Where to next | What have Australia's business leaders been telling us this week?
Published on May 8, 2020
As consultants, we are very fortunate to engage with business leaders across diverse industries on a daily basis: from Chief Executives of ASX50 and multinational businesses to Directors of Small and Medium sized enterprises. This week I have distilled some key takeaways from our recent conversations with these excellent leaders.
Whilst acknowledging that businesses are struggling at present, it is evident that general sentiment is slowly improving with conversations this week centred around business planning for a post COVID-19 environment. For those businesses that are forward planning, leadership talent is more available than at any point in recent history as even the country’s best candidates are exposed to challenging situations that prompt exploring opportunities elsewhere.
Organisations large and small – including our own – are returning to offices next week which is being seen as a key turning point for a return to normality.
- Stimulus measures have been effective: Policymakers have maintained a “whatever it takes” approach to fiscal stimulus which is about twice what was provided during the Global Financial Crisis (over 10% of GDP) and monetary stimulus is likely to be three times what was added during 2008-2009.
- Equity markets are relatively buoyant, currently sitting within 10-15% of historic peaks. Generally, equity markets are seen as a lead indicator for economic recovery and this response mimics a recovery from a natural disaster rather than a financial crisis such as that in 2008-2009.
Consumer behaviour creates industries in demand
Without doubt, there are industries in particular demand through this period and can be easily identified by tracking consumer spending including:
Logistics and transport: As consumers adapt spending habits toward purchasing online many of our major logistics organisations are experiencing unprecedented demand.
E-Commerce: Many online retailers who had pivoted toward online channels are reaping the rewards for their investment as some consumable items experience unprecedented demand. For example, a recent conversion with a client who provides low-cost home improvement products had seen revenues through March and April alone exceed earnings from the previous 12 months through channels such as Amazon.
Internet and technology: Across the finance function internet and technology businesses appear to have the most job vacancies as increased reliance on technology for both entertainment and businesses purposes continues.
Government sector: in line with the public sector’s “whatever it takes” approach, government organisations are continuing to hire with infrastructure, healthcare and education projects continuing to aid the broader economy. The effects of this are seen across all levels including the executive leadership team.
Prior to this crisis, the market was demanding executive finance leaders who were experts in revenue-generating activity, advanced technology-based insights and data as most businesses struggled to grow top-line revenue. However, the conversation is now focused around profitability and those candidates with strong experience in profit and cash flow management, perhaps through experience in the GFC, are in demand.
The most common advice we provide to executives on a daily basis is “how do we navigate a candidate rich market where job opportunities are scarce?”. Our two very basic, but often overlooked tactics are below:
Be open to any opportunity: The reality is businesses are in need of expert leaders now more than ever. Most executives will have a network of past colleagues, acquaintances and friends who will have exposure to the internal strategic discussions within businesses before going to market for talent. Transformation projects are rife at present as businesses consolidate their product offering to ensure sustainability. Contract and project-based opportunities are prevalent for those with these skills. Furthermore, the common effects of entering a contract role and becoming stuck in a contracting loop are less material when in an economic downturn and this should not be a limiting factor for career progression as we see a recovery from COVID-19
Customise your approach: It is astounding how few candidates at the C-Suite level customise their career narrative per application. When assessing the usual 300-400 candidates in our search assignments, fewer than 10% will provide a bespoke resume and tailor their career narrative to be role-specific. Researching the target organisation’s challenges, strategic objectives and key competitor strategies are infinitely valuable.
Similarly, if you are a business leader with an ability to plan ahead, there has never been a better time to commence search assignments for new talent. With fewer competing opportunities and a surplus of the best talent in the market, we have been able to provide great success for our clients.