How has COVID changed the recruitment industry and what does it mean for hiring?
COVID-19 has affected many things in our lives this year, and recruitment is no different. Whilst some industries have seen a rapid decline in hiring, there have been a few that have seen demand soar.
With the biggest business change being more companies adopting a flexible working policy, the need for employees to come into the office has somewhat diminished. Whilst there are huge benefits of face to face meetings in terms of productivity, there’s no ignoring that many businesses and employees have thrived with remote working.
In a post-COIVD world, recruiters will be in high-demand and businesses weathering the storm will have the advantage.
So, how much has the recruitment process changed during the pandemic?
A new way of hiring
Some industries are experiencing no drop off in demand or even a surge and are therefore taking advantage of that by acquiring talent that they might have not previously had access to.
Connecting remotely and video conferencing has kept businesses productive, but many are using these tools to hire candidates from further afield. Companies who are planning to keep some of their departments working remotely have access to a wider range of skills and are no longer confined to candidates within a commutable distance to their office.
Helen White, Co-Founder of House of, highlights the effect that the Coronavirus pandemic had on her business:
“During lockdown, we chose to end our office lease. We have always encouraged flexible working, but our office was part of our identity and brought us together as a team,” she said.
Helen stated that despite flexible working being allowed in the past, her team only noticed the full benefits during COVID-19 when it became an obligation rather than a choice:
“We realised how accustomed we had become to working remotely. We consulted the team and started debating whether we all wanted to go back.
“It wasn't about saving money… We have always said 'work where you work best' and in reality, we all work best remotely as we can eliminate distractions and focus on work. The reality was that many of us had been forcing ourselves into the office most days.”
Businesses have been forced to adapt, and it has a positive impact on employees, with HubSpot reporting that 83% of workers saying that remote working opportunity makes them feel happier at their job.
What does this mean for recruiters?
This uncovers some challenges for recruiters as many try to get to know candidates before putting them forward for roles. However, video conferencing is likely to become their greatest asset.
This may require recruiters to adapt their recruitment process to properly assess core competencies and suitability for the role. For internal HR departments, the effects on company culture will need to monitor and adapt to ensure it is not impacted in a negative way.
Should businesses be cautious?
Whilst there are significant benefits for businesses operating parts of their workforce remotely, there are some challenges that need to be considered.
Matt Goodman, partner at commercial property consultancy, Matthews & Goodman highlighted some of his issues with homeworking:
“For many, their office, IT, bandwidth, connection speeds and ‘desks’ are far superior in the office than their working from home options.”
Helen White identified the impact on working relationships as another downfall:
“The hardest part of working remotely is the lack of comradery. We aren’t there to have check-ins and catch up on what was going on in each other's lives. Often, when someone is underperforming in work, it can be due to external factors and these are hard to identify [whilst homeworking].”
This may ‘pump the breaks’ on a fully remote working team, but there’s evidence that a balanced approach can have a huge upside for businesses sticking to elements of remote working moving forward.
Why businesses should look towards a positive horizon
Even businesses with shrinking bottom-lines can plan effectively for the future. Cost-saving will be at the forefront of most leaders’ minds, but it is important to not go too far. Becoming more efficient as a business should be the focus to make room for a growing team and a successful future.
Here’s how businesses should be preparing for a post-COVID workplace:
1. Hiring and building trust
Hiring the right people will become more challenging. With face to face interviews, many would argue that body languages and general chat would allow recruiters to get a feel for how that personality would fit in the team.
As the process moves online, it should be no different. Spending some of the interview process getting to know the candidate will be a crucial part of the future hiring success, especially if that candidate is going to be completely remote.
Trust will need to be built early for a successful hire. This, in a lot of leader’s minds, will be a high priority during the hiring process.
“Trust is an essential building block of any successful team,” said Darren Hockley, MD at Delta Net International.
“If there is a way to find positivity in the midst of the infectious outbreak, perhaps building trust between employers and their employees is one of them.”
Businesses have had practice throughout 2020 putting together their COIVD processes and building trust. Recruiters will have to assess what has been successful and apply the same to new hires.
The power will be in recruiters’ hands to shape the future success of the company through talent acquisition.
An employee at Morgan Jones Recruitment Consultants highlighted how homeworking during COVID-19 has improved the levels of trust within her company:
“Our boss had already implemented working from home capabilities, but they had never truly been “battle tested” until the lockdown.
“We’ve actually seen a spike in productivity. This has grown our boss’ trust further.”
