Ottawa CEOs: Talent Challenges & Opportunities in the Post COVID-19 Economy

Ottawa CEOs: Talent Challenges & Opportunities in the Post COVID-19 Economy

The post-pandemic economy will be a challenging yet exciting time for a lot of local Ottawa businesses. It will be a period of restarting, rebuilding, and taking new approaches. Some businesses will eventually go back to normalcy while others will have evolved with new processes, policies and even products.

We interviewed some of Ottawa’s leading CEOs to get a sense of what they are expecting and their plans for the post-COVID-19 economy.

Paul Vallee, Founder and CEO, Tehama

What do you see as the greatest talent challenge of the post-COVID-19 economy?

Every leader in your organization is simultaneously learning how to manage remote workforces and work-from-home workforces, which is really quite different from managing traditional office-based workforces. At the same time, every knowledge worker in your organization is working for a manager that doesn’t have specialized skills in managing work from home workforces. Both are also dealing with an unprecedented amount of stress caused by the transition and caused by circumstances, including sharing workspaces with their mates and young children who demand attention.

What are the greatest hiring/talent opportunities post COVID-19?

There are an unprecedented amount of exceptional people out there looking for work due to COVID-19 related layoffs, but also due to individual contributors’ changing assessments of their employer’s longer-term viability. If you are a brilliant software engineer working on Cineplex’s new app, you might consider greener pastures considering what the next year or two holds for cinemas, for example. As such, businesses should be trying to forecast what their hiring needs will be post COVID-19 and should start looking at candidates for strategic roles now.

How are you rebuilding teams (if you need to) once hiring starts to resume?

We have been very fortunate at Tehama, as COVID-19 has created new opportunities for enterprise software designed to enable remote workforces. This quarter alone, we have grown our team by 12 employees (full time and co-ops). We are continuing to drive forward our growth in Q2 and Q3, focused on core Engineering and Sales/Customer Success roles. We certainly welcome all applicants to apply online @ https://tehama.io/careers/. As for advice for companies looking to rebuild their business as part of the economic recovery, I would suggest that the recovery will happen faster than anyone is currently anticipating and that the time to pipeline candidates is now.

Tosha Rhodenizer, CEO, RA Centre

What do you see as the greatest talent challenge of the post-COVID-19 economy?

I would anticipate a major shift in the manner in which people want to work. Where (home / office or even location), how (which hours, face to face or remote), what (what do they ultimately want to do that has perhaps been pushed aside previously) and for whom (what type of leadership and organizational culture will be desired now that they have been tested by this crisis) will all be front of mind when things resume. I also think there will be a number of people who elect to retire, shift careers, rethink education options even later in their career. These past couple of months have allowed for a period of collective reflection unlike any other in modern history. It will be fascinating to watch what happens. The pandemic has been an amplifier for those leaders interested in learning from the experience.

I also think that with the historic levels of temporary and other types of layoffs, that many organizations are not giving consideration to what would happen if their staff are not available for recall. Many organizations are not maintaining an active connection to their staff and assisting them through this period. It has become easier to compare their leadership to that of other organizations and how they are navigating their staff through the storm. Easy to compare and contrast leadership and how that would best resonate with people personally.

What are the greatest hiring/talent opportunities post COVID-19?

The thought of the level of talent currently out of work is staggering. You could not imagine a better time to be looking for extraordinary people to join your team. Also, the emphasis on employee wellbeing will be scrutinized by prospective employees unlike any other time. Physical and emotional wellbeing programs and services will be essential as will flexible work.

How are you rebuilding teams (if you need to) once hiring starts to resume?

Speaking personally, the quick ramp down of our operations here at the RA was a unique opportunity to see how people and their respective teams worked (or struggled). Like any crisis, you get a glimpse of the character of your staff unlike any other time (and they get a glimpse of your character as their leader). It truly brings the extremes out – good, bad, ugly. In addition, I have now experienced every nook and cranny of the operation (building, program, service and pretty much all staff) far more intimately then I would during business as usual. As we put the operation back together, how we do that will change quite dramatically in some instances. Teams have been and will continue to be a focus. A reset will occur with education and training, renewed and updated expectations and objectives and enhanced communication among other things. The phasing of our business will allow us to do so prudently and carefully as well.

Jordan Parsons, CEO, Benbria

What do you see as the greatest talent challenge of the post-COVID-19 economy?

