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5 People Considerations When Emerging from the Downturn

In communicating with some of my client CEO’s, I am realizing just how differently the COVID-19 crisis is affecting each company and industry. Some of my clients are working harder than ever, in healthcare, financial institutions, grocery, construction and supply chain. Others are scrambling to get lean, implementing furloughs, layoffs and reducing hours or pay. But despite the differences, we will all face the same people challenges when the time comes to get back to work.

1. Executive teams are quickly adapting to changing circumstances and will need to agree on a clear strategy, decision priorities and which coherent set of actions to commit to. However, the psychological and behavioral profiles of each executive team member may have vastly different reactions to risk, which can lead to conflict or friction as different members drive toward, or away from, their perception of these risks. This misalignment usually leads to confusion in employees as to what direction the organization is pursuing.


  • Make the effort to gain agreement among executive team members regarding what path to take. What aspects of your business are up, what aspects are down, what do you see for Q2 and Q3?

  • Understand behavioral profiles of each executive team member to develop self-awareness of personal tendencies, insight into others and then leverage each member’s strengths in the best way.

  • Consider using a quantifiable strategy assessment such as The PI Strategy Assessment™.

2. Part of the challenge for leadership will be determining how best to redeploy and motivate your remaining employees who are scared, overworked and now feel less secure with their own jobs. Under the best of circumstances, reductions in force (such as layoffs, furloughs or reduction in hours or pay) can breed fear and mistrust. If mishandled, these can devastate a culture.


  • The best management performance is arguably demonstrated in uncertainty and crisis, so use this time to ensure you have the very best people managers and supervisors driving the business.

  • Use behavioral assessments and other tools to ensure team cohesion and to help managers and supervisors understand what drives each individual on their team, how best to communicate to each person and provide the level of certainty and reassurance each direct report needs.

  • Treat departing employees well. Give departing employees respect and honor their contributions to the organization. Be fair with severance and health benefits. Be transparent and honest. Remember, the employees who remain with your organization are watching how you treat their friends and teammates and will gauge your respect for them by your actions.

3. Communication is critical during uncertainty, crisis and change, and yet virtual communication channels are proven to be poor substitutes for face-to-face interaction. Over 90% of all communication is non-verbal and in-person communication is still the richest form of communication.


  • The Predictive Index released its latest publication Surviving an Economic Downturn with Talent Optimization and suggests the following mitigations: designating a new Slack channel for updates, recording and sharing video updates, hosting virtual town halls and sharing FAQs documents to name a few.

4. Prior to COVID-19, available good talent was in scarce supply and dwindling. It was very difficult the fill vacancies and the underlying demographics of that are still the same. It’s possible that the pandemic may prompt even more older generations to leave the workforce sooner than anticipated due to layoffs, furloughs or early retirement offers.


  • Be ready. Following an aligned strategy, clearly define what roles will be pivotal to help your organization emerge from the downturn stronger than before.

  • Look for good talent on the sidelines as a result of layoffs or furloughs.

  • Understand one of the drivers to attract good people will be security in addition to the meaningful work and dynamic people in your organization. How will you advertise this to prospects?

  • It’s possible with a surge in virtual meetings, technology talent will be at a premium too.

5. The pandemic exposed weaknesses in the previously growing “gig economy,” and when the quarantine was issued many workers were left without safety nets. As organizations emerge from the downturn and start to hire again, the combination of gig workers looking for more security and available talent from reductions in force may result in large numbers of applicants. Sorting through these quickly and effectively will be crucial.


  • Once again, be ready. Use tools that provide a greater likelihood of success in your hiring. The science and technology of behavioral, cognitive and skills assessments are by far superior measures of future success than traditional methods such relying on resumes, unstructured interviews and references.

Finally, We have to keep some perspective. There is no doubt we are going through one of the most devastating crises to impact our country certainly within our lifetime, and I am grateful to those whose work makes surviving it possible for the rest of us. We are all worried about the economy and our livelihoods, but the economy will recover. It's important to remember, those among us who are losing their lives or loved ones to this virus. Keeping service as a vital part of our leadership has never been more important than it is right now.

Throughout all of this uncertainty and fear, our team has experience navigating and emerging from prior downturns and crises. We can be an active part of your bench - just let us know how we can help you.

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