Looking Ahead to 2021

Dan Hawkins

I am not sure how or when the pandemic will subside, nor do I have a clear view on the impact of a new presidential administration.  I can report that most of our clients are doing well and quite positive on the economic outlook for next year.  Business is strong or recovering rapidly for the majority and M&A deal-making is extremely active.

Below are a few trends I am noticing that are unfolding now and could have an impact on organization performance in 2021.

  • Exodus of C-level talent. Hiring has picked up over the past several months and search firms are busy again.  Many executives were unwilling to make a move in 2020 due to the volatility in the market and their loyalty to their organization during the pandemic.  Given a frothy equity market, business stabilization, and new job prospects abound, you will see many ready to make the jump. Get ready to prepare those succession plans and develop your top talent.
  •  Start-Up CEOs must become Scale Up CEOs. Technology start-ups are receiving plenty of investment these days as COVID has fueled the need for more remote transactions, analytics, and virtual business.  Many tech founder CEO’s are faced with the challenge of evolving how and where they manage their business to ensure faster scale.  This requires greater operating consistency, instilling a management cadence, and surrounding themselves with top talent.  Founder CEO’s must develop and focus their impact quicker than ever.
  • Equity and Inclusion become embed in the Leadership Equation.  As a response to this year’s racial and social injustices, most companies appropriately issued corporate statements and Equity Policies denouncing racism and discrimination.  Next year, CEO’s and company leaders will be expected to do more.  Systematic changes will happen to staffing, leadership training, team development and assessment.  Inclusion will become not just an initiative but a leadership competency that managers must possess.  How companies assess, develop, and expect leaders to promote will evolve fast in 2021, so be ready.
  • Board effectiveness takes center stage. It is no secret that boards are resetting themselves with diverse talent. Boards will be infused with more women, minorities, and younger generational players.  This will have a profound impact on how the board operates, interacts with each other, and makes decisions.  Board effectiveness and group dynamics will be increasingly more important than ever before.  Board chairs will be on the hook to only ensure they have the right players on the board but are working well together in the interests of shareholders. Board evaluations used to be a nice-to-have will become a must-have.