Crisis-proofing your talent processes

The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting many talent processes. But it doesn’t need to stop them. From talent reviews to hiring to assessments, companies are converting in-person processes to virtual formats at a dizzying pace. Learnings to apply and pitfalls to avoid when creating virtual experiences that are built to withstand COVID-19 and in the long term, accelerate the workforce of the future.

Donna Lehman 

And now I would like to introduce you to your host, Ilene Gochman 

Ilene Gochman  

Hello, everyone, and thank you for taking the time to be here with us. We recognize what a difficult time. This is. And our goal for this one, but our is to talk with you about talent management in a crisis and to offer some helpful tips. 

We may share some company names during this webinar and want you to know that we have permission to do so when we don't, we're going to be anonymous 

Donna, I'd like to let you know that I'm not able to move the slides at this time, so perhaps I could have some assistance on that they seem to be frozen on my screen. 


Thank you, Ilene, we’ll get that fixed one second. 


Okay. Well, while we're waiting for that I'd like to let you know that I'm joined by two of my colleagues. A one is Barbara Ramos, who is our EMEA leader of assessment and succession consulting. She's based in Madrid. 

And Arvi Dhesi who is based in London, and he is a subject matter expert on talent review. 

Okay, good. 

And as you can see we have their pictures up on the on the screen now along with our agenda. So it looks like we got our technical problems fixed 

So as an overview. I want to start by just acknowledging that we are right now in the epicenter of an epoch changing event. These are occurrences happening now that are of such magnitude that later. 

We're going to say, do you remember the world before us and the past is going to become the stories that we tell our children and our grandchildren. 

One thing we know about this seismic shift is that it's of such magnitude that organizations and leaders have enormous challenges and opportunities. 

And we all have to face these new realities and decide how we're going to meet these new challenges. So let me ask you, are the, what are the leadership implications of this seismic shift. 

Arvinder Dhesi 

And surely, well, you know, in the face of an unprecedented magnitude and rapidly increasing pace of disruption. We've been saying for several years now that leaders must either self disrupt 

Or be disrupted. Now in leadership, as we all know, you get the test before you get the lesson and most important lessons of leadership. 

Carry with them quite a lot of developmental heat because we believe that it's in the heat of adversity that leadership greatness is forged. Now, if we think about the current test that mankind is facing. And we think about the amount of developmental heat. We’re all experiencing right now. 

If this had been into one of our simulation based assessments. Everybody would have said, Well, guys, this is a bit too much heat right 

This is too extreme. It's too far fetched. It's almost beyond the belief, but this is a reality that we're dealing with right now. So we would say this is the perfect moment. 

For us to observe during the heat of battle and levels of Rupa which are beyond our wildest imagination, what leaders do when they don't know what to do. 

And just this week I was speaking to a C suite level executive in a business that is absolutely at the forefront of mankind's response to covert 19 

And in her observations using leaders vacillating between fear and being led by that purpose, which resulted in a mix of 

Quite frankly disappointment in some and you know knock your socks off surprise and delight with others. 

And in the words of our country colleague Shane craven what this requires a leader is for leaders to be first decisive bold embrace uncertainty navigate complexity leader the empathy curiosity and passion and it's summed up in the face to run towards the fire. 


Good points there Arvi so want to talk a little bit about the impact of the crisis on our businesses because we know many businesses are going to be facing existential threats within the coming weeks and months. 

And we suspect that some businesses are going to have to consider the survival of their entire industry. With all this going on. Why is now a time to be thinking about your talent processes. 


Yes, I mean, we think might seem logical. It might seem appropriate it might even see justifiable. So this is the pressure to say let's postpone that cancel. Let's delay. 

We are advocating the complete opposite of that and open to us that there can be no better time to observe the quality of our leaders. 

Then when seismic challenges rock our world now in the opportune moment for organizations to have clarity knowledge and intimacy of their leaders. 

So that they can answer the killer question the talent management. So the first couple of questions that talent management is what do we have, which is the talent. 

Supply question, what is our current supply. What do we have the second one is, what do we need, what is our immediate and future need now as many, many organizations to do right now. 

To continue that supply chain metaphor to claim thinking about all of the manufacturing companies that are supplying the healthcare. 

Industry, they are constantly having to make adjustments real time for both the supply and the demand, and I think this is very, very relevant to the current world we live in. 

So this is not so much about the bureaucracy is not about the tools or the processes, but it's really about reflecting upon and appreciating the core purpose. 

Of the work we do, which is to provide data and analysis and answers to those key questions which leaders will need our organization societies and countries and the whole world. 

