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Lessons from lockdown: ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’

Lessons from lockdown: ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’

In our latest article looking at the new world of work, Morgan Philips CEO & Founder, Charles-Henri Dumon reveals what he has learned from crisis situations during more than 30 years in recruitment. Here, he shares his thoughts on a number of key topics…

On remote working
The success of remote working depends on the business function. For example, in the case of IT it’s proven to be extremely effective and that is borne out by the many freelancers who work in the industry. But that was also the case pre-COVID, the pandemic has just reinforced this and now increasingly companies are thinking about their remote workforces, especially for IT and digital jobs. However, for HR practitioners, who as guardians of company culture need to meet people, working exclusively remotely wouldn't be a preferred option.

On culture and coherence
Organisations need to assess each function on its own merits and see which parts of the work can and can’t be done remotely. I would urge caution though, and this will become apparent in the medium term, as there is a very real danger of damaging your company’s culture. You can’t only look at the financial or cost implications of a remote business model, you must consider how it will affect people. Working from home isn’t for everyone – we need to tread carefully.

On productivity and flexibility
Some people will be more productive at home as they don’t have the daily commute to think about, so they will gain an extra hour or two. But it’s still early days so let’s see what happens in the long term, as I’m not sure that many people can sustain working from home for a long duration. Let’s not forget that the office has a social role, which is very important for people’s wellbeing. Another observation is that introverts have had a chance to shine and put their ideas forward with more confidence, as charisma doesn’t come into play as much on say a Zoom video call. 

On trust and relationships                                                    
At any time you must hire the right people and even more so during a crisis. Clearly, if you know someone well professionally then you will trust them. The problem with remote management and hiring remotely is that if you haven’t built that rapport with individuals on a more personal level, there is a greater risk they won’t work out. Those leaders who had strong relationships with their teams pre-Corona will have been more successful than those who didn’t.  

On surprises (good and bad)
You see people’s true colours during a crisis. Some step up to the plate and demonstrate incredible courage and resilience while the doomsayers drag everyone down. While companies may have to continue to trim down their workforces for some time to come, I do think that there is also an opportunity to part ways with those that don’t have the right attitude. You can’t allow for this type of negativity to fester otherwise you are putting your business in jeopardy. It’s a difficult time, we’re all in the same boat and it’s not the first crisis nor will it be the last that we go through.

On leadership during a crisis
A title doesn’t make a good leader. When you manage remotely, you need to have people who believe in you. Care, support and trust are very important and you have to tailor your management style to each individual’s needs. Some people may have families while others might be living on their own and so you may have to check in on these individuals more frequently.

On fighting for the cause
Leaders have to stand up and be counted. They must have a clear direction, uniting their teams around a common cause. It was the case before but even more so now. That’s what all the great leaders like Alexander the Great, Napoleon or Genghis Khan had in common. They were all adept at getting their people to buy into their vision and purpose. In the same way, businesses have to play a social role in keeping everyone together.   

On taking a risk
Although it might seem counterintuitive, this is the best time for organisations to acquire the specialist skills they need in their sectors. Their competitors might not be doing it, and those brave enough to take the plunge and invest in their talent will reap the rewards. It’s the same for candidates. Those who weren’t happy in their jobs prior to COVID won’t be now, so what have they got to lose by looking elsewhere?

On upskilling
Given the relentless pace of technology and the way our jobs are evolving, jobseekers need to keep adding to their arsenal of skills. Obvious as it may seem but a CMO who isn’t a real expert on all things digital won’t go very far. The same goes for supply chain professionals and their understanding of e-commerce or tech talent and cloud computing.  

On agility
Organisations need to think about the kind of person they want to hire, namely those who can think outside the box and are innovative. That’s easier said than done but you need to look for these qualities. On the one hand you’ve got companies who need to adapt very quickly while on the other people who don’t want to change their habits. Outsourcing work to freelancers and interim managers will become more widespread given the flexibility that this solution offers.

On hiring
Uncertainty is our big enemy as it diminishes confidence. Even though companies have gone through hell, as Churchill famously said, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’. Whether hiring fresh blood or improving processes, organisations can’t afford to sit still. I’ve been through seven crises in recruitment – if there's one thing I've learned it's that companies can’t survive without hiring people.

Crisis leadership – are you the ‘real deal’?

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