As 2021 has started in the same vein as 2020 ended and looks to be a year of huge change and transition, James Carss, Business Development Director and Head of Executive and Specialist Recruitment, continues to share insight into the trends we are facing in recruitment and the emergence and continued development of Pandemic Value Proposition (PVP).
The last three months
In October last year (that’s 2020 in case you, like me, suffer from a temporary time distortion and need reminders on actual dates) we looked at a changing and transitioning employment market in relation to COVID 19. And how critical it was becoming for employers to develop an authentic and compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP) in the recruitment process.
Although 12 weeks may not seem long (or is 2 weeks or 22 weeks?) we are in a rapidly changing recruitment market that is determined by multiple factors, including:
Updated government guidelines
Prior to Christmas, following the tier system was somewhat like watching your home region play in the national premier league. And, being a Newcastle fan, I’m used to moving down the table and frequent relegation battles.
We are all now currently in full lockdown (again) with a vague end date in sight – potentially Easter – which obviously depends on the effectiveness of these current measures. In the background is an ongoing vaccination programme which is great news, but, we are lacking a read on where we are at in terms of the whole pandemic timing – mid-point? End? Or (god forbid) the beginning. Logic and current data would point somewhere around the mid-point. That would mean another year to go and a period of change and recovery thereafter.
Needs and emotions of 3 types of candidates
Which of the following ‘pools’ apply today to potential candidates, or indeed have changed in the past seven days, or may change in the next seven days?
- I need a job.
- I’m open to opportunities, but it would need to be amazing.
- I’m safe and happy I wish to remain in my current role.
The first pool is candidates who have unfortunately lost their job or have not had a contract renewed. It would be a major mistake to believe these individuals were necessary to engage and access. This pool is immediately available and motivated to find a job. From experience they will have very set criteria on what they are looking for in an employer. And they will have a desire to maximise their skills and add value to them. It would be incorrect to assume they wouldn’t read the small print in any potential role. And an even bigger mistake to offer them a lesser package than the current market rate.
The second pool is candidates with ‘itchy feet’. These are those who may talk to a potential new employer, interview, but not necessarily commit to a new role. This was the original motivation to write about PVP or attraction.
I predict that at this time we will see more candidates move from three to two; the new year is historically a point when people seek a new position. Reflection, change, opportunities, and bonuses (sometimes) paid. There is also a realisation now that the pandemic isn’t going to be over by the end of the year. It is going to take longer than that. Sitting it out for a couple of months compared to a year or more changes a lot.
This leads me into mentioning a few other current trends and insights on the current market:
Video interviewing is here to stay and works
Undoubtedly to meet someone face to face is always preferred. But now major critical hires are happening through video interviews. It saves time, expense and is far more convenient to arrange. We are seeing longer interview processes that are, I would suspect, to compensate for the missing factor of a handshake and an eyeball. Careful thought and planning for the hiring process involving the potential candidate meeting more people, and getting a better flavour of the entire organisation is in many ways easier. I would imagine this to be at least a part of many recruitment processes in the future.
A balance of home and office working seems optimal for many
As mentioned everyone has had (and is having) a different experience during lockdown. It is fair to say a high number have enjoyed the flexibility to work in a more agile way that brings the benefit of flexible working and no commute a couple of days a week. It is fair to assume that a great number of employees will be less than enthused to return to a very traditional 5 days per week 9-5 type environment after getting used to being effective outside of that.
Geographical boundaries are becoming less important
Linked with the previous point, employers are realising there is an opportunity to look further than a 20 mile radius of the office for talent. Flexible working arrangements allow us to fish in ponds further away. I’ve seen this several times in the past few months from looking very regionally in a North East city to ‘prefer North of England’. That is a dramatic change with bigger future possibilities (more on that later).
Onboarding is challenging and needs to be carefully planned
It is becoming straight forward to join a business without meeting stakeholders in person. But once in, how to navigate and build relationships with colleagues, bosses and subordinates when you have not met anyone? We have encountered this first hand as we ourselves have continued to hire the past few months. Trying to emulate every point of contact in person on a video call is the first step, but also the addition of, again, being very ‘high touch’ and fluid in communication. Organisation, planning and agreeing key follow up points is key along with creating a virtual bubble and support groups inside the organisation.
Having worked in Hong Kong at the end of SARS and the subsequent 11 years that followed, I saw a rapid, steep incline recovery when things finally did turn. There was mass hiring and deployment of people whilst businesses attempted to keep pace with the market demand. Although a different time, location and pandemic I see no reason why this won’t also be the case here and now in 2021 (or maybe 2022). All the signs are there. A changing dynamic, new skills being in demand, new businesses growing and coming to the forefront. Everything will be different but growth and change demand one common factor – talent. The continued development of the Pandemic Value Proposition (PVP)
Along with that I see the losers being businesses that have both not adapted their people strategy during this time (get ready for the leavers) and that cannot adapt to new ways of working and flexibility. How will you compete with agile working if you demand the alternative?
On the earlier point of geography, I see this happening on a national and even international level where it becomes less of an importance where you are located. In London in the South East where talent shortages are more acute, and salaries are higher, the regions will become big hot spots for recruitment.
A sleeping giant is getting ready to awake at some near point. So better to plan accordingly now and be ready to implement your hiring strategy both in the ‘now’ and ‘then’ rather than in the ‘maybe later’.
Meet James Carss
James has over 20 years’ recruitment experience gained across the UK, Asia and North America. He is part of the executive board with responsibility for the Specialist and Executive Search recruitment division of NRG. Get in touch with James by email here.