Through the immediate crisis, but also longer term through recovery for us to all five again. So rather than postponing this work. 

Our contention is that these basic questions of supply and demand will, whether we like it or not, whether we lead it or not. 

The fundamental to the survival of many businesses and entire industries. In fact, our messages, more than simply do not postpone 

We should actually be doing far more frequent online talented with us to make sure that we can adjust as we go in real time. 

So that this is no longer simply a process something that will really enable us to truly lead the crisis and not just navigate it. So our view is, this is the agenda, we should be following what now. 

Barbara Ramos 

And let me interrupt here for a moment because yesterday. In fact, the economist published an article and claiming the role of the car owners in this humanitarian crisis as a critical one. 

And one of the main points was around the need to manage the president was thinking beyond two steps ahead if you don't want your competitors to be faster and recruiting your company. 


Mm hmm. And in fact, I have a perfect story to illustrate to this. Just last week I attended a virtual meeting with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and their HR leaders. 

And before the CEO entered the room, the HR leader said, well, we should be prepared. Maybe the CEO, he won't have reviewed the documents or maybe he's not going to want to focus his attention right now. 

Because you so preoccupied with the covert crisis. Well, it turned out the CEO. Enter to the room and HR said to him, you're sure you want to have the meeting. And he said, 

There is nothing more important than talent, especially now, and he took out his notes which he had pre read and the heavenly annotated them. 

And he proceeded to be fully engaged in the discussion for the next hour. So I think that illustrates exactly what both of you were saying about now is the time to be doing that. 

So given that virtual is now become the new normal. Some companies may find it difficult to move to do any talent reviews virtually. What's your thoughts on this, Barbara. 


Yes, I mean, I think that's, that's like totally your jewel is the new normal. And as always, the necessity is triggering us to explore new opportunities and to try not only new ways of working, but also new ways of socializing. 

New ways of playing sports and I would say even new ways of showing love and appreciation and this was well understood by companies like Facebook or may take just to name a couple of them. And I think that we are living an exponential acceleration of virtual connectivity. 

So it's really fascinating because we have the opportunity to become as tech savvy as the Jen said so for people in this call, who are not part of the gen set or the millennials. This is really a great moment to develop ourselves. So what I'm thinking is that if we are able to apply this virtual reality, to our personal life.  

There has to be a way to also apply it to our HR and talent processes and the realities that we have a lot to learn. Within HR from other functions that are already applying virtual solutions. 


Well, I think there's a lot we can learn from our colleagues on the talent acquisition side. 

Because if you think about it, they have spent years enhancing their processes. They've been leveraging leveraging technology. They've been adding I eat. 

And they have resulted in a lot of efficiency and lower cost. So this has happened at the same time that they've been maintaining quality. 

And they've been delivering a positive candidate experience. So sometimes HR tends to think that there's things that can't be done virtually, and I think we have perfect examples from what's been happening very successfully on the talent acquisition side. 

Yes. Um, I also see that learning in leadership development programs. And last year we did a global program for a technique FMC global oil and gas company to develop their new generation of leaders and it was delivered via virtual reality which is also very frequent in this type of leadership development programs in other companies and we've also seen virtual assessments delivered globally. 

ABB the distress and Swedish multinational corporation is pretty strong at delivering virtual assessments as part of the broader turning assessment strategy. 

However, it's true that when we think about talent reviews, we tend to visualize the traditional evaluation, calibration, development session where everybody is sitting together in the same room. 


Now, we would say, it can be done. We want everybody on this call to understand when it comes to town reviews, it can be done. 

In fact, will be very happy to share with you the precise details of how it would need to be facilitated but we recently calibrate to the top 300 liters of one of our clients. 

And that was done in the equivalent of one day, not all together in one day. But in the equivalent of one day without meeting physically 


So it is doable. But I think that the main point is that virtual has to be done by design, not by default. 

So it is not just about doing the same process through a different channel turning on your camera. 

It's really about a new way of engaging and interacting and there are some specificity is that need to be planned upfront in our experience and making it simpler. 

Is really critical. Having a clear focus is very important with shorter sessions more interactive and very importantly, incorporate elements that created the emotional connection no real on human level. So we are taught by design, not by default is a career success. 


Absolutely, just to build on the point I made earlier when we get that virtual talent review that I mentioned the big learning was that 

The key success factor was the mindset of participants and meters. Quite often feel that they need the comfort of being present with each other in the same room. 

But it's really about creating the spirit of dialogue and their appreciation of different points of view was the key game changer. And this can all be done virtually 

In fact, it's quite a contrast to the traditional face to face meetings where quite often people arrive with a mindset that it's all about competing 

And, you know, stating that point of view, rather than be to use an open and willing to try a different, a different type of dialogue to differentiate develop. 


