Turbulent Times: 5 Tips for Effective Leadership in the Wake of COVID-19

It is hard to imagine a moment in time prior to today where the entire world has been so devastatingly and quickly affected collectively, as one singular unit.

Across the globe, businesses have been profoundly impacted, and many have been forced to downsize, some to the point of collapse.

At last count, we have  36 million Americans that are unemployed. Goldman Sachs is warning the government about the increasing unemployment rate, stating that it can peak at 25%—matching the Great Depression.

While everyone has been impacted in varying degrees, reactions have been wildly varied.

Some leaders have laid off hundreds of employees, some have slashed salaries, and others are desperately trying to keep the ship afloat, yet not making any fundamental changes to ensure that they will be able to not only survive, but thrive in the ‘new normal’  that will exist once the dust settles.

We have also seen leaders that are choosing to forge ahead with the goal to take advantage of this very unique time in history and aggressively go after market share.

And we would not be honest if we did not share that we unfortunately have also seen others that are effectively curled in the fetal position, just waiting to perish.

While there is a plethora of questions that none of us currently have the answers to, I think we can all agree that for better or for worse, every single company will emerge from Covid-19 different than they went in.

2020 is the year of seeing things clearly

There is no question that there is going to be a fundamental shift in quality of life, and the way that the world conducts business.  Particularly here in the U.S., we are going to see substantially less travel to court clients when a video conference will suffice. The impact to our environment and the time it takes away from loved ones will add to the health reasons to make traveling for business less and less common.

Things are going to be shaken up, and the winners are going to be those companies that take advantage of this blip in time to make their mark.

And make no mistake…top producing employees are taking careful note of how their management team is reacting.

We are currently seeing a real uptick in incoming high-quality candidate calls, due to their displeasure of management response, followed closely by concerns for stability of their current company.  

Records will be kept of how companies treated their employees. Ethics matter. Companies that are accepting government support but not sharing the bulk of it to their front-line workers will not be remembered fondly.

When the economy rights itself and returns to pre-Covid historically high levels, and the war for talent resumes, job seekers will place more thought than ever when considering where they are going to be investing their precious time.

Questions will be asked.  Ethically, what kind of company are they working for? Would a top performer seriously consider working for a company that famously laid off hundreds of employees, without any severance pay? Probably not.

ISC’s team of executive recruiters have put together 5 suggestions on what to do to make sure you emerge from this in a better place than when you entered.

Let’s look at some of the short-term and long-term changes that will need to be made:

1. Don’t share you are on a Hiring Freeze if you don’t have to!

Remove Online Ads

Take 5 minutes and take down any active ads that are not for viable current opportunities.

If you had posted ads online but are now struggling with a hiring freeze, it’s best to take down those ads.

There is no need to announce to the world that you have suspended hiring by having an ad out but not moving forward with viable candidates. Just archive it for the future.

Remember anyone that you share the status of filling roles to is likely to be a direct competitor, so pay attention to your messaging and verbiage.

If you do need to dis-engage with potential candidates, openly share the facts. Explain that hiring is halted due to the current situation. And your hope along with everyone else is that this will resolve quickly, and we will get back to pre-Covid levels of prosperity.

Not only will this save you from sorting through hundreds of responses, it will also not give your competitors unnecessary knowledge to your inner workings.

 2. Craft Compelling Ads, Defining Responsibilities and SOPs

If you do have an active opening, you will still want to follow best practices when trying to fill that role as expeditiously as possible. Write as transparent and detailed of a job description as possible, paying attention to listing all the job responsibilities and requirements.

Spell the SOPs your company is currently following. With things so rapidly changing, do your best to outline what the job responsibilities and scope are. If there is a chance that those duties may change, be proactive and outline some possibilities to increase your chances of a long-term match.

As always, respect your candidate by being as clear, open, and honest during the interview process as possible.

If flexible timings or bonuses aren’t an option at the moment, let them know.

Companies that don’t address the elephant in the room will not fare well under the stark light of evaluation.

3. Emphasize Company Stability and Plans for Growth

Stability is the biggest concern that people mention when reaching out to us, saying they are ready to explore their options.

So if you are in a hiring position, it would be wise to emphasize your plans for the future and why your opportunity is a solid one with a clear career path, and not one that is going to fold within a few months.

Be sure to broach this topic as early in the interview process as possible!

Typically, this topic is saved for the final step in the interview process. Current events suggest that talking about the stability of your company be discussed at the very first meeting.

4. Use Technology to Conduct Meetings & Interviews

Take advantage of the amazing technology that is currently available and embrace video conferences. Utilize them in place of your normal meetings, to make sure everyone is the on the same team, and also to build team rapport and morale.

You will also definitely want to make use of all available technology to carry out interviews, assessments, etc. Today’s candidate thinks nothing of completing on-line assessments, interviews, etc.

We should expect to see more and more on-line assessments for  purchase that can be conducted virtually which will  allow hiring managers to evaluate candidates’ skills and experience.

How Many Virtual Meetings Should You Have Per Week?

A good rule of thumb is to have the same number of virtual meetings that you are used to having live prior to Covid-19, and then add 1 per week to take into account the changes that should openly be discussed.

5. Look for Disciplined, Self-Motivated Individuals

Evaluating ‘soft’ skills by behavioral profiling, will be of monumental importance as hiring managers consider adding or subtracting from their teams.

There should also be a strong emphasis on evaluating a candidate’s self-motivation, intellectual elasticity, and tenacity.  Employees should have these characteristics to have the best chance of success in this new work environment.

Since 1999, ISC has been a leading team of executive recruiters in the U.S. International Search Consultants specializes in identifying top tier professionals for companies operating in a wide range of industries. If you’re struggling to fill a critical role, contact us now to strategize on your ideal candidate profile.

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants, and can be reached via direct dial at 888-866-7276 or via email at 

Anna Souers is Director of ISC’s team of Financial Services Recruiters. Anna can be reached at  or direct dial at 800-450-3808.

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