17 March 2020

In a time of great unease and uncertainty, we thought we should address our community on our outlook and response.

The short term

First and foremost our values of Human Connection and Human Collaboration are guiding us. Our connections define us and we are doing everything in our power to do our part as a business and as individuals to protect and support our people and the communities we serve. Human Collaboration is our culture of investing to understand. While we will need virtual channels in this crisis, our mission remains to supporting our connections to understand the communities they work within and draw their talent from.

Commodities and their value chains are uniquely impacted by the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, in part due to the forward-looking and real-time sensitivity of the commodities markets but also the very global nature of its talent pool. Far ahead of more domestic industries and sectors, we were all seeing the impacts, from wild price gyrations to cancelled trips and rescheduled conferences. That said, the commodity markets have also been tempered since time immemorial by uncertainty, cycles, geopolitical events and are certainly used to disruption. It has always been doing business on “hard” mode. Leaders are therefore typically more nimble in decision making and attuned to capturing opportunity.

Change and opportunity

At root, the opportunity this evolving crisis will start to provide leaders everywhere is time. This cost conscious, global industry means most firms run lean and its people are highly mobile, multitasking and stretched. Suddenly the whirlwind of long-haul flights, customer visits, conferences and meetings all has to be done from one’s home office.

And with this time, it will allow businesses to invest in long term plans and strategy. Given people, especially in commodities, are a firm’s biggest asset. People plans are where most time will be spent. This is an opportunity to not only pause to assess current performance and fitness, it  is also an opportunity to be transformational in where and how businesses operate and deploy their people. Cultures, offices and processes may be radically transformed during this crisis – working from home, videoconferencing (even making hiring decisions in a completely virtual process) and even the physical office environment design may change forever. For example, there is a natural bias against hiring remote talent. Often this stems from insufficient systems and processes to fully integrate an individual and both empower and audit their work. This crisis might change that.

Human Capital has been spread across five continents for a long time so we have had to embrace technology to maintain internal collaboration – which is the secret sauce that drives the expertise we offer our clients. We use internal blogs, shared drives and especially tools like Microsoft Teams. We have had a natural resistance in our culture to working from home given the need for that human connection. We are now working on how as a global team we can recreate the office environment in a virtual setting.

This crisis will also change the competitive environment. Sadly, some organizations will not survive even a short term cash disruption. This will again provide opportunities for others to open new markets and gain talent and clients.

HC collaborating through data

To capture these opportunities requires data. To that end we have seen an increasing demand for our research. This includes compensation studies by product and roles, talent pipeline studies and talent pool studies for market entry, be that geographic, by product or function.

Hiring itself is also a medium to long-term project. The process of need and talent identification, let alone filling the position takes months. As difficult as it may be to see now, this crisis is unique in that we know it will end and the end will likely be abrupt. Those firms that capture the opportunity and continue to evolve and execute on their people plans will be stronger on the other side.

If you wish to know more on our research products or just connect, please reach out.