The Proactive Leaders Series aims at finding out how leaders throughout New York are handling the current economic crisis and the strategies they are using to organize their staff and push their agendas forward.
Andrew Doyle is a Senior Vice President and Head of Compensation, Benefits, and HRIS for OppenheimerFunds, Inc. Prior to joining OppenheimerFunds, he was most recently Head of Rewards and Information Services for the Global Wealth Management Group at Merrill Lynch. During his career at Merrill Lynch, Andy had extensive overseas experience, including being Head of HR for the Pacific Rim Region, based in Tokyo, Japan. Prior to his 10 years with Merrill Lynch, Andy was employed with the Toshiba Corporation, based in Tokyo, where he was a core member for the formation of the International HR Planning Group.
Andy is active in the Japanese community in Bergen County and is a volunteer youth soccer coach in Glen Rock, NJ, where he resides with his wife and two children.
Andy, I know you’ve witnessed the economic turmoil over the last few months closely. What do you think this has done to peoples thinking and how it shaping their future strategies?
I think the majority of people are starting to throw their plans out the window and unfortunately, panicking a bit. But I think there are still a few folks who are able to take a step back and think about what’s going on and realize that there may even be some opportunity in all of this and are changing or tweaking their plans rather than just throwing them out the window.
From a human resources perspective what qualities make a ‘survivor’? Who is ‘surviving’ and how has it changed the work place?
First, like in a tsunami some people are unlucky. The wrong place at the wrong time…There’s a different type of survivors guilt that I’ve never experience before. In most of the other down turns there would always be lay offs and a few folks who lose their jobs but by and large companies were culling based on performance…that’s been the standard, for 15 years on Wall St.. There was a real concerted effort to retain talent. This time around lay offs are arbitrary. Firms are being over taken by other firms and they are cutting people before they even get to know who’ve they acquired. There are a lot of talented people who are losing their jobs.
The second thing is there’s an anxiety out there that starts because the leaders and the people who were looked up to in the organization lose their jobs. So now the people who remain have to learn and figure out how to carry on without their leaders. There is a combination of survivor’s guilt and anxiety of how we’re going to go forward.
What kind of work culture do you think will emerge in the aftermath of the financial crisis? For instance, I know that after 9-11 a lot of people said the work culture downtown will change. Do you think it will now?
This was the end of the dream for some folks. A lot of people come to Wall St. for one reason–to make a lot of money. They work very very hard and make a lot of sacrifices and take a lot of risks to make a lot of money. For most of their lives, at least for the younger guys, that’s always been true.
I think in one sense there will be a return to vanilla. I think that people will go back to plain and ordinary. They will, for some folks they won’t work the 80-hour week and sacrifice things at home. Because, what’s the point if they wont get the returns?
What kind of leadership will be necessary in the future?
Right now the majority of Wall St. is in panic mode and trying to survive because the ‘tsunami’ has hit. What’s really necessary, form a leadership point of view, are leaders who understand that this is temporary. We don’t know when it’s going to end. We do know it will end. Things will turn around.
The best firms five years form now will, right now, recognize that we’ve had a big change and this is the time to start thinking about and preparing for when the markets come back. And trying to figure about how the markets will come back and in what form and to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities.
We hear often the expression, people saying sometimes, a tsunami has hit the economy, a tsunami has hit Wall Street. How has this affected people on the Street?
I love the analogy of the tsunami in terms of what has happened in the financial markets because I was in Asia when the big tsunami hit Thailand. The thing about a tsunami is prior to the big wave hitting the water recedes so you have a warning that it’s coming. You don’t know how big or bad it will be. But when the water dramatically recedes like that older and more experience people know when to head for higher ground. The younger people who hadn’t seen that before didn’t know what to do. I think that analogy holds very true with the current finical crisis. For most of the people working on Wall St. they’ve never seen anything like that before; it’s a once and lifetime event. They were a few people who had been through financial bubbles before and when they saw the signs they were able to get out and head to safety.
It reminds me of the dot.com bubble. Everyone was talking about how the measurements of productivity and efficiency had changed because of the introduction of the Internet and that turned out to be wrong. And just as that turned out to be wrong everyone’s assumptions that the financial system has changed forever is also just as crazy. We’ve experienced a bubble and now it’s the opposite, or a ‘fear bubble’. Things will return to normal.
What do you do to cultivate the ‘sense of collective’ amongst your staff at a time like this?
Pretty much any article you read about times of uncertainty suggests you communicate. People misunderstand that recommendation…What I’ve found is that during this tsunami the most effective and reassuring thing I can do for my employees is what I call the “no-news update.” When I haven’t checked in with them for a long time I’d tell them what I know and what I don’t know. Telling them what I didn’t know was very reassuring for them.
Communication is always very very important in times of uncertainty. Communication takes many forms. It’s just acknowledging to people that we don’t have the answer. We want it but we don’t have it yet.
How do u keep hope alive in times like these?
It’s not giving them hope; it’s grounding them. Some of the things they are anxious about and afraid of are based on the media and what they are hearing around them—it’s a hysteria. It’s good to get the facts down and control what u can control–don’t get distracted and give it your best shot it’s the best way to do work. Keep your head down—that’s the best chance for having something not effect you.
Focus on the things you can control don’t focus on the things you can’t control and mitigate risk there.