My Recruiter’s Life in Lockdown
David Judge, Partner
Since the first lockdown began way back in March, conversations with candidates and clients naturally always include a discussion of how we are getting along.
After talking on a personal level, we then usually talk about business.
Everyone’s experience differs here. I am a Recruiter in the technology marketplace, and I think that I’ve been lucky in many respects.
With lockdown, connectivity is paramount to everyone as companies implement systems and processes to keep up productivity and team working, relying on technology more than ever.
The resilience of the technology sector has not automatically led to a continuation of recruitment, however. Like everyone, companies have had to reassess their hiring in the light of the new Covid reality.
Many companies have met the increased demands on their businesses by further empowering their existing workforces and supporting them. That is not to say that furloughs and redundancies have not occurred – they have – but at a much lower level than other sectors.
And there are pockets of recruitment that have continued. Connected Consulting has been fortunate enough to make placements on a contract, permanent and search & selection basis in recent months.
Our contract clients have focused on technical skills, examples including development, system administration and data science niches.
Our permanent clients have focused again on technical skills but also on service operations and transformation programmes. Our search & selection clients have proved that the demand for senior talent is always there – typically game changers who will improve and transform through strong leadership and review what exists already and improve on it.
Consequently, and as expected, individuals who can transform and makes efficiencies to the bottom financial line are highly sought after in our current marketplace.
Certain niches have continued to pursue their business roadmaps with hardly a bump – or even have had to adjust to new levels of demand and opportunity. Examples of this include MedTech (medical device & drug delivery led) & IoT & Network Connectivity.
At Connected, we have made a concerted effort to establish a presence in the Electric Vehicle (EV) marketplace. Since the EV industry has been mandated by the Government, the transition to electric cars will occur and simply put, the infrastructure that needs to be built to support it is not there yet. We have just made our first placement with an exciting SME and their growth plans are ambitious, supported by strong product sales.
Lockdown has meant that prospective clients are working at home and my personal experience has been that they are receptive to discussing new opportunities to work together. Being able to develop new contacts in technology niches should put us in good stead moving forward.
Working from home
A new normal emerged for me over lockdown. I get up 20 minutes later than normal, I work at my dining room table in an open plan room with a regular level of family traffic that passed me by. I incorporated daily exercise into my routine, in the summer, I enjoyed sitting in the sun at lunchtime – I had more of the day to enjoy.
I am disciplined, I have to be. As a Co-Owner of Connected I have a responsibility to myself and to the rest of my colleagues. I miss the office environment, the line between home and work life becomes very blurred. I really enjoyed being back when lockdown relaxed, and am lucky that I work with people I genuinely like.
My colleagues, I’m sure, suffer to an extent. Some live on their own, some live rurally with no local services available. Mental health is key and we regularly checked in with each other to make sure we were coping.
Do I want to work from home regularly in the future? In truth, probably not, but I can see why others want a blended approach and we as employers need to be flexible on this. The lockdown has proved that we do not need employees in an office for 5 days per week and that perhaps a 3/2 or 4/1 split is much more realistic. We currently have two staff members who are happily working 5 days per week from home with our support.
Employers are being viewed in a new light by their employees. At Connected, we were keen to maintain our internal relationships and set up a daily Teams video meeting at 09.30. The call of course had a work focus but it also gave time to see how each other was, to exchange tales of our varied daily exercise routines or new Netflix series that should be watched!
As soon as we were allowed, we gave the staff the opportunity to work back at our rural office. Over 75% took the opportunity to head back in but 25% preferred to remain at home. We supported both parties, the office was large enough to allow 2 metre distancing and we have hand sanitisers everywhere. Those working from home continue to be very much involved with regular video and telephone calls.
When we speak to our candidates, many speak glowingly about their employer, how they feel they have been supported and guided since day one. This builds a real level of loyalty from staff whose commitment levels will continue to be high and will want to repay the faith shown.
However, others are struggling to cope with the level of productivity that is being demanded, particularly where support hasn’t been increased. Other issues cited concern a poor standard of remote management and poor communications, resulting in no real structure or guideline day to day or moving forward.
For the very unfortunate employees who suffer furlough or redundancy, there is often a lack of understanding. Why were they selected for this when some of their peers weren’t? This is a hirer issue, centring on the lack of transparency and communication. In addition to heartache for the employee, this can poor PR in the marketplace for the employer so needs to be addressed. Treatment of staff is crucial in lockdown, and it gives us many learning points to build a better foundation for the future.
The journey to a new normality
We have witnessed a rise in new vacancies since September. I think people have now accepted that Covid is a longer-term issue that will not simply disappear as originally hoped.
Employers in the technology sector are cautiously increasing their number of vacancies but certainly not at the same level as pre-March. Requirements will only continue to be approved and released if they are judged as business critical. This approval process is still often going to board level and the justification process is very thorough.
In conclusion, the journey to a new normality is going to be a slow and painful process but there are some signs of optimism in the technology sector. I certainly feel lucky to work in this sector when compared to many others who are enduring a torrid time.
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