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Talent – and hiring it in a post-COVID world

With the welcome – and successful – roll-out of vaccines in the UK and globally, the hope is that societies and economies will start to normalise across 2021.

But the impact is likely to be gradual, and some aspects of the way we’ve all been working, communicating and hiring over 2020, are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

The use of virtual platforms such as Zoom and Teams has become ubiquitous and their role in day-to-day business processes looks set to remain a mainstream means to engage with all stakeholders. Even when office live resumes, the likelihood is that many meetings will continue to be run virtually.

As the pandemic has played out over the past 12 months, Livingbridge has seen a rise in demand for new skills and new ways of thinking, particularly with regards to the use of technology – both in a day-to-day sense, but also in how senior executives and leaders envision technology optimising businesses and processes.

Interestingly, the disruption caused by the pandemic, and also from technology, is creating more opportunities as well, as new talent pools for businesses looking to create value in 2021.

COVID-19 has accelerated trends that were seen before the pandemic, particularly that of focusing on the quality of management and talent, but as we move deeper into 2021, Livingbridge anticipates more change around the leadership table of their portfolio companies, to align to the new strategic plans and new ways of working.

Skills that may have been wanted pre-COVID – as well as business plans – have changed in many cases. Hiring goals have become more focused, EVP’s are evolving and many companies are less compromising, ensuring new talent is able to contribute quickly and effectively.

The difference from the last crisis – the global financial crisis – is the speed of change. Individuals who are experienced in rapid transformation and embedding change are invaluable.

In this environment, key strategic hiring decisions are becoming the norm – hires that have the potential to fundamentally ‘change the game’ for a business are the ones that are standing out and attracting the most interest. For many businesses, ‘okay but not brilliant’ is not cutting it anymore. In our experience, best-in-class leadership and skills have become even more crucial.

We have also seen that NEDs have become more important, because they will take reference from industry sectors outside of a business. Augmenting skills on boards with NEDS allows businesses to bring the necessary expertise onto existing boards.

Livingbridge has been working with portfolio companies and other stakeholders to hire talent that reflects the new opportunities and challenges in a post-COVID marketplace. We have worked with firms to update how they communicate with and interview candidates – to maximise the output and better understand their capabilities throughout the (virtual) interview process.

For candidates, emphasising their experience of managing through a period of significant change and evolution is critical. Understanding technology is also key. New skills have escalated in importance, such as use of technology, process efficiency and business optimisation.

Throughout 2020 and the start of this year, Livingbridge has seen that highly experienced corporate talent is interested in private equity-backed opportunities and more willing to take the risk (and rewards). In 2021, PE-backed companies should capitalise on talent from corporates, and Livingbridge is very well positioned to help them.

Key Takeaways
  • Livingbridge has seen that hiring goals have become more focused; organisational design, change and strong leadership have become even more critical
  • Employee value propositions are evolving to deliver on changing candidates wants and needs as they focus on stability, innovation and resilience
  • The role of the CHRO is now central, focused on how the business builds organisational resilience and agility, and ensures that changes last
  • Workforce planning and a clear strategy is essential given the shift in value creation and customer demand, with a far greater focus on the flexible workforce
  • Strong leadership is required, with the range to swiftly pivot, be decisive and lead change across the business with confidence and the trust of the employees
  • Individuals who have developed their skills during periods of rapid transformation are in high demand, augmenting existing teams
  • Corporate talent has become more accessible and more attractive – they bring these transformation and embedded change skills to PE-backed opportunities
  • Livingbridge anticipates more change around portfolio leadership teams, including the addition of NEDs in 2021, to align new strategic plans