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***April Update below***

Welcome to the post-apocalyptic recruitment market. Just two weeks after writing about how having No Office was deemed a greater attraction, and greater modern indicator of success than having a Hollywood-esque swanky Corner Office, we’re all being encouraged to work from home. Adopting this new thing called ‘social distancing’.

The Covid-19 Coronavirus outbreak is first and foremost a human tragedy, affecting hundreds of thousands of people; with millions more faced with converting their own ‘social distancing’ to ‘self-isolation’.

But the Global economy is likewise seeing a growing impact. From multinational corporations to the local coffee shop, the business response has been as dramatic and rapid as the virus itself.  Business owners across the spectrum are exhibiting a sharp intake of breath.

The Chancellor’s £350bn funding package announced yesterday will cause a slight exhale, but business is suddenly very different from even just 2 weeks ago, transformatively so. Not least in the way in which we employ.

Recruitment in the C-19 Apocalypse

“Business with slash all discretionary spend, today” was the well-informed soundbite from a highly respected business voice. “Advertising, Marketing, PR, Events, Travel, Hospitality, Entertainment…..recruitment”.

Friends, contacts & family in Advertising, Marketing, Event Management, PR, Travel and Hospitality concurred as they all sent up their own distress flares. Ethical leadership has been abundant amongst them all, every one stating they would stand by their team, their business, their corporate baby….guarantee jobs….and take the stress on themselves. The best have adopted Tony Robbins’ meme: “Anticipation is the ultimate power. Losers react; leaders anticipate”. But real and genuine business challenges are there. They are all battening down the hatches. ‘When’ became ‘If’.

The business approach on the whole has been heart-warming, from Apple and Rapha committing to 100% pay for employees, banks offering mortgage payment holidays to small business owners standing wholly behind every single employee. It is all as ‘new millennium’ as forgoing a CEO Corner Office for the benefit of No Office.

But recruitment……. We’ve won three new roles in the last week. We have also seen increased traction on most other live roles, from both hiring companies and ‘candidates’. All this in the week that has seen the world stop.

I can give you a great argument as to why recruitment is not a discretionary spend, but then so can every Advertising Exec/Marketeer/PR guru/Event Co-Ordinator/Travel Advisor/Hospitality Manager about their respective sectors, but most of those have seen downturns range from concerning to catastrophic?

So why is recruitment responding differently? I didn’t know. So I asked.

For businesses, the prime reason was even this brief time away from the office, the clarity that can bring and the forced re-calibration of business life caused reassessment and recalculation of their business/team/strategy. Increased ‘What now”/”What if” planning increased focus on human resource and it’s available intellectual firepower. Some cited the need to increase overall leadership/staffing to more effectively and efficiently cover their teams and teams objectives. For some it was merely the desire to ensure everything was in the best shape ahead of any further tightening of business/employment conditions…..and priming their business to capitalise when this externally created slowdown weakens and business springs back; the consensus being that the rebound will be as uncharacteristically dramatic as the downward trajectory the virus created.

For individuals, the increased clarity/refocussing as above played a significant part, but several have also suddenly seen the benefit of the sudden and enforced flexible structure/home-working/roam-working; especially at a time when their families really need them, often countered by the sudden cognisant of how behind the modern norm their current employer might be.

Seeing business and human clarity whilst we are still in the midst (and may not even as far as the midst) of a pandemic and human/economic catastrophe provides comfort about the human spirit. The human resource…. It is Human, more than just a resource.

Practicalities – Virtually Perfect

I’m lucky, my team already work flexibly, almost exclusively home based with a focus purely on output, not measurable effort. Our twice-weekly meetings are already done by video conference, with twice-monthly face-to-face get-togethers more about sociability and a quest for good coffee. My social-distancing is having a greater impact on my training, cycling and ability to make morning calls whilst walking the dog to my favourite independent coffee shop. Beyond that, it is largely business as normal.

My ratio of face-to-face interviews to virtual has gone from 9:1 to over 95% video. Even more telling, every international interview has been converted to a video conference since early March, and all but one domestic process has elected to hold ‘virtual’ interviews rather than face-to-face.

….indeed, just today, I have had the first ever offer extended to a candidate that has never actually met her future CEO, fellow board members, or even visited their site. But it doesn’t phase her. A modern-outlook business that automatically provides absolute flexibility providing them with a team of 12 spread across 9 different European countries.

Video interviews do take preparation and practise. My tips, and funny anecdotes/screenshots can be found in this blog; Virtually Perfect.

The interruption this virus is causing is beyond comprehension, and still largely unknown; But a longer lasting viral impact will be the influence on our way of working and the re-evaluation Covid-19 will enforce.

UPDATE. 1st April

Much of the above still rings true. All interviews and meetings are now clearly online. Our Video interview tips are getting around 500 views per day, but it is a skill many of us are getting practice to perfect.

The market is still buoyant, and whilst we have only had one new role since those mentioned above, unsurprisingly a B2C Head of Digital leadership role, every single mandate is progressing as normal; albeit with virtual stages rather than physical. We’ve also had two offers, both accepted, both with the successful candidate never having physically met their fellow SLT members.

Business sentiment from every conversation is about when we merge, not if; and businesses are already finding solutions to ensure they are operating at, or close to business as normal wherever possible.

For a more light-hearted insight on recruitment today…..this is another new role we are stating today, US-based $400k President role, relocation & accommodation provided.

“Anticipation is the Ultimate Power. Losers React; Leaders Anticipate”
                                                                                        – Tony Robbins