THE NEXT UNICORN

by Matt Thomas

Wading through the expert opinions and projections as to when the coronavirus veil will finally lift is a full-time job. With so much noise and misinformation, it is difficult to know who to trust. This is especially challenging for leaders of organizations trying to plan and prepare for a new world. Making accurate financial projections and piecing together coherent strategic plans that can make a 6-month run in the current climate is a luxury. I was told recently by an individual who seems to always have a solid pulse on market trends that he thinks it will be five years at a minimum before things return to some semblance of normal (full restaurants, no masks, etc.). Woof. 

With so much noise and misinformation, it is difficult to know who to trust. This is especially challenging for leaders of organizations trying to plan and prepare for a new world.

The disruption has impacted every corner of the business world in one way or another. Supply, demand, distribution, pricing, sales, marketing, etc. One of the most daunting realities business leaders are facing is that the type of person who is successful in their organization is in flux. In February I would be willing to bet that 99% of business owners if asked to describe an A player in their organization could spit out 3-5 bullet points in .02 seconds. Now? I’d be surprised if that number wasn’t closer to 50% or less. There is a marked confusion about what an A player looks like in this new world. Sales reps who thrived on office interaction and interpersonal relationships are floundering in zoom meetings. Engineers with low-risk tolerance are struggling to produce without someone close by to coach them step by step through the process. Executive assistants who spent 80%+ of their time booking flights, scheduling meetings, and planning events are wondering what to do with their time. It is, indeed, a new world. 

When the work from home orders were put in place leaders everywhere, overnight, were forced to answer an important question: do I trust my people? Will they work hard, adapt, and put in the hours necessary to execute at a high level? To some I’ve asked an uncomfortable question, how sure are you they were doing that when they had to come into the office? Most organizations have some way of tracking productivity and workflow, but all organizations have performance metrics. While the path to success has changed, for many the target is still the same. 

When the work from home orders were put in place leaders everywhere, overnight, were forced to answer an important question: do I trust my people?

With a team that has predominantly worked remotely for years, I can say without reservation, that if you hire the right people, performance isn’t going to be the issue. Sure there are challenges when it comes to building organizational culture when working remotely, but if you have the right people on the bus, productivity and execution are guaranteed. We are on a hiring blitz right now so these themes are fresh. Are you competitive? Do you value efficiency like you value oxygen? Is problem solving a natural skill you possess? Can you build rapport quickly? Are you emotionally intelligent? Are you light on your feet, able to adapt quickly to situations and relationships? And most importantly, is your character and integrity bolted to the ground? 9 times out of 10 if a candidate for employment with my team can answer yes to those questions they are going to be a great fit. There is no doubt in my mind that this type of person can work remotely and excel in their position. 

Everyone knows that with unemployment at an all-time high the market is flooded with talent. What most people don’t know is that now that remote work is an option for many companies, there are unicorns coming out of the woodwork open to new opportunities. The new unicorn is self-motivated, efficient, adept at problem-solving in high-pressure situations and in isolation, winsome, emotionally intelligent, adaptable, and trustworthy. Technical skill and relevant experience will always have their place in the recruiting food chain, but the ability to deliver at a high level with minimal support is what will set apart the A candidates from the rest. 

If you lead an organization and you are not planning for a long winter you are running out of time to reevaluate your hiring needs. Even the businesses deemed essential will start to lose out on talent to competitors providing a flexible work environment. If you are not already thinking down this path, then you are already behind. Better get busy.