So we have just finished our second week of isolation and home working in the UK and it has certainly been a strange couple of weeks to say the least! There are clearly a lot of companies who haven't had the majority of their workforce working remotely before and so there has been a lot to get used to including creating virtual interventions to keep teams together, motivated and spirits as high as they can be. From total panic, our world seems to be settling down and clients are starting to look forward again. I would expect this to continue and for real clarity to come by mid April. During every economic downturn I receive lots of messages from friends, family and professional contacts with words of concern and consolation as they believe recruitment is always a bad place to be. I have been a leader in the Executive Search industry through 3 major downturns (9/11, 2008 and now) and our performance has always followed the same path. That is, a tough few weeks to start with, whilst our clients huddle and formulate a plan of action, followed by the proactive hiring of key strategic roles. And, from all the client feedback I am receiving, it looks like this crisis is following the same tune.
There is so much pessimism across our media channels that I thought I would let you know the reality of how our clients are feeling and what they are planning. The feedback below has come from clients across a diverse range of industries that we specialise in and partner. They include healthcare, medical technology, industrial technology, built environment, consumer products and artificial intelligence. I have spent the week checking in with my clients who range from Presidents to leaders in sales, marketing, HR, supply chain, manufacturing and operations.
- In industrial & manufacturing sectors, companies are reporting that demand for their products have not declined. Their customers continue to "book" products but the problem currently is that they are not ready for them to be delivered. Projects have not been cancelled, still need to be delivered and the issue of ordering is simply that we are all in doors and so products cannot be used! This set of companies are forecasting that April will be very tough but that cash generating demand will return positively in May with the real "bounce back" returning in June and July. One senior leader client commented that he is actually worried about how his company will be able to cope with the demand they are forecasting and are already planning systems and what recruitment needs to be done to benefit from this uplift in sales.
- In medical technology, demand remains high especially for products that are helping in the fight against COVID-19. Again the problem our clients are having in other therapy areas is being able to man their manufacturing sites to get product out the door.
- In built environment, it is clear that construction and so building products has taken a big blow as it is largely a human intensive industry. No projects have gone away though and will resume as soon as we are permitted to return to work. We also partner with clients in social housing and, although emergency measures are being put in place to take heed of social distancing requirements, the sector seems to have its head up and is planning the rest of 2020. One particular client is planning to invest heavily in its leadership bench and we are discussing a robust talent pipelining project to ensure they have talent available when they need it. In short, the objectives they set at the start of 2020 remain and significant investment is planned to achieve them.
- In technology, which includes smart cities, energy, artificial intelligence and transportation, we have had several sales orientated leadership executive searches kicked off in the last 2 weeks. Whilst there is an air of caution, these clients seem to be keeping a watching eye on the situation, have not made any headcount reductions and are, in fact, very positively planning to recruit.
- In consumer, our clients both food and non-food are feeling very positive. Although retail outlets are closed, the online demand for products has risen. Our food clients, and their suppliers including packaging manufacturers, are particularly busy and planning to invest in their businesses.
All in all, feedback has been that this is very much a short term situation that needs to be managed tightly but that we should also be planning for the positive impact on our businesses when we can get people back into manufacturing sites, construction sites and generally able to shake hands to make the world go around again! Get ready for the bounce back in June and July.
Call me on 00 44 1829 732374 if you would like help in assessing and planning how you are going to enjoy the bounce back.