The Board’s Role Today: Stabilization and Recovery

Korn Ferry’s board practice leaders interviewed dozens of Global 500 and Fortune 1000 directors about their coronavirus response plans.

The coronavirus crisis is far from over — the disruption that the outbreak has caused will no doubt be felt in terms of years, not months. What is over for most organizations, however, is the immediate emergency response. Management remains focused on the day-to-day operations, leaving boards to serve in the critical role of planning ahead and thinking about stabilization, recovery, and even growth.

Korn Ferry’s Dennis Carey and Tierney Remick, vice chairs and coleaders of Korn Ferry's Board and CEO Services practice, and Joe Griesedieck, a vice chairman and managing director in the practice, recently conducted exclusive interviews with dozens of directors of Global 500 and Fortune 1000 organizations, all veterans in their fields and as directors. The focus was to understand their COVID-19 responses, their priorities, and the questions they are asking. Their near-universal response: scenario planning for their organization’s long-term talent and financial health.

Remick says that planning involves three key elements: rebalancing stakeholders, succession planning, and talent assessment. When it comes to rebalancing stakeholders, she says, boards are having active dialogues around how employees and customers—and not just shareholders—can be included in recovery plans. “Employees are front-and-center right now, and boards want to make sure they reflect employees’ roles through actions, rewards, and other means,” says Remick.

Another outcome of the crisis for boards has been the elevation of the increased importance of succession planning. Consider, for instance, that a Korn Ferry survey last year found that 77% of C-suite executives did not have an internal “ready now” successor for their role. Against the backdrop of the crisis, however, Carey says boards are aggressively expanding the breadth and depth of emergency succession, ensuring there are multiple successors for all roles critical to the organizations, not just the CEO and CFO.

“Several board chairs and lead directors have also activated more comprehensive director-succession plans for themselves as inevitable strategic shifts may require different skills and experiences in the boardroom moving forward,” says Carey.

See the report of the interviews here.