So, Barbara. What do you think has prevented companies from doing more things virtually? 


I guess that it has to do exactly with what Arvi, has just shared I guess that we all feel safer. 

In the comfort zone and there are HR processes that have been traditionally delivered face to face, and nobody has challenged the status quo. 

And it does not only apply to talent reviews very frequently. I hear the same type of pushback for senior executive assessments or coaching where I see a bias towards face to face. And I think that it is due to the perceived value of physical presence in order to create intimacy. 

So maybe it's time to recover the trust equation that probably everyone on this call knows you build trust by building credibility reliability and intimacy with an eagle less approach. 

And after many years in this business. I have observed that we have pushed back virtual delivery for critical events in order to really preserve our comfort zone behind the argument that intimacy requires this physical presence. So I guess that this is the fundamental mindset shift that is needed, and we have the opportunity to find new virtual ways to build our credibility, our reliability and the intimacy. 

And Arvi’s example. I think it's a beautiful one to show that intimacy and trust. 

Do not require the physical presence, but the authentic will to achieve a goal that goes beyond ourselves and our self interests and I guess that here is staying true to purpose. It's what creates tracks. I would love to share a personal experience last week. 

We had one of our monthly calls for the media team of assessors and I have to say that it was the best whole ever with record collect participation. 

With them simple things that sometimes make it much more human like turning the camera around or we, for example, started with a short and simple activity to brief when when, in order to have this right mindset before jumping into the agenda. 

And it was incredibly well received and very helpful. And what I find also 

Interesting is that we took the opportunity to experiment with technology and to try new things, some of them worked well. Some of them didn't. 

But this situation is giving us a chance to try and experiment new things in a much less judgmental way with each other. 

We are much more willing to admit admit mistakes in order to truly focus on our progress. So I think that we need to review some of the traditional beliefs. 

Discover new opportunities to build trust and connectivity to maximize what technology can bring to us. And since we are all united against the virus. I think that it creates a strong enough purpose for for us to give it a try. 


Absolutely. And we are seeing that we we are seeing that the virus is in fact creating a common purpose and as Arvi said this is a great opportunity for us to observe leadership in action. 

Yeah, absolutely. We're talking about that area and about a week ago we were having a conversation with the board member of a global bank. 

Who shared with us that some of their board members were in fact disappointed and underwhelmed with the way some of the executive team leaders were standing up these days. 

And I guess that believing a crisis is a real moment of truth, where you control prove your leaders in action. 

And this observation reveals that some leaders like certain capabilities that are considered mandatory for the Executive Committee. So the question is, how was the selection decision made when they were appointed 

And in a world of big data. I guess that most of us could say, well, critical decisions such as this in our organizations are truly supported by beta 

But going back to Arvi’s metaphor earlier, you could not make an adjustment to your inventory without reviewing the data. So, the same applies the talent. So let's assume that this bank had the data to support the promotions process. 

Then the question is, do you really have the right data to make the right decisions. 


Now, as we all know, managers typically conflate cost performance with future potential. We know that that's that's a fact from our assessment data. 

Now we know from our current reality that the past performance is very different and Eileen said it earlier. That's from the different epoch. 

So we now have to consider data with a completely fresh perspective. I would also say that we need to tackle what I call the myth of meritocracy. Many organizations claim to be meritocratic, but in actually, in actual fact, they bias in favor of those who are politically astute 

Those who are highly networked those people who enjoy the patronage of powerful advocates and sponsors and those four personally congenial 

And know how to, you know, navigate the political terrain and, crucially, quite often we bias in favor of those who look sound and at like incumbents. But now might be the time to look at fresh data with fresh eyes. 


Indeed Arvi I think that's a great point. In addition, I tend to think that some participants on this webinar today could claim that their companies actually have the right data. 

So sometimes it's a matter of making this important distinctions, but sometimes it's also a matter of how do we use the evidence that we have 

And how is it used at the critical time when you need to do an important decision. So in my experience, sometimes data is used when it confirms our viewpoint and we dismiss it when it does not 

So I guess that the key message here is that leaders should have more humility to challenge their own views of talent when the beta and the evidence contradicts the thoughts. 

And also the courage to really make evidence based decisions and this is also a unique opportunity where we need HR to take a strong stand now more than ever need to make the case for purpose for talent management. 


Well, why don't we shift gears for a minute and ask our audience what they're thinking through a quick poll. 

