How capable will your leadership team be at reactivating your people?

Published 03/07/2020 - 5 min Read

By Rachel Davis

Joint Managing Director

Quick Summary Recovery starts with the leaders within your business, so now is the time to identify if they’re agile enough to adapt.

5 min Read

In the UK alone, 1.1 million employees were placed on the furlough scheme and bringing them back to a new working environment is no easy task. Recovery starts with the leaders within your business, so now is the time to identify if they’re agile enough to adapt. 

Is your leadership team still fit for purpose?

Your leadership team may have been the perfect fit pre-pandemic, but now all businesses have been thrown into a state of transformation, whether they like it or not.

To begin the road to recovery, a company needs to ensure it has the right people with the right skills in leadership positions. The working environment has changed dramatically over the past few months, and your leadership team may well need a new set of skills to transform the business and meet new demands.

For leadership teams to successfully bring people back into the business as the world reopens, they need to lead by example. However, if they’re resistant to a new agile way of working or struggling to adapt to new technologies, then a reshuffle of the team make-up could be essential to business survival.

Turbulent situations like this also allow companies to assess the shortcomings of their leadership structure. For example, does the current setup properly support digitalisation? Has the structure allowed for creativity and agility to thrive, or has critical decision-making been slowed by rigid bureaucracy?

This has been a common scenario in the retail sector. As businesses have had to shift dramatically towards eCommerce, the responsibility for digital transformation has fallen somewhere between the role of a CIO and a CTO, with neither having the full skillsets required. The appointment of a Chief Digital Officer would provide the necessary transformational skills without dividing responsibility and adding additional pressure across under-qualified business leaders

Your competitors are already identifying, searching for, and building relationships with c-suite executives who can help grow their business in this new landscape. If you continue to rely on a leadership team who can’t keep up, then you risk getting left behind.

Leading from the spare bedroom

Excellent business acumen may guide a company to its next goal, but in a time of crisis, having leaders with emotional intelligence is essential. Mental health, stress and many other workplace worries have been hugely aggravated by recent events, especially for those anxious about going back into the office. 

The return to work is providing a new challenge for businesses as roles change, and employees wonder what jobs they’ll have upon their return. So, making sure your leaders can balance IQ with EQ will be essential during the reactivation of staff at every level. 

Leading from the spare bedroom isn’t the same as leading from the boardroom or walking the corridors of power, and those paving the way need to ensure they have the adaptability to lead both remotely and in-person as the global situation continues to evolve. 

Is Covid-19 creating new diversity & inclusion opportunities?

The current situation has created an opportunity to improve inclusion as remote working levels the playing field as online meetings replace boardroom cliques and ‘watercooler chats.’ Like-minded leaders dominated the balance of power, now this has been replaced by 9 or 12 equal boxes on a screen. 

Secondary board meetings that ripple on as leaders exit a room and go off to lunch together are harder to achieve in a virtual environment. This new balance should be cascaded and repeated throughout the business as true attention is given to the art of chairing and running an online business meeting.

This opportunity means a company could make significant strides towards a truly inclusive workforce absent from unconscious bias.

On the flip side, leaders need to pay attention to team members who have been forced through the pandemic to halt their progression temporarily. With multiple studies now showing that women were taking on more homeschooling, childcare and housework than their male partners, we cannot allow the gender gap to widen again.

The result can create an inclusive culture built around different backgrounds and an external reputation of a business prioritising diversity, but only if the leaders embrace this opportunity. 

Make sure you’re taking the right approach

As with most significant business decisions, rushing will only end in disaster. Every change you make needs to be backed up with insight and thorough market research to ensure your plans can become a reality. At Armstrong Craven, we provide a range of solutions designed to help businesses transform their leadership team and mitigate leadership risk when they need it most.

Step 1: Research and benchmarking

Restructuring your leadership team may sound productive in theory, but if there are no candidates available, then you’ll end up with more gaps. If you knee jerk to the same candidate persona, your business won’t move forward. A research-led approach allows you to understand the breadth and depth of talent out there. Alongside this, you can discover what your competitors are doing and evaluate your employer value proposition, to ensure the talent you need want to work with you.

Step 2: Expand your talent pool 

With remote working becoming the norm, consider your pool of available talent expanded, as you can reach more leaders than was possible before. Our research shows that this talent pool is more open to conversations to explore new sectors than ever before. 

Even if you are not quite ready to bring in new leaders, opening a dialogue and building a proactive relationship with external leadership talent puts you in an advantageous position when you are set to hire. This allows companies to take advantage of the external market immediately, adding extra bench strength for when they need it most.

Step 3: Plan for succession

The global pandemic has highlighted more than ever the need for robust succession planning so that business can mitigate any leadership risk that might hit them. Building pipelines of engaged, future-ready talent will provide access to external new-generation skills that will complement your internal bench.


This pandemic has placed a huge strain on businesses, but it gives companies a chance to reflect upon new learnings and pitfalls they’ve encountered along the way. By looking through the lens of Covid-19, businesses can identify any gaps such as a rising need for digital leadership or a lack of support for those who need it most. Most importantly, it will allow them to anticipate and prepare for the future twists and turns that are still to come. In moments like this, the most significant changes happen, so HR leaders need to ensure they have a robust talent strategy in place. 

For all the insights from our Talent Storm series, visit our Talent Storm Hub.

At Armstrong Craven, we’re experts in providing the intelligence needed to facilitate business evolution. If your leadership team needs a talent refresh, we identify and approach the next generation of talent. Alongside this, we analyse the depth of leadership risk and provide a detailed report on the external view of your business.

So, if you’re looking for a stronger leadership team with the essential ability to motivate and lead remote teams, get in touch with our experts today. 

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