Executive search consultants specializing in key industries tap into their market insights to predict what’s to come post-pandemic.
MARCH 26, 2020 ─ Bound to reshape society in lasting ways, the pandemic is shining a bright light across countless industries, unearthing both vulnerabilities and opportunities. Manufacturing, particularly in Pharma, will come closer to home. Infrastructure needs more fiber and wireless access. Ecommerce becomes an even more sizeable force. Telemedicine stands to see major gains. And on it goes in terms of forecasting changes across industry lines.
Executive search consultants from ON Partners have weighed in on what we can expect across several industries, including supply chain, ecommerce, private equity, telecom and telemedicine, software and life sciences. Read on to learn what they have to say about how the virus will impact key sectors and the shifting demand for leadership.
Supermarket shelves are empty and yet shuttered restaurants have massive supplies they cannot use. Plants are shut down around the world, and there are major shortages of raw materials, sub-assemblies and finished goods, impacting nearly every industry segment.
Over the past 20+ years, businesses have increasingly moved to global sourcing and lowest cost manufacturing. With the pandemic impacting suppliers and delivery methods on every continent, supply chain executives are leaning in on their crisis management plans. Supply chain executives have lived and learned through many disruptions: 9/11 terrorist attacks, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, even health related scares such as Ebola and SARS. They have sharpened their supply chain risk management processes after each disruption, but we’ve never seen a disruption like this where world powers are telling their people to stay home and not work, effectively eliminating all contingency solutions.
Additionally, as they move to mitigate the risks of these new challenges, longer-term questions arise: Should we bring sourcing back onshore? How much inventory do we need to tide over in this crisis? With a global health pandemic and no clear view on when or how it will be resolved, supply chain executives are scrambling for a new normal.
According to partner Heidi Hoffman, “The supply chain executives best prepared for this crisis have more of a general management mindset, with characteristics such as:
- Big Thinking and Strategic Insight – how to alter the chain, utilize data more effectively or apply technological advancements to change the way they do business; constant evaluation of changing geopolitical and environmental forces; close connection with customer base to predict shifts in demand (expected and unexpected).
- Integrated Supply Chain Management Expertise – collaboration, networking, relationship management, technical expertise, risk management and change leadership within and across the function of the supply chain, as well as cross-functionally in the broader company and related parties.
- Holistic, Global Leadership – an ability to work seamlessly within and across companies, cultures, functions and geographies to drive change and action.”
As nervous consumers continue to turn to online shopping to avoid stores, online and ecommerce channels will continue to grow and scale and become an even more important business channel across all markets.
“Companies will increase their percentage of manufacturing and distribution centers here in the US to become less reliant on foreign governments and look to increase ways to sell and distribute online/virtually,” according to partner Marc Gasperino.
The private equity industry is poised to become very active as a result of the virus’ impact. Learning from the lessons of the global financial crisis, in which the industry was widely seen as having missed a major opportunity to acquire assets at steep discounts, firms are expected to be more active during the pandemic.
“PE firms are getting ready to deploy capital and are ramping up, either on potential due diligence of already troubled companies or staffing up and looking for additional operating partners,” noted partner Jeff Hocking.
“Candidates who are currently employed will be reluctant to make a move, and companies that are hiring will really need to move fast if they want to land candidates – regardless if the company is PE backed or not.”
The growing need for remote communications during the coronavirus has intensified the need for next-generation technology and could potentially accelerate its adoption over the longer term. An increasing reliance on teleconferencing tools as employees switch to remote work will also boost the case for faster connectivity both at home and in the office to enable real-time uninterrupted communication.
Notes partner Matt Mooney, “When we keep all employees and students at home, it shifts bandwidth demands away from the high capacity buildings and offices to the neighborhood level, putting stress on the wireless and wired networks. This highlights the importance of 5G and local fiber deployments. Those efforts will accelerate more than ever now.
“This also highlights the opportunity for applications like telemedicine to finally reach full potential. Health professionals will look to increase their ability to see and treat patients digitally, and pharmaceutical companies will seek more ways to distribute prescriptions remotely.”
While productivity is throttled by the logistics of the sudden shift toward working from home, mature enterprise software companies are continuing to operate as usual compared to their smaller, younger peers.
Notes partner John Morrow, “Those organizations with a heavy reliance on traditional enterprise sales motions will face a commercial headwind as account executives are unable to physically meet and pitch new customers, and those with a more modern, digital marketing-driven sales motion are at an advantage in terms of maintaining momentum. Pricing pressure will begin to take hold as potential customers weigh their capital outlays for expensive new software systems, favoring cloud-based platform products with a la carte features.
“From a leadership profile perspective, given that executives do not have the luxury of in-person meetings at the moment, those with strong skill sets around organizational management and administrative effectiveness will shine.”
Researchers at biotech companies continue to work in their labs, with rotational scheduling and social distancing allowing them to continue on a reduced schedule. Meanwhile, clinical trials are experiencing a major impact for two reasons:
- Trials are conducted from multiple sites, usually around the world. Lilly announced it has put new trials on hold – a major blow to the studies of new medicines that in a few years will likely play out to a gap in new products being approved. Trials are difficult to oversee if operations staff cannot travel or visit sites to set them up. As a result, the demand for leadership over clinical trials may slow.
- Hospitals and doctors are prioritizing infected patients and are asking others – including those involved in trials – not to come in and place unnecessary burden on the hospital. As a result, ongoing clinical trials with data gathering may be impacted.
“The search for treatments and vaccines has been prioritized and is underway, including looking at combinations of existing drugs as anti-infectives,” noted partner Suzanne Zebedee, PhD. “Companies making a play in this area have showed improved trading in a slumped market. And while we don’t yet know what will work, the appetite for more attempts – shots on goal – has been positively received by the media.”
To navigate the tumultuous business landscape, companies, boards and investors will be seeking leaders with a proven track record of dealing with challenging situations who are capable of sound decision-making. Gravitas in chaos – leaders who contribute to the calm, not to the chaos – is essential.
“More than ever, emotional quotient will play a role in searching for our next leaders,” notes partner Seth Harris. “I can see companies, especially boards of directors, bringing on more skilled CHROs or hiring industrial psychologists to probe this area with candidates, and it’ll be worth the investment.”
ON chief people officer Laura Stanley agrees. “CHROs as a function are an area being heavily leaned on right now, as companies face leading during turbulent times. HR leaders must provide the strategic view of talent, building skills of resiliency and innovation, keep an engaged and productive workforce, and find the balanced blend of strategic and operational responsibilities. These leaders will be highly sought after now and in the future.”
Harris added, “Also, the way in which CEOs and other leaders build out their leadership teams has never been more important. A new crop of CEOs, who have often served in the number two role, have not developed solid teams under them. It is critical, especially in challenging times, that you have the ability to spread out the workload, and many leaders have too weak of a talent bench.”
ABOUT ON PARTNERS
ON Partners propels an organization’s mission by building C-level and board leadership teams. Founded in 2006 by like-minded consultants as a values-driven alternative to the multi-service global firms they were leaving behind, ON delivers a better executive search experience. The firm has been named to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists six times, was named to the Inc. 5000 Hall of Fame in 2018 and is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S.