In the interview below, the Howard Fischer Associates team talks with Larry Costello, a C-suite leader and pioneering strategist with extensive achievements in human capital solutions. Larry has 40 years of executive experience at Fortune 500 enterprises, including PepsiCo, Campbell Soup, Tyco, and Trane, as well as at smaller entrepreneurial companies.

What are your thoughts about succession planning as the nation responds to the impact of COVID-19 and prepares to return to “business as usual?”

Succession planning really is part of a broader talent strategy. If you have a mature talent strategy within the enterprise, the strategy and its tactics deliver succession. For succession to work, you have to assess talent and then develop it. These components must work hand in hand.

In this kind of environment, succession becomes a bit more difficult because some elements of how people work remotely are affecting their interactions, but the reality is that they are still interacting.

Companies may adapt their talent development and assessment processes to insulate themselves somewhat from the effects of future crisis, but the need for succession won’t change.

Describe your view of the relationship between talent strategy and total rewards?

Companies look at compensation in the context of a peer group, and from that peer group they frame out the different compensation programs they want to put in place. The problem with this approach, even if you do it well, is that it doesn’t align the total rewards strategy with the strategy of the business, which is most likely changing.

Compensation committees and the board need to be more aspirational in terms of how they define peer groups so they can identify that person in the marketplace who’s going to make the difference they need to address a rapidly changing business environment. You don’t want an inflexible compensation system to compromise your talent strategy and impact the future of your business.

Traditionally, companies have created their comp strategies with little or no input from the talent strategy. To be successful today, companies will need to evenly balance the two.

What can business leaders learn about employee productivity from this pandemic?

To keep the company on track, leaders need to increase their communication with their employees. I believe companies are going to realize that an employee’s responsibilities and individual accountability is more pronounced in a crisis because the firm’s reliance on that individual is higher.

If we value employees’ work, and they have clear accountability and responsibility, then it’s up to management and HR to learn how to measure, or at least understand, employee performance and productivity and to provide the tools that employees need to be successful.

Do you think remote work will increase after this experience?

I think six months from now, there are going to be a lot of conversations about what worked and what didn’t. But I talk to CEOs every day and everyone is trying to figure out the best way to manage and learn from this remote work situation. They’re also wondering if they shouldn’t take remote work into consideration as a strategic imperative in terms of how we think about locations and employees.

Do you anticipate changes in executive search as a result of the coronavirus outbreak?

I’m a firm believer in the importance of interaction, especially face-to-face interaction, as part of a successful search process. There’s probably some latitude in the amount and nature of the interaction, but it needs to be a part of the process. The signs are that, for the short term, life will probably return to what it was like before this outbreak.

I believe that businesses will seek to minimize the possible disruption if a similar crisis occurs in the future. I expect they will look for alternative ways to promote interaction between executive candidates and their leadership.

How has Howard Fischer Associates helped you with external succession planning?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Howard and his team for over 20 years on many special assignments. Howard Fischer Associates is my go-to firm when I need to fill a highly specialized role or a role that requires good assessment processes around the candidate, good follow through, and good alignment with the company’s needs.

One of the things that I’ve always valued about Howard and his team is their outside-in perspective on a candidate. They combine their insights on what’s going on in the market and at other firms with their perspective on what a company needs, while considering a company’s future strategy.

What’s top of mind for you right now?

I talk with CEOs to help them structure their teams with the right talent to meet their objectives. Many CEOs that I work with are concerned about whether their strategy is being attended to. They worry that the structure of their organization doesn’t support their goals.

You only have to look at the talent within the organization to assess if the CEO has a high probability of success. This is the most fundamental thing that a C-suite executive needs to do. At the end of the day, success starts and ends with talent.

We thank Larry for taking the time to share his thoughts and insight with us. If your company is seeking a top-performing CHRO or senior-level executive, call Howard Fischer Associates at 215.568.8363 or send us an email to:

About Larry Costello

As a proven strategic advisor and partner to boards, CEOs, CHROs, and executive leadership, Larry has a compelling talent at developing meaningful insights and generating actionable and quantifiable solutions that answer real business challenges, positively influence outcomes, and drive shareholder value. He played a central role in major enterprise initiatives, including divestitures, IPOs, M&A, and separations in private and publicly traded companies.

Larry is a frequent keynote speaker and advisor for the CHRO Academy, a keynote speaker/participant at the annual CHRO Leadership Summit, and a recurring sponsored speaker/featured instructor for the Compensation Advisory Council of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). He is also a faculty member and speaker at the CEO Academy and a visiting professor and board advisor to Boston University and Rutgers University.

About The HFA Leadership Forum

As a leading executive and board search firm, Howard Fischer Associates works with some of the top companies and senior executives throughout the nation. Our success stems from our belief that exceptional leadership is the most powerful competitive advantage a company can have in the global marketplace. The HFA Leadership Forum features interviews with some of these exceptional leaders, providing insight into their career paths, recommended best practices, and the industry trends that are worth paying attention to. Recent interviews include: