Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste

December 11, 2020

HELLO 2021!

As we turn the page on a most unusual year, we are already seeing positive signs for 2021: Private equity and private credit markets are active, and some are shoring up their teams, ready to deploy billions in capital that have been on the sidelines. At the same time, a wave of merger & acquisition activity has made the second half of 2020 one of the busiest on record, compelling some investment banks to hire again. Beyond the world of finance, digital commerce levels are at record levels, shaping the future of retail and eCommerce, and driving organizations to seek leaders with new competencies.

In considering the year that was – and the sentiments of our clients & candidates – we suggest three leading trends that will drive companies’ success in 2021:                                                  

1. The Need for Trust is at an All-time High. Companies Ignore This Trend at Their Peril.

This period of adversity has brought trust to the forefront. Market-leading organizations, including investment banks, CPG companies and a range of PE-backed portfolio companies are asking themselves how well their senior management teams are establishing trust with their top performers. New assessment tools can help organizations measure such trust levels, and are being used to promote transparency & openness in high-performing environments in an effort to retain the strongest contributors. HBR explains why failure to create high-trust environments will lead some top performers to walk out the door.

For employers, this means that, through active measures, leadership teams can engender trust:

Leaders can help drive that sense of trust through authenticity and empathy. As Deloitte reports, at banks, for example, it is incumbent on leaders to “maintain a focus on employee well-being and productivity as the pandemic-induced stress on the workforce continues.”

• Senior team members set the “trust strategy” that trickles down to employees & customers through direct communication and consistent messaging.

• Have your executives meet with top performers as often as possible. The more they know about the organization's plans, priorities, challenges and opportunities, the more aligned they will be with the leadership team.

2. “Acting Boldly” to Land Game-Changing Talent is Courageous. And it Works.

The evidence is there to show how seizing advantage in a downturn and acting with conviction to hire elusive candidates “offers a rare opportunity to outmaneuver rivals”. This time is no different, and as top talent on leading platforms (across industries, sectors and geographies) looks out on the horizon, many are evaluating their options. In fact, DES is currently advising clients in private equity, investment banking, alternative capital and retail on strategies to recruit game-changing leaders who would otherwise have been considered unattainable pre-COVID.

What does all this mean on the human capital front? What will it take for candidates to actually move to new platforms?

• Many candidates are ready to “get explicitly serious about [their] purpose” and feel that crisis is an opportunity to find something new that plays to their strengths and provides a greater sense of fulfillment.

• “That said, few senior executives are actually moving and top talent won’t just be opportunistic in joining a competitor if the vision is not there,” one senior deal-making veteran told us last week. “Rather, it’s all about trust and an organization’s thoughtful plan for the future”.

• Jumping ship requires premium compensation, defined responsibilities and assurances that the path forward is both clear and personally rewarding.

This reticence among candidates highlights the need for search partners with longstanding relationships (with candidates & institutions alike). Such advisors are better-placed to manage those perceived risks, and can ensure that client-companies secure their ideal candidates.  

3. “Taking Advantage of Adversity”: Not as Easy as it Sounds.

“The tough get going when the going gets tough” is how we oftentimes think of strong leaders and their response to adversity.

Leaders such as Winston Churchill and Lee Iacocca rose to their respective challenges in extraordinarily difficult periods. Similarly, many leaders in today’s climate have responded to the uncertainty of our time. They have been motivated by the challenges of 2020 and have embraced their responsibility to help teams achieve objectives that, for others, may have seemed unattainable.  In other words, these leaders have looked at this adverse period as an opportunity for professional growth, while making a huge impact to their organizations.

But not all firms are blessed with such talented or committed leaders.

In fact, firms ranging from wealth managers to infrastructure investors have turned to DES this year for advice on attracting new leaders with resilience & determination. These organizations seek new candidates who have led companies through past crises – they are looking for leaders to help them emerge victorious against their competitors. Such clients understand that the experiences & competencies required for success today are far different from what embodied leaders of years’ past. They have discovered how to pivot from "surviving to thriving" by resetting their teams for growth in the year to come.

In sum, we believe that 2021 portends great things for the Canadian economy. And great talent will be all the difference in helping to seize the moment. As Harvard Business Review recently noted, “the global talent pool has arrived, and talent is the new global currency…if businesses have the culture, confidence, and technology to tap into it.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

Happy holidays and thank you for your ongoing partnership with DES. We look forward to serving you in 2021 and beyond.