April 21, 2020 – As the global, interconnected business community confronts unprecedented challenges manifested by the COVID-19 pandemic, the interdependence of the world’s economies has never been more obvious or so uniformly tested.
“In the face of our collective battle to endure and overcome, there will rise up great strength of resolve, new innovations, and a shared effort to recover and reshape the way we operate and pursue continued growth and success,” said Dan Veitkus, CEO and managing partner of Corsica Partners, in a recent report. “This infallible truth must be acknowledged as a guidepost to all: Every organization will emerge from this COVID-19 crisis either stronger or notably weaker. The question that every leader, every organization, every individual must ask themselves is this: Which side of the balance do I intend to be counted on?”
Executive Recruiters & Talent Leaders Navigate Uncertain Times
Hunt Scanlon’s latest executive recruiting industry sector report will be available in 30 days. This will be the most important search industry sector report that Hunt Scanlon has ever produced! The nation’s top executive recruiters are resetting expectations in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic crisis. Many expect a significant pause in business, followed by a sharp rebound later this year. We talk to the experts, uncover the opportunities, pick the sectors and reveal how search firms and talent organizations are navigating and adapting in uncertain times. Healthcare, biotech, crisis response, supply chain & logistics and the vast private equity sector are all showing signs of strength – and a big need for talent.
Hear from top talent experts, including: Frederickson Partners; CBIZ CMF; Russell Reynolds Associates; Odgers Berndtson; Options Group; ZRG Partners; Wilton & Bain; Diversified Search; Caldwell; Hanold Associates; True Search; Slayton Search Partners; Coulter Partners; Cejka Search; Solomon Page; Acertitude; McDermott & Bull; Academic Search; Beecher Reagan; Bowdoin Group; Kingsley Gate Partners; Comhar Partners; ON Partners; Perrett Laver; CarterBaldwin; Stanton Chase; Buffkin/Baker; Major, Lindsay & Africa; WittKieffer; Klein Hersh; Furst Group; Invenias; PierceGray; LifeSci Partners & more!
In the midst of a shared struggle, inspiring leaders and admirable companies are stepping forward with responsible, creative and innovative actions to do more than simply survive these circumstances, he said. “They are literally demonstrating their resolve to thrive once the curve does flatten, the threat retreats and the impact of this current pandemic begins to subside.”
Building a Talent Pipeline
Unlike many organizational functions that are directly impaired by the quarantine requirements, the business of building one’s talent pipeline and progressing talent through the recruiting process should actually be accelerated, Mr. Veitkus said. “It is critically important that we do not confuse the priority of talent pipeline development and recruiting with setting a start date for new employees,” he said. “In the current global economic climate, candidates are making clear that they understand the requirement for a delayed start date or the need to postpone new employee orientation. For discerning candidates, this is the time when they are doubling down on what is important to them and evaluating who they really want to work with and for.”
Mr. Veitkus said that “the strategic and bold” minority of companies are in fact marching forward, responsibly but also deliberately, with a clear intention to thrive, not simply survive.
“They are leveraging technology and asserting a deliberate focus to responsibly ensure that recruiting and talent pipeline development does not suffer the same contraction that other parts of their business are experiencing, given the quarantine and social distancing protocols in place,” he said.
“The best practices asserted herein are being exercised by organizations that are fully or partially operational given their approved status as essential and required in the interest of public health, safety, or national defense, as well as product and services companies that are restricted but determined to emerge stronger to best serve clients and offer a positive environment for returning employees,” he added.
Corsica Partners offered the top 10 best practices being exercised by leaders and organizations committed to driving their businesses towards the objective to thrive:
1. Comply and Apply
“First and foremost, responsible leaders and the businesses, institutions and organizations they lead have been first to acknowledge the very real health, welfare and economic consequences created by this global pandemic,” said Mr. Veitkus. “It is absolutely essential that a current understanding of the recommendations and requirements issued by government and public health and medical experts be consulted, understood and implemented in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the most vulnerable who are particularly at risk. We have a shared obligation to apply social distancing and appropriate quarantine protocols.”
