As the huge impact of the coronavirus became increasingly clear, we braced ourselves for what that would mean for Nurole. Like almost every business in the world we reviewed our finances, discussed contingency plans and looked into the government support schemes that were made so rapidly available.

It is a tough time to make big decisions, and this pressure is compounded by the dizzying uncertainty of this global situation. As Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US told the New York Times, "The virus makes the timeline."

Why hire now?

With so much going on during challenging times, companies understandably tend to focus on cash and runways as their main priorities. Talent is often overlooked, but great people can make all the difference, helping businesses not just survive the tough times, but thrive in the aftermath. As Amazon’s Doug Gurr said during our recent Future Global Leaders Programme event, this is when valuable board members and advisers really come into their own by stepping up and showing their worth.

Increased supply and less demand

We are seeing some very hopeful signs that board-level recruitment is not falling by the wayside. Far from it in fact – we are seeing huge numbers of high-quality applicants using the platform and the majority of our clients are continuing with their searches, pivoting with our help to remote hiring (yes, we used Zoom pre Covid-19!).

And Nurole is hiring too. We are in the final stages of our search for a new Chair and we are making great headway building out our marketing, sales and product teams. Our experience has been that great people are still looking for new opportunities and while some organisations pause their hiring processes, there is less competition to bring fantastic people into the business.

Be clear on why you’re hiring

It can still feel like a strange time to be hiring. The first thing to do is to be really clear on what kind of person you are looking for and why. Define what success looks like – what will they have helped you achieve in six to 12 months? Who is the dream candidate, and why? What skills do they need and what experience are you lacking?

Defining the brief, sourcing candidates and conducting first round video interviews usually takes around six weeks so it may well be that restrictions will be lifted by then and you will be able to meet your final candidates face-to-face.

Meeting face to face before making a hire?

Even if the restrictions continue, that doesn’t mean that all hiring should grind to a halt. In his recent book Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell pointed out how face-to-face interactions often lead to much poorer analyses of people than remote processes. So beguiled are we by the mythic value of looking someone in the eye, he argued, that it often scrambles our abilities to read and understand that person.

And remember that a lot of work that advisors or board members do happens remotely, so a remote hiring process will stand you in good stead for knowing what the ongoing relationship will be like.

Advisory boards – a growing trend

There are particular advantages to bringing in an advisory board to help your organisation navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead.

1. Advisory boards bring a specific skill set to tackle problems and harness opportunities (e.g internationalisation, funding, scaling, marketing etc). For example, we worked with the VC-backed clean energy company Reactive Technologies to assemble an advisory board to help them grow their international presence. By finding four great candidates from across the world (the US, Australia, Europe and Singapore) we very quickly added a whole range of skills and experiences they didn’t have previously.

2. They are relatively cost effective and can have an immediate impact. In an executive capacity these candidates would typically cost £500k+ while an advisor’s compensation can either be a day-rate, options or performance linked.

3. They do not have the same fiduciary obligations as a statutory board member, so can spend more time working with the business directly instead of getting bogged down in longer-term governance issues.

4. There is often a more open relationship with an advisory board because on traditional boards with investors, founders and management teams can be reluctant to be fully transparent about the challenges they are facing.

Nobody is pretending this is business as usual. But for many businesses, there are decisions to be made and leaders to be hired. If you can adapt and circumstances allow, I believe this is actually a great time to bring new voices and fresh ideas into your organisation.

Nurole is the global platform changing the way organisations bring the best people on to their boards. Find out how it works for talented people looking for the best board level positions, and for organisations looking to hire the best board level talent.