We started working from home when the official lockdown announcement from the government was made in the UK. Thankfully we didn’t have any barriers to working from home as our business was built on the ideas of agility, collaboration and disruption. We have one global technology platform – Thrive – and teams have always had a flexible approach to working without comprising our outputs.
One of the several positive interactions that I have observed over the past weeks is that our founders and leadership have been highly visible & transparent via video. Overall this has created an even higher level of global connectivity across our business. There have been a variety of creative global and regional initiatives such as global ‘Happy Hour’ catch-ups, weekly round-ups across practices, podcasts on what we are hearing in the investment community as well as CEOs we are speaking with – and different Slack channels to keep the morale high and celebrate success & good news.
This is a big question! Given the range of businesses and sectors that we play in we are naturally hearing different reactions and behaviours in the market. The hardest-hit categories have clearly been both online and traditional travel/leisure/hospitality, as well as retail/wellness and beauty, and some enterprise software businesses. These businesses are doing what they can to preserve their companies, teams, customers and cultures. Some are in more stable situations than others of course, particularly if they have recently gone through funding rounds and/or have enough runway to get through the next 6 months.
In general, within the growth investor-backed space, some of the major themes we are seeing are the following:
At True we do our best to share insights and examples of market developments and offer our own view on how firms can progress with strategic hires in spite of the climate, specifically how to recruit even with remote interviewing and onboarding. This is underpinned by our sister company, Synthesis, which has a suite of leadership assessment products that helps executives maximize their leadership potential and quickly get integrated into their new teams.
This depends on what category/sector we’re talking about. Availability of talent has increased in the travel/hospitality/retail industries as they have been hit the hardest. We are aware of many companies who had to lay-off or furloughed up to 30% of their employees, with marketing, customer service, development (contract & FTE), talent acquisition functions being cut quite considerably in some cases.
However, in some category leaders in Online Marketplaces, Food Delivery, Fintech, CloudTech, Cloud Infrastructure & Storage, we are seeing spikes in some areas of these businesses as it relates to hiring.
Any crisis drives innovation (and also opportunity) as we know from history and certain industries using more traditional approaches or methods of communication now realise that it’s time for evolution. This could be through collaboration or a focus on innovation in the consumer experience – in most cases, consumers will continue to spend during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, but the channel or frequency might change.
New consumer behaviour will drive the need to pivot around digital adoption for many businesses and the ones who innovate quickly enough to online will see profound impact on how they look and what they do in future. Some of these changes will “stick” and create new models. Some businesses are “biting the bullet” to ride this out whilst others are increasing the velocity behind initiatives that have been in the pipeline for some time, and others are exiting current models and re-tooling the entire business plan.
We see that Edtech, Fintech, Food Delivery, digital health/well-being/mindfulness, digital lifestyle/home-living, cyber or AI-based technology companies are acquiring more customers than usual. From a hiring perspective our CEO/Board practice in particular has seen an increase in live discussions with investors as companies need to continue to recruit and benefit from specific skill sets of strategic advisors during these most challenging of times.
As you can imagine, one of the biggest challenges right now is how companies continue with recruitment processes or kick-off new ones with remote interviewing and remote executive onboarding replacing face to face in the short to medium term. Of course, this is uncomfortable for many, although we think the silver-lining will be that interview processes will become much more efficient and effective, leaner and more thoughtful when it comes to connecting with leadership teams.
An example of this is a current CEO search where the board is looking to get closer to candidates after having several “interview type” sessions – they are scheduling a virtual dinner or drinks session to get to know the “personal” side and in some cases meet candidates families, pets, etc. and seeing them in their home environment.
Other key areas to emphasise on are leaning significantly on video communication as much as you can, introducing the right steps into the recruitment process to allow clients and candidates build a relationship, both personal and professional, increase direct contact and have more frequent communication. Finally, stay open minded about recruitment.
My colleague, Josefin Holmberg who leads our People practice in Europe believes that in the medium term we will see the following key trends emerging:
I also believe that the new experiences and learnings such as transparency, empathy, thoughtfulness, clarity and setting up boundaries, and last but not least technology enablement – and some which we are yet to experience – during the COVID-19 pandemic will benefit us in the long-term as our teams and leadership emerge stronger, and this will stay with us.
At True Search, our ethos and our business is based on people in every way. We are a global executive search firm working with some of the most innovative brands and investors around the world.
We employ 350 people across 15 offices globally. We work with a variety of clients ranging from venture-backed early-stage tech startups to scale-ups, Private Equity and also a number of publicly traded companies which are going through technology-enabled transformation. Our own innovations in transparent and efficient search processes changed our industry.
Kristyna Smetanova is a Partner at True Search. She has over 10 years of experience in Executive Hiring in the Technology, Digital and Consumer space for a wide array of clients including Vestiaire Collective, Napster and Bauer Media.