A Numbered Journey Through COVID-19

Over the most critical period of the pandemic, responses to our surveys reflect both the deep fiscal trauma and the promising changes to come.

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It is only a snapshot in time. Three months out of a whole year and one year out of a hundred. But it just so happens to be during a global pandemic, the kind of which many people already believe is likely to be the event of the 21st century.

March, April, and May. There may be more important markers to come in COVID-19, but these are the months it all started to hit home, especially in the Western world. Korn Ferry surveyed thousands of executives during that time—more than 3,500 in May alone—to see where they stood. Perhaps one of the most telling figures: in March, a full third said they “did not know” what the impact on revenues would be. Sixty days later? That percentage had shrunk in half to 15 percent—for surely by then, COVID’s crushing toll on business and the economy was clear.

The “pulse” surveys were aimed not only at the revenue impact of COVID-19 but more broadly at business and human capital management practices. To be sure, the world is well aware of the massive layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts that have taken place. But the survey also found more subtle but painful steps that created their own upheaval, from delaying new hires (61 percent by May) to cutting out overtime (35 percent). Another 12 percent are considering cutting overtime but have not yet done so.

But from all these difficult measures also emerges a host of changes that the surveyed executives are expecting in the postpandemic era. Those range from better cost controls to a greater emphasis on employee engagement and communication. In short, a potentially leaner but better corporate world may emerge in the decades to come from a period few will forget.

Past & Present - Market perception of pandemic effect on business in 2020

Future - Market perception of pandemic effect on business going forward