With the recent shift in government policy in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are feeling shock as we adapt not only our working behaviour but our home lives in accordance with the guidelines. But as the workforce in China, so heavily impacted by coronavirus, starts to return to the office, we need to remind ourselves that life will continue. Businesses must look forward in order to survive through to the other side of this unprecedented upheaval, but how should they approach business continuity and hiring during the COVID-19 outbreak? We ask Andrew Setchell, Co-Founder of SRM Recruitment, what firms can do to keep moving forward.
How are hiring managers reacting to the latest response from the government to COVID-19?
Undoubtedly most businesses are urgently assessing their ability to do business during the outbreak, and many will be very concerned about the outlook. However, many of the clients we are speaking to are keen to keep their hiring process moving. The reason for that is they have their eye on the other end of this crisis and want to ensure they are in the best position possible to recover. If they completely pause recruitment, even for one or two months, when they come back and have to commence hiring they will have at least four or five months to wait before they can appoint new talent, given the time to recruit and the candidate serving their notice.
What precedence is there for this kind of behaviour?
People are comparing the coronavirus impact to the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. In many respects, I can understand that. That too was a shock, but in that instance, we were eased in more slowly. This will be a sharper shock to the system, but the end is also possibly much closer in sight, and businesses should be planning for that accordingly.
I think the fundamental difference here is that this crisis is much more of a humanitarian one. People are concerned about their businesses and their job, of course. But even more than that, they are worried about their loved ones, their health and the lives they lead. Through all of this, it is the people who are at the heart of our businesses and their health has to come first.
Where do you expect the greatest pressure will be felt?
In light of the delayed IR35 legislation, the contract market, which is already struggling, could encounter a perfect storm. However, the vacancies are still there. The need is still there, because we will always have personnel out on maternity leave, and people still need to get their year-end accounting done. The demand for temporary staff will reduce less than that for permanent hires.
Across all industries, the more we can focus on what can be done, the more likely it is we can keep businesses going. If organisations can embrace technology, look after their people and focus beyond the next three months, they will be in a far better position than those who can’t. If you can picture a future where we recover back to normality and see beyond the current situation, you will see that your roles still need recruiting.
What advice do you have for managers trying to achieve business continuity during the COVID-19 outbreak?
- Embrace technology. Collaboration tools such as Workplace from Facebook are helping companies to communicate, engage with their staff and get work done. Companies embracing collaboration technology will be better able to create a virtual community than those who don’t. Video conferencing platforms like Blue Jeans are helping employees to communicate and businesses to ‘meet’ candidates virtually so that the recruitment process doesn’t have to stall entirely.
- Be flexible, and patient. To adapt to the current situation, organisations must be open-minded to try a new approach, particularly around hiring, and should appreciate that it may take longer than usual. Interviews may have to be online, rather than in person, which may mean more rounds are required to ensure you have the right candidate. Make time and allow room for experimentation. By being flexible and agile, companies are far better positioned to respond to the market need.
- Assess your values. At the end of this incredible challenge, companies will be judged on how they responded to it, by their employees, their job candidates and by the public alike. Look after your people and be clear about how you can help them. If you offer fantastic health cover and life insurance, emphasise that. What people value is changing and you need to keep up with that.
- Most importantly, look to the future. This difficult period will pass, and you need to be ready to hit the market when it does. Don’t lose sight of the hiring needs you have and make a start on addressing those now. There are candidates willing to speak to employers that we can connect you to today. Better to start what could be a slow process now, than to wait and potentially lose great talent to your competitor.
If you need advice on your recruiting during the COVID-19 outbreak, we can help. Get in touch, and we’ll arrange a chat to learn about your business needs.