Future recruitment strategies, post-Covid

Social distancing, people.

How will the current pandemic affect the way you recruit?

For most companies, this may feel like a strange question right now. After all, few people are rushing to recruit people at the moment. But it will be interesting to see how this crisis not only affects short-term thinking, but to speculate on the longer-term impact it will have. We should stress that this was written on 24th March, just after lockdown in the UK, and the situation is evolving very quickly: but these are some general themes which seem to be emerging.

It may not be the people you think

I had a long conversation with a business today, about 70 employees, but growing until the virus hit. The partners have dispersed their employees to work from home: but using a CRM, they are able to monitor everyone’s activity. The client has been delighted: “Activity has doubled. They’re amazing. But the really amazing thing is that the people I expected to coast have really stepped up. The people who we think of as the ‘stars’ have just – well – stopped.”

In the media industry, we have long promulgated technological advances, without either changing our working practices, or thinking about what a new model employee really looks like. For all its undoubted ills, maybe the virus will make us think about the types of people we employ: maybe valuing flexibility, resilience, resourcefulness and self-sufficiency more highly than other more obvious assets.

You might want to look at your company’s recruitment strategies: are you interviewing for values as well as competencies? How do you measure those? What values do your best people embody? And have you reviewed those values within your existing team to ensure a good fit?

Positive steps to gender balance

Many of our clients would like a gender-balanced shortlist (as we have written about many times), but when we push back and tell them that this may require a more flexible approach to their culture of presenteeism or office hours, they often demur. As this week’s Desert Island Discs episode with Dame Helena Morrissey illustrated, the best candidate does not always fit the classic 8am-7pm, travel-at-the-drop-of-a-hat (typically male) profile.

One client we are working with at the moment, who was particularly keen on a five-day presence in the office, has sent all their staff to work from home. And guess what? It’s all working really well. We suspect that, as our recruitment process advances, they will become increasingly less allergic to the working practices that might repel successful women.

The same may well apply to travel. The amount of travel required in a job often puts off parents of young children. A friend of mine used to work for a US-based TV network and was flown over every month to make a fifteen minute board presentation. She was a single mum. It took her three years to convince the board that she could make the presentation by video conference. Given what we might learn over the next few months (not to mention the need to cut carbon emissions), we expect to see a large reduction in the requirement to travel.

Again, having  a really honest look at what those assumptions about what makes a “good” employee might be a really useful thing to do. It might be massively limiting your potential talent pool.

A boon for good technology**

This can probably be summarised as “goodbye, Skype: hello Zoom”. People are trying to find ways of working reliably, and, as with many technical developments, the older iterations are not as agile as the new. After years of struggling with other video-sharing platforms, a few months ago we started using Zoom: and it has been a revelation. We now hold daily (homebound) conferences with all the team with no issues at all. No lagging. No drop-outs. (Other video-sharing platforms are available.)**

But similar things are happening across the business world: in ed tech, for example, schools – suddenly forced to adopt technological solutions they might never previously have considered – are switching suppliers to the younger, more agile platforms while the old businesses which have failed to invest or are too tech-heavy struggle to keep up.

What does this mean for recruitment? Well, if video-conferencing is better, less glitchy, you can make a better reading of your candidates: and they get a better impression of you. We may not be meeting face-to-face for some months, and there is still business to be done. Find what platform works best on your technology, and get working with it.

There is money on the table

There are clearly going to be short term winners and losers as a result of this crisis. You only need to look at the share prices of conference businesses and compare that with e-commerce platforms to see that. But even for the struggling businesses, there is good news.

Our clients own their relationships with their audiences. And that relationship is what needs to be leveraged. Businesses need to take heed of the likely change in customer behaviour, which will be amplified by the coping strategies people develop to this pandemic, and think about how they enhance those relationships. It is an argument that has been made for some time: our sector has to diversify its revenue streams, and mine its relationship with its customer.

This epidemic is going to change the way people consume our sectors’ products forever. Customers are being forced into a new way of working, thinking, and interacting with our industry. Much of what they experience will become habit. The successes in our sector will be the ones that can react to and reinforce these habits most quickly. This will require introducing new skills to individual organisations, in both the short and long term. Have an honest look around: do you need different skills in your business? And how do you work our out what they are?

The businesses that take steps to get this right now will be the future winners.

 

** Our enthusiasm for Zoom has been somewhat tempered by new revelations about its unauthorised sharing of user data with Facebook. Read more about this at Techradar:  suffice to say, we are now testing other platforms. The above article was amended on 27th March 2020 to reflect these issues.

 

Martin Tripp

martin@trippassociates.co.uk

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the mediainformationtechnologycommunications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.