So we want you to tell us what's your personal commitment to harness this crisis as the perfect opportunity to reshape and we prioritize the talent agenda. 

So we're giving you five choices and you can move your cursor and select one of them. So is it. Are you saying it's not on your agenda right now too many other things to do, or are you waiting for the right time. 

Or third choice, you'll join up if other people take the initiative or you seizing the opportunity with all your passion. 

Or are you already implementing a new talent agenda. So we'd love to hear where you are right now in your personal commitment to harness this crisis as an opportunity to move forward. So please let us know. 

The audience out there what it is that you're thinking 

Very eager to hear the responses. We know that things are changing day by day during this crisis. So this is going to be right in the moment chance to see where everybody is at 

All right, so let's see where we are. Okay, so we have 10% saying not on their agenda. I'm at 90% they're waiting for the right time 11 they will join up. If 

If others initiative it sorry initiate we have 39% they are seizing the opportunity. Well, her raised for that. 

And 22% already implementing so we have well over half of our audience who are recognizing 

The crisis here and what they can do about it. And that is absolutely phenomenal. We, we, in preparing for this had no idea what what we were going to find and we we wondered if our audience would indeed. 

Have the time and the courage to seize the day and we are just delighted to see that so big, big smiles on all of our faces to see that pole. 

So as we're summarizing, some of our discussion, a couple of points, we want to emphasize the first one I guess I don't need to emphasize, which is a C's of the moment. 

I guess I'll emphasize that for the the 40% that haven't gotten there yet. Leadership is now front and center in everybody's mind because that's 

Exactly what's going to get us through the crisis, so please use the insights and the energy to keep leadership as a topic on your organization's agenda. 

There is no business as usual. Now, so you have the opportunity to we define we find your talent review processes all of your talent processes, especially ones that everybody is 

Complaining about are saying that they're not working, you know, we all have pride of authorship for the talent processes that we put in place. 

And we want to say, well, this is the way we've always done it. But now we need to have the courage to make the changes. So go for it. The, the, over half of our audience, which is pretty sizable that's moving ahead to make the changes. 

Our second point, we want to leave you with is about measuring what matters. 

And one of the things that crisis has shown us is that there is a clear differentiation amongst our leaders. 

Some people are very quickly, figuring out what to do and uncertain times and others are going back to their old playbooks and they are doing the kinds of things they've always done which may or may not be working in this situation. 

So now's the time that you really need to redefine your future leadership qualities, so that when you're doing your differentiation 

You're doing it on the dimensions that, you know, make a difference. Perhaps you have had success profiles in place. 

job descriptions competency models, whatever it is that you may be using to define leadership. Now is the time to really think about, are they measuring what matters. What is going to help your organization be successful in the future. 

Once you've done that, now's the time to update your data, you know, all of us now have been seeing our leaders on the battlefield. 

And that's yielded some pleasant surprises. Some people have far exceeded our expectations but others who we thought or perhaps future successors, and our high flyers have been very disappointing to us. 

So it's become clear that people we thought were hypos or people that we had in boxes for successors. 

Are actually not so it's time to reassess your leaders, whether you're going to do it through formal assessments or through more informal talent discussions, but do it with the updated criteria to make sure that you get it right. 

And our last point is one that we've made throughout our conversation which is virtual by design, not by default, it's not just taking processes that we've had in the past. 

And putting them through a different channel, making them online making a virtual it's a completely new way of engaging and interacting with people. And there are some specificities that need to be planned up front. 

We have some of these tips on our Korn ferry website about how to do virtual meetings. If you'd like to go and take a look at them. 

So we want to thank you for joining us. We're getting close to our time here. 

We hope it's been helpful to you, leading through the crisis we have some articles here that you can hover your camera over the code. 

And it will take you to the right place to see these articles. You also can go to our dedicated website. We have the website listed as well as you can hover your camera there to to get to this. 

And as you're probably aware, this is part of a whole series of webinars we have two more to go, that you should consider joining 

One is about creating effective learning experiences in a virtual environment. And we just did a new one for Friday, which is about cultivating personal resilience and volatility. 

Under that one is not limited to, but it is focused on HR professionals. Many of us now are really at the forefront of this crisis. So please sign up if you're interested. Thank you for joining Barbara RV and I today and we want you to take care and stay well. 


Thank you today to our speakers and everyone who joined the webinar. 

Just a reminder that we have recorded this it will be made available to you, along with the slide you will receive an email with the links later on today or tomorrow. 

And you can see that we have additional ones you can register for as Ilene just told you. So please take a moment to go do that. Otherwise I would like to say goodbye. Stay safe and be, well, this meeting is now ended. 

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