Post-Covid Boom, Is Your Business Ready?
Author: Michael Rega
March 26th, 2021
In the darkest days of this global pandemic as we binged on Netflix and wondered out loud if this semi-self-imposed incarceration would be our new life pattern, business leaders were busy reconfiguring everything they had predicted. Not many got it right, but the important lesson was not accuracy, but the ability to imagine a business operating model far outside any preconceived box.
As a global community, we are beginning to poke our heads out and explore the new “post-covid” landscape. Although some of the economies will eventually look very much the same as they did in 2018, we see some vitally important new features of business that need to be a part of any leader’s strategy looking to capture the business of the Boom.
One of the keys to riding the Boom will be to get your talent force properly aligned with the demand in the market. This is never easy to accomplish as many service-based firms tend to sawtooth up and down in demand, talent numbers, and revenue. A mismatch, when demand is rapidly growing but you don’t have the number of people to do the work, can leave your firm out in the cold, or worse, you miss important client timelines and diminish client trust. Once trust evaporates, your clients will find other providers who have better forecast market demand. This sticky business problem of load-leveling has been tremendously magnified by the Pandemic.
Let’s look at this issue through three buckets of talent pools, senior-level people, mid-level talent, and junior level.
Take This Job & Retire From It
According to the Pew Research Center, from August to the end of October of 2020, 28.6 million Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – reported exiting the labor force due to retirement.
This is 3.2 million more Boomers than the 25.4 million who were retired in the same quarter of 2019. This represents a substantial increase in retirement in a brutal time for businesses. Generally, when senior-level tribal elders retire, there is some amount of succession planning, mentoring, and coaching in an attempt to ease the transition. In almost all cases, due to office closures, travel restrictions, etc., this vital step is not happening for Covid retirements.
This multifaceted issue is causing a sizable gap in the skillsets of new leadership. The best-run firms in the world are recognizing this brain drain and have begun planning for filling skill gaps now before the wave of the roaring 20’s breaks over them.
When I was a kid I bought an old Jeep to fix up. It was mostly rust, and in the typical Jeep tradition, it rusted out from the middle, right under the leaking doors. In your thinning hourglass-shaped talent pool, this mid-level group of people that is responsible for delivering an outsized amount of client work has, due to global shutdowns and travel restrictions, literally been disengaged from face-to-face customer discussions for many many months.
Meeting skills, engagement skills, communication skills, and presentation skills do not age well. In fact, like my old Jeep, their skills have most certainly rusted and need triage-level attention. As we escape our pandemic jails, forward-thinking leaders will need to address the rusted skills problem or run the risk of being swept aside by competitors that will not be impressed with your rusty middle.
The Great Stagnation - How Do I Get Ahead?
In the old days of 2018, upcoming junior-talent used to stand out in meetings, skillfully engage the right people in coffee rooms, make great impressions in important client meetings, or step up in leadership roles during a challenging situation. But in the age of two-dimension “meetings”, most junior talent is stuck in suspended animation in a continuously buffering career role.
When you add the first pathology of massive retirements to the rusted middle and pile on the stuck next generation, you create an hourglass talent pool which most certainly is not the right balance of labor for the upcoming boom when people will get promoted quickly, learn valuable leadership lessons, and build a legacy career.
Top-performing junior talent is asking themselves, “how do I get ahead?” We call this the Great Stagnation, and if your company is going to emerge and flourish in the near future, identification, investment, and development are some of the best ways to keep your talent from finding greener pastures elsewhere as many most certainly will.
Firms with highly attractive talent development strategies and programs will not just lead the pack but will annihilate competitors in the war for talent as the fluid job market of the Boom takes hold.
Pathways out of pandemics are not an easy business exercise to game out, but staying in the mentality that this current business environment is here to stay is a deathtrap. Business success is often about being able to see around corners into the future. The Boom corner is at the intersection of a shrinking talent base, a set of skills that have eroded, and an economic Boom that we may not see again in a generation. Uncover where your talent pool can be strengthened and create a growth strategy for the new roaring ’20s!