Global reassessment, the shift in talent acquisition and the ramifications of remote working

6 min

Deanna Oppenheimer returns to our latest Talent Storm webinar after her insightful talk on the UK edition. As the founder of the boutique advisory firm CameoWorks and non-profit BoardReady, Deanna shares her experience to discuss why some companies are thriving while others try to survive.

With other 35 years of experience in financial services, Deanna spoke to our Global Client Partner, Jon Salmon, about topics including global reassessment, the shift in talent acquisition and the ramifications of remote working. 

Q: What are the challenges you’ve witnessed and the positioning you’re seeing coming out of the organisations you advise and lead?

DO: Throughout my career talent has been the secret sauce that makes or breaks a business. What we see as part of COVID though is the talent agenda, like so many other things that COVID is doing, is accelerating. We are moving from that idea of coping or just surviving, to thriving. 

There was a great quote out of Elizabeth’s blog that said, ‘we are going to see the impact of COVID, where there will be millions of people without jobs and millions of jobs without people.’ That is a profound statement because we are starting to see that manifest now as we are several months into this pandemic, with several months probably ahead of us to go. 

How do we look at a global view of being able to reallocate talent to where it needs to be, upscale talent and retain talent? That is quite interesting, and I think this phrase summarises what we’re seeing.

COVID is either going to be a big opportunity or a massive risk. You already see companies just starting to shake out between those thriving and those trying to survive, and some of them not making that. 

But on the margin, I think a lot of this choice is yours, and I think the choice is highly influenced by the talent and how you put into place talent strategies today that are going to be sustained in the future. 

Some of the boardrooms that I’m in are focussed in this area, on three specific points. The first thing is global talent. There is a reassessment going on right now in a way that we have not seen in the past. From the companies, we’re assessing ‘who do you need? Where do you need them?’ And ‘what do they need to be doing all simultaneously?’ 

The second thing is top talent. So, I’ve got top talent, how do I keep them? And I’m losing top talent, how do I try and retain or replace them? 

I have a board, for example, that I’m on, that only hired people in the area and the city they are located. They are now looking at recruiting not only outside the region but outside the geography, country and continent. There’s a myriad of challenges that comes from doing that, but there’s also a myriad of opportunities. 

The second thing is to be looking at the impact that this has on our way of working. It’s not just we first started saying ‘well how are we going to make sure that we’re going to work at home?’ Again, there was a great conversation I had with a CTO of a business that said, ‘it took us two years to even talk about remote working, and when COVID came we were able to execute it in two weeks.’

So, we’ve executed it, people are at home, they are in remote locations, but how are we going to optimise it?’ I think that is a key question that we all need to be asking. 

People are already leading the way. I’m on the west coast of the U.S, and you have Microsoft that announced they’re going to have the option of working remotely, permanently. That then brings on a series of other, not just people ramifications, but property, insurance, financial, many different things. 

The companies looking at this question holistically are going to be the ones who have the most sustainable opportunities. Now the second question is a cultural one. If we’re all remote, how do we create and maintain a culture? 

I think it’s still too soon to call, but if I had to place my bets now, I would say we’re going to see some hybrid opportunity coming from it. But I will say this is going to tip the scales more to top talent. 

You will now have people that are coming in, and it won’t just be ‘how much am I going to be paid? What are my benefits?’ But ‘where am I going to be able to work? How will I be able to accommodate a work-life balance that I want to have and be able to maintain?’ 

So again, while this offers complexity, it certainly provides opportunities. 

Gone are the days where we fly people across the world for a two-hour board meeting. Instead, we’re looking at how we bring together social justice, sustainability and accommodate mental health. 

So, what advice would I have that would be practical and actionable? The first I would say is that as a leader, we need to stay focussed on things we can control. There’s a lot of news you want to stay up on but don’t let it completely consume you. 

Don’t let the negative completely override you and don’t lose the attitude of that you can work through this. In my experience, the best way to do that is to stay focused on those things that you really can control and that matter. 

The second thing is to dial up your tenaciousness. What is it we are going to do to stick through this and work on coming out of it? There are so many things we don’t know, and we won’t know for a long time.

I maintain even when eventually do come through, and we’re able to say that was the pandemic, there will still be many more unknowns. Tenacity is a key strength that we want to focus on in those days. 

Finally, I would wrap up and say, this is an opportunity that you need to take some calculated chances with talent. 

I’ve just gone on a new board, and I have also been able to add several people to the board that I chair. I’ve never met them in person; I’m doing that all on a zoom format. That means I’m taking a calculated risk as a leader, but it is going to pay off. 

So, take a chance, you’ll also give a lot of people a chance. 

Q: What are you looking for in a leader for the future? How do you appeal to candidates wanting to join a community as much as a company? 

DO: We are in a time where we are fighting for balance. So where you used to go ‘okay this is a kind of a left-brain job, it’s an engineering job, it’s a finance job, it’s on that side, and there are the right brain jobs that we’ve got, we’ve got some things that we need to be in employee relations or communications.’

What you see now is that everything requires a balance. 

We talk with engineers about empathy, and we talk with marketing about data analytics. There is this idea you have to be balanced, and that is a sense of community which people are searching.

I have a person I’m mentoring that’s looking for a new job, and what he is doing, he wants to go into big tech. He’s not talking to any of the job opportunities yet, he’s talking to everybody that he knows in that business. He’s had some connection through LinkedIn or was a schoolmate or something else, about what’s it like here and then he’s preparing in-depth on the modelling and the analytics and the data side of it. 

So, I do think it’s incumbent on everybody who thought ‘I could get by just in this one mode.’ The one mode is gone. We are in a balanced manner that is going to be, in the end, really beneficial to businesses. You see it at stakeholder meetings. 

In my experience, that’s what often happens, you go through these periods of turmoil and chaos to get to a balanced opportunity at the end of it. 



This interview was just one part of our wider Talent Storm webinar, which included insightful conversations with experts across a variety of industries. To find out more about Talent Storm and why you should be preparing for it, visit our Talent Storm hub.

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