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Talent management in times of crisis

Leaders that were able to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic successfully are, by definition, resilient. Organisational bureaucracy has been replaced by clear goals, focused teams and rapid decision making, and leaders have a role to play in ensuring that the change sticks and becomes the next business as usual.

In the initial phase of the pandemic, leadership focus has been on safety whilst fostering connectivity during uncertain times, followed by maintaining morale and productivity for remote workers and implementing a successful restart. Those leadership responses were based on circumstances no one ever faced before. Forward six months, leaders now need to focus on developing a strong and sustainable talent strategy for the post-Covid world.

The long-term transformation

Technology has the potential to be a great enabler, providing connection even during physical isolation. The past decade has seen a rapid digital transformation which has enabled organisations to rethink how they manage talent – from video conferencing through to data-centric decision making enabled by AI. But it was the pandemic that truly transformed how we work, leveraging the technology to fundamentally change the day to day business operation and talent management.

People are the most critical element of organisational success and leadership development programmes can provide support for faster, more agile organisations to keep them moving forward. Organisations need to invest in leadership skills and mindsets, turning leaders into coaches, instead of micromanagers. Coaching is a key element of performance management and it’s even more critical when workers are working remotely. In addition to the annual objective settings, leaders should have regular conversations with employees to set priorities jointly, linking individual goals to business priorities, whilst maintaining a strong element of flexibility.

Managing talent supply chains

The crisis has brought changes in customer demand resulting in temporary spikes in hiring in sectors such as grocery retail, whilst many in the hospitality sector have been left without jobs. Even with the rise in unemployment, effective hiring continues to be important, especially for skills required for the next normal. Being prepared for worst-case scenarios and ensuring that the organisation’s talent supply chains can not only prepare for another pandemic but also capitalise on new opportunities, will give organisations a competitive advantage.

The recent CEO Outlook report by KPMG surveyed over 1,800 CEOs globally and highlighted talent risk as the main concern, with over a fifth of the executives identifying it as their main organisational threat in the next three years, ahead of supply chain and environmental risks. The pandemic has forced three-quarters of companies to completely revise or stop recruiting, however, with limited talent coming on board, CEOs are worried that in-demand roles can’t be fulfilled because even though the job market may have made it easier to hire talent, it takes time to hire the right talent.

With the shift in how value is created in the post-pandemic economy, the talent base required to deliver the value will naturally need to shift as well. It is therefore important for organisations to review the roles that are most critical in the current stage of the crisis and the recovery phase. To understand the skills required in the future, organisations need to revisit their skill pools, looking beyond the traditional roles and focusing on the underlying skills that their employees have.

At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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