I’ll be the first to admit it – I spoke too soon.
My last post was a couple of weeks ago, in the immediate aftermath of Boris’ work from home instruction. In it, I waffle on about how it was business as usual, that clients were continuing to recruit, nothing will change. I sound quite blasé actually; confident that the BLT infrastructure was working effectively to allow us all to work from home; delighted to hear that clients and candidates were merrily pressing ahead with video-conference interviews face to face to interviews, and there was no sign that there was going to be much adverse impact. How bad could it get after all – over our 32 years of existence BLT’s business of recruiting Indirect Tax and Management Consultancy specialists has been largely impervious to economic rollercoasters and we’ve always come out smiling the other end.
And then it started. Beginning of last week, it became very evident that ‘business as usual’ it was not. The messages were commonly one of the following:
‘Dear Guy, I just thought I’d better let you know that we are implementing a recruitment freeze across the board, and are putting all roles on hold’.
‘I think we’d better pause for now, Guy, you know how it is.’
‘I’m really sorry Guy, but those candidates you had got to final stages with us? We really want to offer them a job, but we’re going to delay getting the paperwork out until things get back to normal.’
‘Those CVs you sent us look great, we’ll arrange to meet them in the office in a few months’ time when we’re back at our desks.’
It’s all perfectly understandable of course; the world has been a bit in shock, and the instinctive reaction is retrench and assess. In the immortal words of the Spice Girls….’Stop right now, thank you very much’.
But just think how that looks. Companies are very fond of saying that people are at the heart of their business. Surely, by freezing recruiting people, you’re effectively saying you’re stopping business? Not a great branding message by any means. Also when things are back to normal, you’re going to want to be back on the hunt for great people to join your company to fulfil ‘essential roles’, whether it be functional roles, or whether to meet growth targets. By doing effectively nothing about recruitment for six months (or however long it’s going to be; hopefully less!), just think how much ground you’ll have lost. And the missed opportunity to get positive messages about your company out there into the market. At the moment, when the practicalities of work are restricted for many, there’s potentially a talent pool out there with maybe a bit more time on their hands to think about their future careers and what they want to achieve in the new world of work that will emerge when we come out of the current lockdown. They could be more prepared to listen to your employment opportunities, and what it’s like to work with you more than ever before. Particularly when some companies are not exactly covering themselves in glory when handling their existing staff’s welfare in the current difficult circumstances. There’s a good number of people out there feeling rather disillusioned about how their current employer has responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
How refreshing then to hear the following messages from some of our more enlightened clients (not as many as I’d like though!):
‘Nothing’s changed; we’re well used to working from home after all, crack on…’
‘The need for that person isn’t going to go away overnight, by the time we’ve found someone and they’ve worked their way through a notice period before starting, everything will be back to normal anyway, so press ahead’.
‘We’ve had a look at our needs, and whilst some of the hiring plans were more nice-to-haves, and we ought really to be a little more cautious about hiring in some areas, these are the roles we’ve identified as being key to our future success; please keep hunting’
‘We’re admittedly going to have difficulty starting new people in our business in the next couple of months. But we don’t want to stop interviewing or making offers, we’ll just agree on delayed start dates.’
‘We’ll talk to anyone who wants to talk to us; we’re taking this opportunity to get some good messages out about our business into the market’
This kind of messaging around people strategy sounds much more positive and forward-thinking. And realistic too!
As for the practicalities of getting people started in new jobs in the current situation, where there’s a will, there’s a way…..we have several people starting new jobs at BLT clients this week ….laptops have been couriered, online induction programmes arranged, and virtual coffees arranged with new colleagues ….it can be done !
Whilst it’s definitely not business as usual, nor should it be, we should all remember that the next line of the Spice Girls song talks about the need for ‘somebody with a human touch’. People will always be key to a business’ health and success, after all.
So think twice before you put a freeze on recruitment, and therefore your business. Now that the initial shock of the current working reality is starting to recede, now more than ever is the time to focus on ways to attract people to your company, whether for immediate needs, or for later in the year.
- by Guy Barrand