the economy recovered from 2007 to 2012.

“While the natural response of every leader is to take rapid action that’s crucial for survival as well as defend the financial position of the business, each crisis is also an opportunity to occupy new positions and build new advantages,” said Raj Kumar Paramanathan, managing partner, IRC Malaysia & Thailand, said in a new report. “This transformative approach requires leaders to conduct a strategic review of competitors, customers and regulatory issues, reorient investments towards newly identified opportunities and build resilience through the reinvention of the operating model.”

“This is a great opportunity to prepare for the bounce back,” A CHRO for a technology company told Cochran, Cochran & Yale. “Identifying what the future needs will be regarding talent, developing pipelines and then positioning ourselves to take advantage of the recovery.”

Access Current Talent

Use only assessments specifically designed to ensure that employees, and even candidates looking to apply for jobs, can handle the psychological pressures of a job. “We want to gain an in-depth assessment of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses within a business environment,” Cochran, Cochran & Yale said. “We must know about the individual’s skills and knowledge, and you must gather information about the demands of the situation. We must get information about the individual’s cognitive skills and abilities. For example, you must assess the person’s ability to pay attention to the right things, to learn new information, to solve problems, to anticipate events, and to make good decisions. We have to assess the individual’s interpersonal behavior and speed of decision making.”

Related: 10 Tips for Networking with Executive Recruiters During COVID-19

“Finally, we need to determine how intellectually and emotionally stable the person is. To what extent can the individual keep anger, frustration, worry or anxiety from interfering with the ability to make effective decisions and to perform,” the search firm said.

In these digital times, 80 percent of job seekers start their job search on Google. “SEO and robust content are extremely important,” said the report. “Post and pool is not an effective sourcing strategy and will most likely yield the bottom 25 percent of the talent pool. In these times, first to market wins; otherwise you are left with candidates that will not be a good fit. Be sure to utilize segmentation of data and tailored communications to group-like candidates. It is important to measure engagement and understand needs/wants of every candidate.

These steps are crucial in developing a pipeline. “As a side, there are multiple tools that can help to automate the process,” said Cochran, Cochran & Yale. “The utilization of video content is a must! There is a 134 percent increase of conversion rates on websites that implement these practices. More importantly, it sets you apart as people are currently being inundated with emails and multiple forms of communication.”

One CEO of a global manufacturing group told Cochran, Cochran & Yale: “We have seen many team members stunned by the recent events and unable to articulate a strategy forward. We need leaders that can define where we are going to out-perform competition and prepare everyone for the ride back up.”

Related: Executive Recruiters Roll Up Their Sleeves as COVID-19 Crisis Unfolds

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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