The current crisis presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to acquire top talent. Will your organization be ready and able to seize it?
Generally speaking, organizations have been dealing with the 2020 pandemic in three ways:
- Fighting for survival: These companies are in an existential battle to stay in business.
- Managing through the crisis: These companies have been seriously impacted but they are managing to stay afloat.
- Thriving in the crisis: These companies are providing products and services to help deal with the crisis and, therefore, are in pretty great shape.
Unfortunately, organizations fighting for survival have little choice but to consider job cuts. This is tragic and not the fault of these organizations or the people in them.
Most organizations are in the second category, impacted by the crisis but managing through it nonetheless. Not ideal, but they are in the fortunate position of being able to plan their way out of crisis. Unfortunately, data shows most of these organizations are considering workforce reduction in the coming months.
In my experience, this is often a big mistake. Reducing the workforce in a crisis can lead to loss of top talent, which is very difficult to replace when the crisis is over. Instead, I recommend stepping back and undertaking a strategic workforce plan, looking out at least 12 months. Projecting the number of employees and the skills you will need in the future allows your organization to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis and often shows a good business case for keeping your workforce intact.
When Times Are Tough, Invest in People
For example, when I joined Accenture as a new partner, the firm had just separated from Arthur Andersen and rebranded from its previous incarnation, Andersen Consulting. Then, literally out of the blue, the firm was plunged into a crisis as the terrible events of September 11, 2001, unfolded.
The next day, our clients paused or canceled many of the projects we were working on. This was a blow on top of the heartrending loss of several employees and clients in the World Trade Center, where Accenture was holding a conference that morning. Suddenly, we had a shocked and grieving workforce and thousands of consultants not earning fees. No one could have planned for this tragedy and disruption to business. It was an unprecedented challenge for the company leadership.
I participated in global leadership conference calls to decide how to address the challenges. The amount of uncertainty was significant: Would the business stoppage get worse? How long would it last? Were we headed for a depression? There were no ready answers. However, one thing was certain: Andersen Consulting was renowned for attracting and developing top talent globally. At Accenture, we carried this core value forward from our Arthur Andersen days. The firm made enormous investments of time and money in finding, acquiring, and developing talent, as this was the firm’s core offering to clients.
The question put to leadership was: Do we find a way to retain this talent during business disruption, or do we reduce headcount to preserve profit? It’s the same question organizations face today. It did not take long for us to settle on the right way forward: We would take the hit to profits and hold on to our talent, using the time to invest in more training and development to keep people busy for the foreseeable future and reap the benefits down the line…