Creating and maintaining a strong corporate culture and high performance organization in lieu of face-to-face meetings if the preference to work from home is the norm post-COVID-19. Some roles require close collaboration and some do not. Some resources are good at planning and communication and some are not. For those building products, and managing complex programs, initiatives and people, face-to-face meetings and interactions help a lot to create trust and increase creativity. Resources that have had to commute for more than one hour per day are most certainly more productive during COVID-19 if you factor in productivity. These resources will be looking for more flexibility moving forward and depending on their role, this may impact corporate culture and performance.

What are the greatest hiring/talent opportunities post COVID-19?

Similar to the Credit Crunch in 2008, mass disruption is causing many people to reconsider to forcefully change their jobs or careers. For example, if you are a software developer working at a large hospitality and travel company such as a major airline or hotel chain, you are likely a valuable asset to a software company serving the same industry because you have a lot of industry related knowledge, expertise, relationships and credibility that could otherwise be more difficult to find in a resource that started working for the same company after graduating from college or university.

How are you rebuilding teams (if you need to) once hiring starts to resume?

We are currently taking this opportunity to focus on adjacent markets and projects while planning for growth later in the year. As such, we have time on our side and we are evaluating how best to align with the new world. This will likely include a strong distinction between what is core to our business and what is not providing many partnership opportunities in the future.

Ken Workun, CEO, Netfore Systems

What do you see as the greatest talent challenge of the post-COVID-19 economy?

As we have not seen a decline in business, our hiring challenges are more about the new realities of work conditions. In particular, how to effectively understand applicant problem solving and skill set. This has been done in a room with a whiteboard. We are looking to other solutions that will allow us to do this remotely.

The other issue is onboarding. Where historically, new employees would be able to stop by a teammates desk to ask questions on how to solve issues etc. With the current environment, it is much more difficult to inform them on who to talk to for different issues and challenges. While we have good collaboration tools in place, they do not replace the “getting to know you” phase of new employees with our senior team.

As a result, we are likely going to need to provide much more structure and adopt better tools and processes for hiring and onboarding.

What are the greatest hiring/talent opportunities post COVID-19?

Not certain. We were hoping for layoffs to increase with other organizations and therefore provide less competition and greater availability of great talent. Thus far however, we have not seen any increase in resumes or in the caliber of talent we have applying for open positions.

How are you rebuilding teams (if you need to) once hiring starts to resume?

We are not so much rebuilding as expanding – and it is not a resumption as we have continued to look to hire. Other than the issues listed above, we are continuing unchanged in our approach.

Ashley Hopkins, CEO, Paradigm Properties

What do you see as the greatest talent challenge of the post-COVID-19 economy?

Suddenly we are all old dogs with no one to teach us the new tricks- because the landscape has forever changed and protocols and procedures are changing for every role. The adaptation to the new world and its immediate requirements are the biggest challenge. The trial and error that every industry will see as we shuffle “Roles and Responsibilities” internally is inevitable, its ensuring we act methodically while balancing the perceived urgency, that becomes the challenge.

What are the greatest hiring/talent opportunities post COVID-19?

COVID-19 has shown everyone what the brass tacks of life and our careers are to us. We would be naive to believe that the internal staffing analysis was not being done in tandem with our employees assessment of their own career paths. The biggest and best opportunity is clarity of direction for all involved. The talent knows what they want and where they are going, and the Employer knows who they are looking for.

How are you rebuilding teams (if you need to) once hiring starts to resume?

Paradigm set out to maintain our staffing levels but, we did put a freeze on incoming talent until the new landscape is apparent. This has given us an opportunity to hone our job roles and ensure that redundancies are not prevalent and adapt to a new way of working based on a rapidly changing industry. As we are gearing up and things start to become more clear those jobs roles are shifting. The question becomes, does this “newly formed hybrid talent pool” exist?

Chris Pointer, CEO, Pointer

What do you see as the greatest talent challenge of the post-COVID-19 economy?

As a creative agency, we’ve relied heavily on the magic of face to face collaboration. Keeping remote employees happy and engaged has been a bigger challenge than expected. Traditionally we try to have a balance of personality types but are noticing extroverted team members struggling to find a healthy work/life balance while their introverted teammates are much more comfortable.

What are the greatest hiring/talent opportunities post COVID-19?

This pandemic and the economic fallout has brought with it layoffs and reduced salaries but it has also added many talented people to the pool of potential candidates. For job seekers, I see people who have remote experience, specifically as it relates to creative services becoming more sought after to help maintain energy and momentum.

How are you rebuilding teams (if you need to) once hiring starts to resume?

We’ve been growing the team since we left the office. We’ve hired 4 people remotely, mostly as a result of word of mouth. While onboarding and training have taken more time to establish, everyone works hard to keep the culture going through regular all hands meetings and social time.

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