The impact of Talent Storm: A Conversation with Deanna Oppenheimer

6 min

Deanna Oppenheimer is the founder of boutique advisory firm CameoWorks and non-profit BoardReady, a company that seeks to advance board diversity. Alongside these responsibilities Deanna also has an impressive portfolio career; working as a Senior Independent Director at Tesco, Non-Executive Director for Whitbread and is the Chair of Hargreaves Lansdown PLC.  

With Over 35 years of executive leadership experience in financial services, Deanna leant her knowledge to Armstrong Craven in our recent webinar. Talking to Jon Salmon, our Global Client Partner, Deanna answered discussed topics from our blog ‘Is Your Business Ready for the Talent Storm?’ 

Q: Tell us more about the key themes and challenges you’re seeing unfold during this current crisis for the broad range of organisations that you advise and lead. 

DO: If there’s three key takeaways that I guess I would see it would be these. The first, as Elizabeth alluded to, is that global talent reassessment is happening right now. This isn’t something that we’re going to wait until we come out of a zoom and teams’ environment, it’s happening right now.  

Companies are really assessing, ‘what do we need? Where do we need talent? Are we going to change the way we house talent?’ And a variety of different factors that are decisions being made right now.  

From the top talent, ‘what do I really want to do with my life now that I’ve been through this?’ ‘What do I really value? What are the things that maybe I want to keep doing but new things that I want to be adjusting?’ When you look at that whole dynamic it’s as changing, it’s as evolutionary, as it’s ever been. 

My second point is that the ways of working have been radically adjusted, and radically adjusted in a period of days and weeks. Now it seems to me as I’ve gone through this period of these last few months that every day has been kind of transformed and been like a year that we’ve lived through, and I think a lot of people have felt that way - as we’ve been zooming through the days.  

I was talking with a CTO from a global bank and he said: ‘you know Deanna, we’ve been working for two to three years on trying to get remote working at home’ and I know that many companies were trying to do that on the horizon, but how would it work? Could it work? Literally people enabled 95% of the workforce to be at home within a period of two weeks.  

So again, when you look at that kind of a radical change, that’s another trend that is offering a big opportunity. Now I think it’s too soon to call, but the reality is we will not be working the way we worked before and that will open up new opportunities and new risks. 

The third point that I would say is that this is all going to happen with the triangulation of three things that are going to come together. All you have to do if you live in a city is look out your window and open it up and listen. I divide my time between cities in the US and London, wherever you are right now it’s much quieter, it’s much cleaner and the environmental impacts have been dramatic. So, the environment is going to play in this decision of do we go back and commute exactly the way we did before. 

The second thing is going to be health, are we done with every pandemic? Are we going to be able to really ensure that there’s never another Coronavirus that comes along quickly in our lifetime?  

Hopefully we’ll be better prepared for it, hopefully we will have more medical breakthroughs, but I think if we’ve seen one thing, it’s that for the first time everywhere in the world, all at one time, we’re all going through the same factor – so health will factor into this. 

The third is economics, can we afford to house everybody in the same way, in the same places that we did before? I think those reassessments are happening as well. I do believe that gone are the days where you travel halfway around the world for a 45-minute board presentation and come back.  

I think we’ve seen right here things that we never thought we could do before. We can house everything from weddings to events to business leadership, that can happen technically, but again we’ve also proven the power of that interaction personally and so there will be a medium that falls somewhere between. 

Teams are being assembled right now. I spend a lot of my time in Seattle in the head of the tech spending and the tech centre. There is more money that has gone into tech companies out of VCs in the month of June this year than ever before. 

People are investing, companies are amassing opportunities and talent. So, it’s one of those things that acting now is going to be important, to not be left behind. There is a real risk reward here, so assess very carefully. Now’s the time to take a calculated chance, but now’s the time also to give a chance. 

Q: How do we find the balance between understanding managers who do not wish to manage remotely and those employees within their team who are likely to be disgruntled if they cannot stay remote?  

DO: One of the things that I’ve seen that has really stepped up with a number of the companies that I’m familiar with is surveying. I think people are talking to their colleagues a lot more.  

In Seattle there’s a group that manages a lot of commercial real estate, that’s going out and talking with employees, ‘where do you want to be? When do you want to be? Why do you want to be?’ And they’re seeing that and then they’re pulsing those surveys.  

So, it’s not whether it’s anything from engagement across the piece, it’s not the once a year and done, it’s literally doing different segments and getting representative samples continually pulls through to understand that. 

Q: What impact does the new way of working have on annual TA budgets and HR budgets?  

DO: I think that budgets are as dynamic as the situation we live in right now, I think that it really varies. If some whole industries that have no revenue, zero revenue, during the lockdown as that has happened, again adversity is the mother of invention, that has called real innovation in budgeting. 

If the question there is you would like more budget, I think that the focus has to be on outcomes. On what is that really doing to generate more financial results for the company, more purpose for the company, things that are tangible that are really coming through at that point, and I think that’s what you’re seeing.  

Gone are the days where you just had this budget last year and you get two to three percent increase, just for the cost of living going on for the next year. 



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, take a look at the rest of our content. If you are looking for cost-effective in-depth talent intelligence services, then get in touch with our team today. 

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