Gartner Research

COVID-19 Bulletin: Executive Pulse, Week of 01 May 2020

Published: 30 April 2020


Here’s a roll-up of pandemic-related executive sentiment and insights from thousands of functional leaders across the C-suite.

Fast word on tactics and concerns from thousands participating in our conference calls and polls.

>>>More detailed role-specific reports may be available on the website, depending on your subscription.

The CEO, chief human resources officer, general counsel and CFO are most commonly involved in the decision to reopen offices and facilities, according to HR leaders:

Return to the Workplace is a Group Decision

Pan Guangchong, chief transformation officer of wind turbine manufacturer Goldwind, detailed the process of returning in early February to the company’s Beijing headquarters. In a 28 April interview, he told us:

  • In the first two weeks the company sent back two or three workers from each department to test procedures.

  • For this pilot, Goldwind chose those living closest to the office so they could avoid public transportation.

  • Employees used the WeChat platform to answer company questionnaires each morning about whether they had any symptoms. They were also asked to report on the health status of people in their household, as well as of relatives and neighbors.

  • In mid-April the company stopped requiring reports. Employees are only expected to disclose changes when they occur.

  • Employees get temperature checks upon entering the main gate and at building entrances within the complex.

  • Goldwind kept shared sports facilities closed but decided to open the cafeteria because few restaurants are near the campus. The company has erected barriers to separate diners from each other.

Goldwind is just one example in just one country. Enterprise risk management executives tell us the lack of standardized guidance for employees’ return is a significant challenge for organizations. Along with legal leaders, they face challenges navigating a maze of local, state, and federal government rules that may also conflict with the opinions of subject matter experts, public health institutions and international bodies such as the World Health Organization. Legal and compliance leaders in North American and Europe tell us they’re coping in one of two different ways:

  • ‘“One size fits all” compliance that applies the most stringent guidance across all operations


  • Requests of regional VPs and other local “boots on the ground” to track evolving requirements and coordinate local communications to senior leaders

They are also planning for the possibility of a second wave of infections both in scenario plans and in communications that set employee expectations for additional shutdowns if warranted.

And they are preparing playbooks that include rules for social or physical distancing, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and screening for symptoms:

Return to Workplace Standards

Safely returning to the workplace and monitoring health and well-being requires an unprecedented amount of employee health information:

  • 59% of legal leaders say they are considering or collecting COVID-19 test results

  • 47% say they are considering or collecting symptom data

Employee Data Collection

Chief strategy officers are scoping out M&A buying opportunities where depressed markets and economic uncertainty have lowered valuations.

  • They expect to see consolidation across their industries because small companies lack the scale and cash to survive on their own during an intense, prolonged decline.

  • Acquisitions could provide unusual opportunities to expand geographically or enter into new product areas.

But they’re not yet ready to move. They don’t want to rush headlong into purchases that...

  • Saddle the company with debt or limit the ability to adapt or respond to rapid market changes

  • Divert investment from existing long term growth and innovation bets

  • Pose integration challenges during a period of market uncertainty and social distancing

Firms will be reluctant to negotiate a deal if it’s impossible to physically meet with the leadership team of the target company. Operational due diligence in offices, factories and inspection of other physical assets will also be difficult.

Chief information officers are instructing their IT leadership and enterprise project management teams to evaluate the entire portfolio. They want to work out which initiatives align most with enterprise objectives, so they can decide which ones to promote, adjust or delay.

They also are working to...

  • Convince the CFO that pursuing priority long term projects will improve the financial health and competitive edge of the company during the recovery

  • Demonstrate that accelerating the completion date for digital transformation projects will eliminate unproductive or “legacy” operating costs

  • Seek approval from the CEO, COO and the rest of the board to look beyond the immediate needs of this crisis

Chief sales officers (CSOs) are adapting processes to take advantage of quicker decisions made by customers engaging on digital platforms because of restrictions on travel.

CSOs tell us they are:

  • Embracing the integration of sales and marketing activities (with some fully merging their teams) and presenting unified digital content and messaging to customers

  • Creating specialized teams to target sectors and geographies where short term demand is peaking, while watching for an upturn in core markets

  • Providing constant updates to sales teams, based on market research, that highlight nuanced differences with rivals

“Those trying to negotiate with the same old variables will lose in this market,” one CSO told us. “… and customer openness to have conversations on these new value drivers will result in better partnerships.”

Compiled by Daniel Ryntjes

Contactwith any questions or comments.

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