2. Focus on What You Control
Investors, leaders and candidates are becoming increasingly focused on what they actually control while taking care to be aware of what they do not. “A day, and perhaps an hour does not go by that decision makers are not exposed to further developments, public policy changes, legislative interventions and statistics that should guide their decisions,” Mr. Veitkus said. “Effective leaders are leading from the front, demonstrating a focus on what they do control with encouragement and direction to their organizations. The common themes we’ve captured include focus on variables such as cash flow management; care and attention for the welfare and safety of employees, candidates, vendors and customers; and an attitude of responsible confidence vs. crippling doom and gloom.”
Dan Veitkus is the CEO and managing partner of Corsica Partners – a global boutique executive search and strategic talent management firm, founded in 2006, with the conviction that there is no substitute for actual operating experience as it relates to recruiting and coaching leadership talent. Its partners are all former technology executives who spent decades in real world operating roles, positioning the firm to combine practical insights, perspectives and functional expertise with an unparalleled background in search and executive coaching.
“A clear focus on variables within their control guides leaders and individuals to remain calm and encouraging, while at the same time pragmatic and focused on the well-being of staff, suppliers, and clients as they develop new ways to service customers and constituents – from students to consumers to business professionals,” he said.
3. Keep the End Game in Focus
Even in the midst of the uncertainty that requires daily adjustments, progressive and forward-looking clients have already started to project their vision of the opportunities that will follow this period of turmoil. “Some have established nimble working teams to plan for a fast re-start once it is appropriate,” said Mr. Veitkus. “These organizations are looking at all aspects of their business models, including staffing, supply chain, and go-to-market and future business continuity plans. In particular, we have been tracking their emphasis on preserving momentum in developing a pipeline of exceptional talent to support their anticipated growth and expansion post-pandemic.”
Both public companies and privately backed clients that Corsica works with have set specific targets to preserve their pipeline of qualified and desired candidates with renewed emphasis on an exceptional candidate experience. “They are stepping up their commitment to exercise a clear and consistent communication protocol for both internal and external constituents,” said Mr. Veitkus.
4. Carpe Diem
Discerning executives, hiring managers and recruiting professionals are quick to point out that many desirable target candidates are now more accessible given the restrictions on travel and onsite working models. “The opportunities to schedule discreet video-based interviews are more abundant than prior to the pandemic protocols,” Mr. Veitkus said. “The current environment is favorable to engage highly desired candidates who are more likely to have the time and the ability to consider new opportunities.”
“Recruiters as well as candidates are literally seizing this moment to engage and to leverage the privacy of their home offices to discuss new opportunities without the hassle of reserving a conference room, or stepping outside to field a call from a recruiter,” he said. “The gap created by social distancing is being bridged by the use of technology in order to take advantage of access to prospects and candidates who find themselves with more flexible working hours and the opportunity for discretion when working remotely.”
5. Pivot Your Message to Include Future Requirements
Current operating environment for many companies creates a challenge to start or onboard new employees, particularly those who operate onsite, but the current and anticipated needs are still very real, and for some firms, remain urgent. “Many leaders and recruiters are taking the opportunity to reach out to target candidates to advise them of projected requirements and planned positions to be filled with the full disclosure that the actual start dates may not be defined,” said Mr. Veitkus.
“The distinction being made by forward-looking operators is that they are actively curating talent now, giving candidates insights into what is going to be available post-pandemic protocol rather than waiting to advertise the opportunities once the hiring pause has been lifted,” he said. “They realize all too well that when everyone returns to the business of aggressive recruiting, it may be too late to access the best candidates because they will already be closed.”
6. Practice ABC + ABQ
In a nod to the mantra made famous in Glengarry Glenn Ross, “Always Be Closing” is complemented with “Always Be Qualifying.” This describes the best practice that many leaders, HR executives and diligent recruiters are applying under the current conditions. “Curating and developing a pipeline of prospective candidates, especially a short list for critical jobs – from executive roles to engineers to manufacturing leads – is essential for companies that do not want to fall behind in the war for talent once the wheels of the global economy starting turning with real torque,” Mr. Veitkus said. “The recruiting partnership between the business, recruiters and the supporting stakeholders, including HR and marketing, must remain focused on creating space between their position and their competitors relating to identifying and closing the best talent for any given role.”
