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How Consumer-Facing Organizations Thrive in Crisis

What’s working for retail brands and why?

Most importantly, we hope this finds you, your families and your organizations safe, healthy, and dare we say, sane. The statement that we are “living in unprecedented times” may be overused but it still seems to be the most appropriate way to describe the intersection of economic, cultural and political unrest we’ve seen over the last six months.

While it is sometimes difficult to find hope in these uncertain times, from a talent and leadership perspective, we are seeing many executives make dramatic and critical changes to their organizations that will have a positive and profound impact on the future.  

At Herbert Mines Associates, we serve retail and consumer organizations broadly and have witnessed how organizations have employed different tactics to thrive, not just survive, during these challenging times. While there is not one right answer, from a talent and leadership perspective, here are the themes we are seeing from consumer-facing organizations that are thriving in 2020:

SPEED: The old adage “fortune favors the bold” could not be any more true in COVID times. While our worlds seemed to stop in March, we saw high-performance organizations apply a higher level of agility and flexibility to change with the circumstances. Leaders within these organizations didn’t wait for the dust to settle but quickly pivoted, re-thinking, for example, what they sell, where they sell, to whom they sell and made equally profound internal adjustments to where they work, how they work and how they engage their employees.  A few specific examples included retailers changing their assortment to include essential items to keep their stores open; QSR organizations quickly changing to pick-up and delivery options with digital enhancements that are mobile and app technology-enabled; service-led organizations, such as gyms and fitness centers, providing classes and content online. Above all, leaders within these organizations were decisive and quick to take action.

CONVICTION: During this time of uncertainty, great leaders act with unwavering confidence and communicate with conviction, transparency and authenticity. In winning consumer-facing organizations, executives communicate early and often to their colleagues and customers alike, and with a level of clarity that instills trust and loyalty. Today’s circumstances also require leaders to take a stand on Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Sustainability, not because it is trendy, but because the positive future of our companies, our society and our planet requires us to change. The tone is set from the top, yet it is incumbent upon all of us to be assertive in driving change both culturally and environmentally.  

ACTION: The time is NOW to drive change. While it seems that our country is on fire, literally and figuratively, we have an incredible opportunity to positively shape the future state of diversity, culture and commerce in America. We are seeing the following themes emerge:

o Deliver Diversity: Best-in-class consumer-facing organizations are prioritizing diverse hires across all levels of the organization; if there are not existing opportunities, adding a Diversity, Equality & Inclusion leader to the C-Suite helps reinforce the importance of initiative, and creates an opportunity to hire diversity at the top.

o Cultivate a Culture where HR is Valued as a Business Partner: HR has become one of the most critical functions within consumer-facing organizations with the best organizations utilizing HR as a strategic business partner to the CEO. To do this, HR should always report to the CEO and truly have a seat at the table when making critical decisions around organizational structure, culture/work from home and business strategy. A great HR leader can also help organizations promote more diverse and inclusive corporations.

o Invest in and Accelerate Digital: We are all aware that digital/e-commerce capabilities are critical for success in a commerce-driven organization. ‘Winning’ corporations have the right technology/systems/infrastructure, in addition to having the right leaders in e-commerce and IT. Additionally, not just implementing, but accelerating the digital agenda, including mobile, delivery and content is critical.

We have the opportunity to leverage this time of crisis to become stronger, leaner and fitter and there are many organizations leading the way. At Herbert Mines Associates, in addition to supporting our clients and candidates with these changes, we are also prioritizing diversity and making changes to the way we work and even where we work. Stay tuned for some exciting Herbert Mines Associates news this fall!

From all of us at Herbert Mines Associates, we hope you continue to stay safe and healthy.

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