Q1 Newsletter & Review

April 28, 2023

Reilly Partners had a busy first half of 2023, filling positions, providing strategic talent advice, exploring opportunities across our clients’ industries, and bringing the best talent to our clients.

In light of the current state of economic breath holding, we have a few things on our minds:

Taking the long view

It feels as if we’ve been waiting for the recession to begin for at least two years now. Conflicting data points are reported nearly every week. The consensus now seems to be that the US economy will officially be in some degree of recession by later this year. As that negative drumbeat has become louder, companies have begun to look for ways to cut expenses. Few solutions are more impactful than hiring freezes and layoffs. Investors tend to cheer these quick, decisive moves, making them even more attractive to executives in the c-suite. While these cuts are sometimes necessary, in our observation they are rarely done with enough thought to their long-term impact. Few things can “kill” a carefully curated culture, faster. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked as the dark storm clouds of a potential recession roll in…

The US economy has proven resilient time and time again, from the dotcom bust to the near complete meltdown of the financial crisis. While each recession is unique and feels unpredictable in the moment, downward turns have typically been followed by longer periods of growth and development. Even though we know this, in the moment we tend to forget. Decisions to slash hiring and cut people are often made hastily, causing confusion, frustration, and potential resentment that can do long-term damage to a company’s employment brand.

Of course, there are situations where layoffs are the right decision. The key is to recognize who you can’t afford to lose today, who will be the most difficult to replace tomorrow, and to protect your future leaders. Always remember, your best employees are the most vulnerable and have the most options. If they sense uncertainty or feel overlooked, they will be proactive in protecting their own career.

We know when companies consistently and demonstratively prioritize their workforce, they are more likely to attract and retain top talent. By investing in talent, especially during challenging times, companies can supercharge employee loyalty and commitment. Companies that stick to their long-term plans and remain committed to their key employees and their development are better equipped to weather the storm. They will also emerge faster on the other side of a recession, leaving their less strategic competitors in the dust.

By taking a long-term approach to talent, companies can create a more stable, sustainable foundation for growth and innovation, and will achieve greater success more quickly.

A Note from Our CEO

I am optimistic about the lessons we’ve learned over the past three years. But I have some reservations about the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid working arrangements. As an economy and society, we have quickly adapted to this new way of working. While elements of this new normal are fantastic, I do have concerns for how it will impact individual and corporate results over time.

While remote work has brought about many benefits, I believe there is a downside – especially for those in the earlier stages of their careers. Data clearly shows that school children experienced a disruption in their learning due to remote schooling. Similarly, I believe remote work has stunted development and productivity in the corporate world. But the kids are back in class while many of us are still at home.

I believe the glue that binds organizations together erodes when we are at home full time. Remote workers will need to be more proactive than there in-office counterparts in seeking out opportunities for professional development, networking, and relationship building. Corporate leaders will need to be more thoughtful about how they recognize, engage, and develop their future leaders if they are not physically in the office. Some organizations have implemented remote work policies that consider these challenges. Time will tell how successful these strategies are.

There are plenty of reasons remote working arrangements make sense. Some individual contributors are more productive at home. Some roles are simply better suited for a remote arrangement. Sometimes the best talent is three states away. It really is best decided at the individual level. I simply want us all to be honest about the potential challenges of long term, large scale, remote working.  

I think if your goal is to simply have a “job,” then no worries. But if your goal is to have an impactful “career” it might be time to get back in the office – at least a few days a week. Leaders are paying attention – choose your path wisely.