2. Are new hires ready for remote working?
Although staff may feel more comfortable at home, it is debatable whether this environment is effective in terms of ergonomics. Recruiters will have the challenge of ensuring that new hires are prepared for remote working and have suitable remote working conditions where they can remain productive whilst looking after their health.
“I’ve seen people perched on the end of a bed in a child’s room trying to work because it’s the only place in the house that isn’t noisy,” said Susy Roberts, Founder of Hunter Roberts.
“Organisations have to invest in making sure people have the right working space. This means completing proper assessments and providing all the resources people need. People with disabilities were probably working in spaces adapted to suit their needs, and when they’re working from home their employers have a duty of care to ensure their needs are being met there too.”
Whilst home-working set up may be left as an afterthought, it is worth addressing this potential problem early in the interview process. Getting this issue ironed out early will allow new hires to comfortably hit the ground running.
3. Cost efficiency of working from home
The first benefit that springs to every employer’s mind when broaching the subject of working from home is reduced overheads. If future office plans are to keep some teams working remotely, businesses need to ensure that they complete a full audit of their utilities.
Commercial electricity and gas may seem trivial but making sure the company is on the correct tariff can save hundreds of pounds each year. Currently, several suppliers are offering no-standing charge tariffs which means you’d only be paying for the gas and electricity your office uses. The money saved could then go towards other areas of the business, or even be used to help employees get set up properly whilst working from home.
Whilst making sure you adapt the office for a smaller team for anyone that can’t work remotely, it’s also important to address some other issues that may cause problems for the team’s productivity levels.
Issues with broadband and getting access to business resources were outlined as one of the downfalls of homeworking. A recent article from theDaily Mail Onlinestated that a shocking 10 million homes were affected by subpar broadband during lockdown, and over 50% of people reported that they struggled to complete work-related tasks because of this.
Matt Goodman underlines the importance of rectifying such technical issues:
“What do [successful companies such as Twitter and BT] have in common? Rather than expecting their employees to fund their own IT and workspace requirements, they are providing them with the correct equipment to do their jobs just as – or potentially even more so - productively remotely.”
4. Company Culture
It’s clear that home working does not offer the typical workplace comradery and has been continually highlighted as a downfall of remote working. It is important for businesses to encourage their teams to engage with each other; not only for work purposes but also to maintain a sense of fellowship.
Deborah Graham-Wilson, Head of Marketing at Eland Cablesissues what she misses most about office working:
“I miss the collaboration, hearing other people’s ideas, and just the wider understanding of commercial activity that you gain from just overhearing conversations that happen around you,” she said.
Susy Roberts highlights what businesses can do to help maintain a sense of comradery:
“Encourage a culture of breaks and social activities. It may be difficult to monitor, and you can’t force people to join in, but you can create an environment that makes it clear they’re encouraged.”
Susy also suggests creating sporting challenges (where government rules permit) or “channelling some budget into a fun learning activity.”
If your post-COVID business plan allows some departments of the business to work from home, it’s important to consider how to keep them engaged. With the space saved in the office, think about creating collaboration areas and encouraging face to face meetings occasionally. Having the facilities available will allow remote teams to come together for much-needed face to face meetings.
Whilst companies may be able to host company events to break down some of the barriers that remote working brings; it may not always be possible for those team members to attend. Exploring new incentives to increase engagement without face to face contact will be crucial to remaining attractive to candidates. Recruiters could face difficulty selling roles to quality candidates without strong incentives, and without the physical aspect of traditional company events, online competitions and voucher incentives will likely become very popular.
5. Remote working balance
When speaking to leaders and their employees, most voiced their preference to have a mixture of home and office-based working. By giving staff a choice, you allow them to fit their jobs around their needs, which can improve productivity. If there is some flexibility required and occasional presence in the office, this should be made clear during the interview process to ensure the candidate can easily make the journey.
Deborah Graham-Wilson stated:
“I’ve now regained that elusive work/life balance.
“I’d like to work from home permanently but have the option to occasionally hot-desk when I need a little jolt of office energy from time to time.”
An employee at Morgan Jones Recruitment Consultants said:
“The idea of office space and presenteeism has been well and truly shaken. [Remote working] will allow expansion and enable you to find the best people anywhere in the world to work for your company or project.”
Overall, it is quite clear that COVID-19 has pushed many companies to quickly adopt new processes and technology that has affected all aspects of the business. Recruiting has its own set of challenges, with the added complexity of ensuring new team members settle into their role quickly.
Recruiters, HR and business leaders will have the challenge of laying out a roadmap of the future hiring process and how to successfully integrate them into the team.