We’re now weeks, months (feels like years) into living with COVID-19 as a fact of life. It’s affected the way we live, shop, socialise, exercise and most obviously, how we work. At Richard Lloyd Recruitment we have been home for weeks now and have found lots of workarounds to ensure we can still be as effective as possible.
We have continued to meet candidates and have noticed that the “must-haves” for them when looking at new roles have changed during lockdown. Before isolation, candidates generally wanted progression opportunities, good work-life balance, and a chance to add value. While these are still important factors, we have seen other things crop up on the candidate wish list:
Working from home
The horse has bolted, it’s out of the stable and way down the road. You can’t get away with telling your employees that they can’t work from home anymore because they have been doing it for weeks. Personally, I can’t wait to get out of the house but many of the job seekers and hiring managers I speak to have told me how much easier they find it working from home. Fewer distractions have made it easier to concentrate on month-end tasks, report preparation and budgeting processes. Accounting is a job that involves total concentration for accuracy and that’s easier when your phone isn’t ringing and people aren’t walking past your desk to ask that ‘quick question’ that often turns in to a thirty minute chat. Plus, we have seen how Zoom and Microsoft Teams (and others) have made it so much easier to stay in touch. It’s almost like being in the same office at times.
Being at home has exposed gaps in processes and systems. Especially systems! Being able to log on remotely has become vital. The need for systems that actually work and don’t drop out every 5 minutes has shown itself to be a basic requirement. Not all systems link up well. Does your GL system interface with your BI tool fully? Or do you have to download, manipulate it, change the colours, throw salt over your shoulder and then cross your fingers that it works? In the office, you might be able to make that work but now at home, working off a laptop less powerful than your workplace desktop – yeah, that’s not going to work. Bad systems and poor hardware waste time and build frustration. And job seekers generally won't tolerate it anymore.
Open to improvements
Now that you have identified gaps in your systems and processes, what are you going to do about it? The old ways you previously used to patch over things aren’t working right now and your team want to fix them. But how supportive is the leadership in making those changes? Being able to make improvements and add value has become increasingly more important to candidates in recent times and lockdown has only fuelled their desire to make things better. Leadership who don’t wish to invest in these improvements will see the best candidates moving on. Why would they want to stay in an environment that doesn’t want to work as efficiently as possible? High performers want to be part of a high performing environment and a commitment to quality will go a long way to job seekers being interested in your organisation and you keeping them long term.
Stability and assurance
While nobody looks to go into a role that they think is likely to be made redundant, I have seen an increase in candidates telling me that they are looking for a “stable” organisation. This can take a few different forms depending on the candidate and their prior experiences of instability. One candidate has recently told me that for them, a stable company is one that is growing rather than focusing on cost-cutting. Another mentioned a healthy cashflow as their previous employer struggled to meet payroll costs on a monthly basis. Unplanned or multiple restructures and redundancies over a short time can also mean a level of instability; definitely not appealing to a job seeker. Before COVID-19, there was an openness to give a new role a try even if there was an element of risk involved. Now, there is a move towards a more cautious approach and a desire for proof of stability.
Supportive team environment
This has always been high on the list of “must-haves” for candidates at all levels. But now that we are remote and you can’t just offer help to the person sat next to you, a truly supportive and team-focused culture has become more important. Think about your team. When you have been finishing month end journals and struggling with your laptop, have you been able to ask for help? If yes, how much of a relief has that given you that you don’t have to sit there and struggle alone? It’s easy to offer help when you can see that someone is having a problem with something but for the team to offer help without noticing you need it feels like a lifeline when you are struggling? That’s the sign of a truly supportive team who pull together when times are tough.
While many of these have been important factors for candidates before COVID-19, these have now jumped right to the top of the list. It’s unsurprising that lockdown has changed what candidates look for. Afterall, this time has changed everything about our lives! While we are all looking forward to going back to normal, some things have been fundamentally changed and I feel what candidates are looking for is a reflection of that shift. If you want to attract the best candidates moving forward, these are important factors to keep in consideration.