Hopeful, but Hurting; Americans Continue to File for Unemployment

October 15, 2020 – The Labor Department reported this morning that 898,000 more Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected first-time claims to come in at 830,000. The latest figures portend an unstable and volatile job market. The Labor Department changed its methodology from one that used seasonal adjustments to account for normal disruptions in the job market that don’t apply as much under current virus-related conditions.

“Seven months into the pandemic and on the verge of winter, the labor market is on thin ice,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at Indeed.com. “Holiday hiring is sluggish, and many businesses need to make significant changes to ride out the colder months. Additionally, any potential economic boost from a stimulus package continues to be out of reach.”

During the week, 51 states reported 11,172,335 individuals claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 49 states reported 2,778,007 individuals claiming Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Hawaii (17.9), California (16.1), Nevada (12.5), Puerto Rico (10.5), Louisiana (10.3), Georgia (10.1), New York (10.0), District of Columbia (9.1), Michigan (9.0), and New Mexico (8.8). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in Florida (+9,933), Illinois (+6,877), Massachusetts (+4,021), North Carolina (+2,907), and Maryland (+1,714), while the largest decreases were in New Jersey (-3,504), Kansas (-3,312), Pennsylvania (-3,111), Louisiana (-2,835), and Washington (-2,474).

Veteran Search Consultant Weighs In

Chris Pantelidis has been an executive search practitioner for over 20 years and has worked with EMA Partners since 2002. He is a member of the EMA Partners executive committee and serves as the firm’s Americas regional chair. Mr. Pantelidis is the global head for EMA’s global payments, digital & transaction services practice group and co-leads the North American financial services and payments practices. He is also a member of EMA’s technology, digital and board & CEO services practices.

In the following interview, excerpted from a larger discussion, Mr. Pantelidis shares his view on the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the business world.

        Chris Pantelidis

Chris, discuss the current executive search market.

At the beginning of the pandemic it was unclear how companies were going to respond, and in a lot of cases organizations are still navigating through how they are going to address, modify and enhance their human capital strategy. There are a lot of industries that have been negatively affected by the pandemic like hospitality, education, & energy as an example. Overall, these industry sectors have seen an increase in layoffs across the board. However, even these industry sectors have the need to identify strong leaders for what I like to call ‘mission critical’ roles, in areas like technology and digital transformation. In the financial services & retail sectors there is still a need for strong talent in very specific niche areas like digital, cyber security, risk, compliance, fraud, analytics & AI. Companies need to transform and adapt to the digital landscape, and to effectively do this they need leaders that have deep domain and functional expertise in the areas that I mentioned above. Consumers and companies are doing absolutely everything virtually, this changes the requirements of how people and companies operate. We work with a lot of pure play digital companies and FinTechs, who in most cases experienced a tremendous uptick in business because of the migration to ‘everything digital ‘ in other segments of our business, where we support large FI’s & other areas of consumer markets, organizations that we work with were already in the midst of their digital transformation. The pandemic brought about the necessity to accelerate their strategy, and respond opportunistically.

How does people working remotely change businesses?

People are obviously not travelling to the same degree that they were prior to COVID-19, and the pandemic has absolutely changed the way we interact with each other from personal and business perspectives. I think that over the last six to seven months we have all learned how to conduct business virtually, and in many cases the perceived need to meet in person has been replaced with video calls. The true test will be to see if new hires perform well long term in this new virtual setting. I don’t think business travel is ever going to be the same, nor will we get back to the same levels of volume that we saw pre pandemic, but I think that a lot of people agree with the notion that there are certain things that you experience when you are ‘in person and face to face’ that you just can’t replicate in a video call setting.

“Over the last six to seven months we have all learned how to conduct business virtually, and in many cases the perceived need to meet in person has been replaced with video calls. The true test will be to see if new hires perform well long term in this new virtual setting.”

Explain how your firm has adjusted to working with clients during the pandemic?

We created a digital roadmap for our clients from a talent management and retention perspective. We have placed executives within our client companies, where both the client and the candidates have never met face to face, and the executive has never visited the client’s office. Executives have had to learn how to motivate and drive their new teams virtually, it can be very difficult to accomplish this goal when you have never met any of them in person, this becomes even more of a challenge when the executive in question is managing a globally dispersed team, that is spread out across multiple geographies. The biggest adjustment that we have made is to ensure that we are doing everything we can to support clients, helping them to navigate through the ebbs and flows of managing all their human capital requirements virtually. It’s an art, as well as a science. The major adjustment that we had to make was to try and ‘recreate’ the in person meeting, on-line in a video setting. We increased client touch points, and developed a virtual relationship management strategy, as well as a virtual talent acquisition and retention strategy for our clients that outlined how to change behavior, actions and processes to ensure that we would all be successful utilizing the digital approach to talent management. We’ve been successful with this approach and our clients have been pleased as well. I think we all miss meeting in person … but we are also very pleased that our new set of virtual strategies work, and that we have been able to provide a valuable solution for all of our clients during a time when everyone is trying to create real tangible value.

What would you like to say to your clients about weathering the storm?

Strong leadership has never been more important than it is in today’s uncertain times. Strong leaders can weather the storm and can turn a crisis into an opportunity. Organizations need to ensure that they are extremely self-aware as it relates to who they really are from a culture perspective. Having a strong engaging and collaborative culture is so important. Does your organization have the right leadership in place to drive the right outcomes, to manage with agility, and humility? In times like these you need leaders that have a proven track record of success managing through adversity. Also, it may be an obvious point to make, but having a digitally enabled and mature organization is absolutely paramount in ensuring the long term viability of any and every business today. If you’re not a pure play digital company, or a digital first organization, you need to ensure that you have a strong digital transformation strategy in place. The pandemic has shown us how important the digital channel can become, from a business and personal perspective. There has never been a better business case to support the claim that we are living in a new digital age and to survive in this new paradigm, we literally need to adapt and transform to become digitally mature, in all aspects of our business, and personal lives.

Related: How C-Level Managers Are Looking for Jobs

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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