“Some organizations are making the sophomoric mistake to err on the side of inaction – to link the freeze on further hiring with a pause on constructive qualifying and recruiting – waiting for the turnaround to begin,” he said. “These followers are putting their organizations at a further disadvantage with each passing day. When they ultimately get the signal from above to move forward, they will be permanently behind their competitors, suffering a hurdle they will not soon overcome.”
7. Commit to an Exceptional Candidate Experience
Great candidates are often passive candidates. “These candidates always have options and this may be the very best time to reach them,” Mr. Veitkus said. “The goal for discerning suitors is to ensure that all candidates have an exceptional experience in the two-way discernment process. From initial outreach to the final interview with the hiring managers, CEO, or board member, every detail of the candidate experience should reflect the culture, style, values and norms of the soliciting organization.”
“Our most successful clients consistently strive to ensure that their firm is the company of choice for discerning candidates,” he said. “Whether an offer is extended, accepted, or declined, they hold sacred that the experience may influence every candidate as a prospective employee, customer, investor or referral source to other professionals. An exceptional candidate experience is part of every great company culture and just because the rules of engagement are modified during pandemic conditions, there should be no compromise towards this priority.”
8. Commandeer Access to Leadership and Cross-Functional Stakeholders
Mr. Veitkus said that everyone has been faced with the challenge of confirming time on a busy executive’s schedule or expanding the interview and selection committee to include additional valued stakeholders. “Perhaps we hesitate to confirm the best selection committee given business priorities and travel schedules,” he said. “The current restrictions on travel and the forced quarantine, isolation, or shelter-in-place directives present a prime and limited window of opportunity to access time on the schedules of executives and target stakeholders.”
Managing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing worldwide public health concerns and widespread disruptions across the global economy, including for businesses and schools. It has caused society to put a pause on public gatherings, sporting events, the arts, restaurants and nightlife, which otherwise would have provided relief during difficult times.
“We have seen C-suite executives across all functions prioritizing time to meet clients using Zoom or Skype as platforms to engage with target candidates,” Mr. Veitkus said. “In many cases, clients have reported an improvement in target stakeholder participation, including more in-depth sessions with candidates as a result of leveraging technology and the availability of staff working from their homes. Both suitors and candidates are shared beneficiaries in this opportunistic approach.”
9. Play to Win
“The attitude of clients, hiring managers, and candidates is equally contagious, and those clients who are resolute in their desire to thrive – not simply survive – understand the importance of articulating their belief and commitment to growth even in the face of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr. Veitkus. “No great results are achieved without great enthusiasm, and deliberately targeting high-potential candidates during this period of uncertainty is a constructive way to work through the crisis. Hiring managers and recruiters who continue to pursue a better understanding of a candidate’s personal situation, their professional motivation, and the potential intersection of their goals with business requirements can frame a compelling opportunity for candidates to consider now.”
10. Renew Your Commitment
At this point, the distinction between hiring and recruiting should be clear. “Once you’ve made the decision to seize this moment and keep your recruiting efforts focused on the volume and velocity of quality candidates, it is imperative to perform a talent health check for your existing team and resources,” Mr. Veitkus said. “The pursuit of upgrading talent or planning to fill open positions can overshadow the responsibility to care, coach and demonstrate your gratitude for the existing team that is in place serving your chosen constituents and clients. No amount of focus on recruiting or advantage created over your competitors can offset unwanted attrition, especially of your most talented and critical resources. The cost to backfill high performing employees can cost a business more than five times the employee’s base salary,” he said.
“It will come as no surprise that when talented individuals take a step back from their normal routine, they often make time to reflect on what matters most,” Mr. Veitkus said. “This includes their current level of commitment to what they do and whom they choose to work with. It has been suggested that more people are taking time to contemplate their why in this concentrated period of self-quarantine.”
If professionals are taking time to calibrate their enthusiasm and commitment to current work and employers, then no leader and no team can neglect their responsibility to maintain and develop the trust and loyalty of their existing associates. Said Mr. Veitkus: “The conditions are right on both sides of employment discernment to evaluate, explore the possibilities and commit to the future – whether that be a renewal of current commitments or to plan the start of a new adventure.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media