flexible working

How has COVID changed the recruitment industry and what does it mean for hiring?

In our latest guest post, Recruitment and Staffing Manager Alex Bent considers the lasting impact of COVID-19. Could the future of recruitment be transformed by remote workplaces and flexible working arrangements?

COVID-19 has affected many things in our lives this year, and recruitment is no different. As more companies adopt a flexible working policy, the need for employees to come into the office has somewhat diminished.

In a post-COVID world, recruiters will be in high demand; businesses that navigate the disruptions will reap the rewards.

But how much has the recruitment process actually changed during the pandemic?

A new way of hiring

Connecting remotely has kept businesses productive, but many are using these tools to source candidates from further afield, too. Companies that are planning to keep some of their departments working remotely have access to a wider range of skills. And they are no longer confined to candidates who live within a commutable distance to their office.

Helen White, Co-Founder of Houseof, highlights the effect that the Coronavirus pandemic has had on her business:

“During lockdown, we chose to end our office lease. We have always encouraged flexible working, but our office was part of our identity and brought us together as a team”.

“But we also realised how accustomed we had become to working remotely. We consulted the team and started debating whether we all wanted to go back.”

“It wasn’t about saving money. We have always said ‘work where you work best’ and in reality, we all work best remotely as we can eliminate distractions and focus on work. The reality was that many of us had been forcing ourselves into the office most days.”

Businesses have been forced to adapt. But, in many cases, this has had a positive impact on employees. Hubspot, for example, has reported that 83% per cent of its staff feel happier at their job with remote working opportunities.

What does this mean for recruiters?

This uncovers some challenges for recruiters as many try to get to know candidates before putting them forward for roles.

we may be required to adapt our recruitment process, and properly assess core competencies. For internal HR departments, the effects on company culture may need to monitor and adapt to ensure it is not impacted in a negative way.

Should businesses be cautious?

Whilst there are significant benefits for businesses operating remotely, there are some challenges that need to be considered.

Matt Goodman, partner at commercial property consultancy, Matthews & Goodman highlighted some of his issues with homeworking:

“For many, their office, IT, bandwidth, connection speeds and ‘desks’ are far superior in the office than their working from home options.”

Helen White identified the impact on working relationships as another downfall:

“The hardest part of working remotely is the lack of camaraderie. We aren’t there to have check-ins and catch up on what was going on in each other’s lives. Often, when someone is under-performing in work, it can be due to external factors and these are hard to identify [whilst homeworking].”

This may ‘pump the breaks’ on a fully remote working team, but there’s evidence that a balanced approach can have a huge upside for businesses sticking to elements of remote working moving forward.

Why businesses should look towards a positive horizon

Even businesses with shrinking bottom-lines can plan effectively for the future. Becoming more efficient as a business should be the focus to make room for a growing team and a successful future.

Hiring and building trust

Hiring the right people will become more challenging. Trust will need to be built early for a successful hire. Especially if the employee will be working remotely more than half of their weekly contract.

“Trust is an essential building block of any successful team,” said Darren Hockley, MD at DeltaNet International.

Businesses have had practice throughout 2020 putting together their COVID processes and building trust. Recruiters will have to assess what has been successful and apply the same to new hires.

The power will be in recruiters’ hands to shape the future success of the company through talent acquisition.

Are new hires ready for remote working?

Although staff may feel more comfortable at home, it is debatable whether this environment is effective in terms of ergonomics. Recruiters will have the challenge of ensuring that new hires are prepared for remote working and have suitable remote working conditions where they can remain productive whilst looking after their health.

“I’ve seen people perched on the end of a bed in a child’s room trying to work because it’s the only place in the house that isn’t noisy,” said Susy Roberts, Founder of Hunter Roberts.

“Organisations have to invest in making sure people have the right working space.”

Getting this issue ironed out early will allow new hires to comfortably hit the ground running.

Cost efficiency of working from home

The first benefit that springs to every employer’s mind when broaching the subject of working from home is reduced overheads. If future office plans are to keep some teams working remotely, businesses need to ensure that they complete a full audit of their utilities.

Commercial electricity and gas may seem trivial but making sure the company is on the correct tariff can save hundreds of pounds each year. The money saved could then go towards other areas of the business, or even be used to help employees get set up properly whilst working from home.

Company Culture

It is therefore important for businesses to encourage their teams to engage with each other; not only for work purposes but also to maintain a sense of fellowship.

Deborah Graham-Wilson, Head of Marketing at Eland Cables issues what she misses most about office working:

“I miss the collaboration, hearing other people’s ideas, and just the wider understanding of commercial activity that you gain from just overhearing conversations that happen around you,” she said.

Susy Roberts highlights what businesses can do to help maintain a sense of camaraderie:

“Encourage a culture of breaks and social activities. It may be difficult to monitor, and you can’t force people to join in, but you can create an environment that makes it clear they’re encouraged.”

If your post-COVID business plan allows some departments of the business to work from home, it’s important to consider how to keep them engaged. With the space saved in the office, think about creating collaboration areas and encouraging face to face meetings occasionally.

Remote working balance

When speaking to leaders and their employees, most voiced their preference to have a mixture of home and office-based working. By giving staff a choice, you allow them to fit their jobs around their needs, which can improve productivity.

Deborah Graham-Wilson stated:

“I’ve now regained that elusive work/life balance.

“I’d like to work from home permanently but have the option to occasionally hot-desk when I need a little jolt of office energy from time to time.”

Final Thoughts

Overall, it is quite clear that COVID-19 has pushed many companies to quickly adopt new processes and technology that has affected all aspects of the business. Recruiters and business leaders will have the challenge of laying out a roadmap of the future hiring process and how to successfully integrate them into the team.