Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, business for mid-market companies has been a daily grind. While companies have faced many tough challenges over the past year, there have also been positive lessons. How can companies start thinking about the post-pandemic future – particularly when it comes to their senior leadership team – rather than looking in the rear-view mirror?

What are some of the top talent-related lessons companies learned over the past year?

Every economic downturn exposes weaknesses in business models and leadership teams. Given how rapidly the pandemic impacted businesses, many weaknesses were immediately revealed. For example, many finance functions struggled with billing and collections, forecasting, or working with lenders. Operational leaders struggled with supply chain disruptions and the implementation of new safety measures.

Although the pandemic shined a light on these issues, many boards and CEOs concluded that these previously unidentified weaknesses reflect a lack of depth in key functions. So they turned their attention to recruiting new talent.

Any advice for companies looking to recruit top-tier talent during this time?

Since March 2020, we’ve completed many retained search opportunities for various positions. As I’ve led my clients through the planning and strategy process for recruiting A-player candidates, I’ve encouraged them to focus on three major themes: openness, transparency, and vulnerability.

A-players are interviewing you just as you are interviewing them, and they want a clear picture of your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Since these candidates are expected to be open and vulnerable, they expect your company to be as well.

What is your advice for owners and senior leadership teams when hiring direct reports?

  1. Reach out to your trusted advisors and those who know you and your business intimately. Ask them to give you constructive feedback regarding your leadership style, team, business, and future growth potential. This exercise will better prepare you for the recruiting process.
  2. Early on in the process, be prepared for questions about you and your business, team, and culture that a few years ago would have been relegated to late-stage interviews. A-players want to root out any pitfalls or red flags early.
  3. Have a recruiting plan, but be open to changing it and making adjustments accordingly. It is essential to craft a plan once you get the resume of a good candidate. It should include the process, how many people need to be involved, who will interview candidates, timing, and so on. Things may change as you go through the process, which is okay, but make sure the change is articulated to finalist candidates.

What about compensation?

Companies must be prepared to compensate fairly and equitably for top talent. This includes base, bonus, and long-term incentives. Compensation for C-level talent has recently increased because companies are rewarding executives who stepped up, led, executed, and protected their companies during the pandemic. The talent war for A-players is real. If your company hopes to attract a new executive, paying a premium to obtain an acceptance is not unusual.

If readers take away only one message here, what should it be?

Remember, top-tier C-level candidates are meticulously evaluating everything during the interview process. They are assessing the overall opportunity just as companies are assessing them for the position. Make sure you’re prepared to discuss the role and your company openly and honestly, and when you find someone you love, be ready to offer a compelling compensation package with current and long-term upside potential.●

For more information on this topic, contact our Human Capital Resources team. 

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