The coronavirus pandemic has altered life as we know it in a very fast, very surreal way.
The IMF has described the Great Lockdown as the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Elsewhere, the 2008 global financial crisis is said to be looking increasingly like a mere dry run. And a report published this week predicts it will take three years for the economy to recover to the level reached at the end of 2019 – assuming some lockdown restrictions start to be eased in May. Quite a lot to take in.
What does the future look like when the present is uncertain?
With recruitment paused and remote work becoming more common there will be challenges, but also opportunities for businesses that are willing to embrace change, quickly. Here are three main ways to thrive in a digitised landscape.
Fight or flight? – mastering the balance
Even in our age of digital dependency, our survival instincts are hardwired to kick in when we’re faced with a crisis. You can take the person out of the Stone Age, evolutionary psychologists say, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the person.
At the moment, we are facing a bleak picture of economic adversity. How do businesses climb over this hill unscathed?
The first reaction of course is – cut costs. SMEs and large firms alike will seek to implement a variety of cost-saving measures to survive the difficult situation that COVID-19 continues to present globally, including HR practices such as downsizing, cutting wages, reducing working hours, cutting the number of staff.
But there are many examples of companies that have survived a recession – and turned it into an opportunity to get ahead. Of course every business is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all template, but there are valuable lessons that can be learned – and the future relies largely on our ability to learn from the past.
The road to success is the one trekked by progressive enterprises, research by the Harvard Business Review shows. It is the companies that master the delicate balance between cutting costs to survive today and investing to grow tomorrow who do well in difficult times.
This means resorting to cutting costs mainly by improving operational efficiency, for example by embracing remote work, rather than slashing the number of employees – layoffs reduce costs quickly, but they also lower morale and can make recovery more difficult.
As importantly, these companies develop new business opportunities – and in today’s world, this means exploiting digital transformation. Survival requires a careful balance of patience, innovation and occasional brutal change.
Remote work – making it work
Currently, many of us are learning that working from home is possible – and where fear of disruption previously halted adoption, we now have the world’s largest, unprecedented experiment in our hands. Mistakes will happen, but so will our chance to learn from them.
There are many challenges that come with remote work, for companies and employees alike. How to make sure a dispersed team remains productive – and will they get any work done at all? But the workplace is always evolving, and digital technology – from AI to automation – continues to reshape it. Adaption is vital.
While it’s instinctive to approach uncertainties with a degree of trepidation, positivity can be the best remedy. As it becomes more commonplace, there is potential for businesses to finetune their remote working capabilities, just like the technologies supporting this will undoubtedly evolve to cope with higher demand – and get better.
Offering flexibility in the workplace is key to attracting top talent – in fact, nearly 40% of candidates worldwide named it as one of the top three factors they consider when making career decisions – while 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time.
It is quite likely that more companies will review their flexible working policies and remote working becomes more common in the post-pandemic landscape. More certainly, those providing opportunities for employees to work remotely will have a higher chance of attracting and keeping the best workers, while eroding geographical barriers means companies can cast their recruitment net globally.
The key to success lies in a mature team who can manage their workload autonomously and be disciplined enough to reach their objectives while working from home. For that to happen, requires the right people.
Character & attitude – finding the right talent
The COVID-19 crisis has forced digitisation upon us in very unpredictable ways – and our newfound reliance on technology could cause a shift in behaviour that endures long after the pandemic subsides. With social distancing measures in place, increase in e-commerce demands have even led to consumers turning to Amazon for groceries and over-the-counter medicines.
Already millions furloughed from their jobs are being offered free online courses in digital skills so they can succeed after the coronavirus outbreak. The Open University is providing courses on how to write computer code, while Google is providing a course in digital marketing – all of these are listed in the ‘Skills Toolkit’ recently launched by The Department for Education.
82% of all job vacancies require digital skills. In a post-coronavirus-world, those who are tech savvy will be in a better position – as companies turn to technologies to become more resilient against future disruptions, they will be seeking out the right people who can help them exploit these technologies.
Similarly, candidates will be looking for companies that offer greater flexibility, while many companies may require support and reassurance when video interviewing and on-boarding candidates virtually – which has already proven its value in terms of cutting costs and facilitating screening.
While the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter behaviour, however – and as technology gains precedence – character and attitude will matter more than skill and qualification.
As we adjust to a ‘new normal’, strong leadership/project leaders with the ability to get the most out of their remote teams will be in high demand. Similarly, managers will need continuous support/training on the most effective ways to manage remote teams (e.g. understanding different personalities to motivate every team member).
But character and attitude will transcend candidates and play a bigger part for companies, too. With the world now spending more time online than ever, devising a unique social media recruitment strategy will play a big part in being able to attract and retain the best talent – presenting a way for businesses to engage with broader audiences, build their brand and more importantly bring to it their personality. The future will need to be designed with life and vigour.
How can we help?
At Vivo, we evaluate culture and personality fit and complete reference checks to assure clients they can confidently hire the right person on a remote basis. We aim to educate candidates to consider new modern engagement methods such as video introductions to show their personality – a human extension of their CV/Portfolio.
We are currently offering Talent Acquisition & Management Consultancy to businesses who may need assistance with adapting and future-proofing their workforce.
As a Technology and Business Transformation recruitment specialist we help clients find the best global talent to help modernise businesses and give them a strategic advantage in a post-COVID19 workplace.
If you have any concerns about how the coronavirus is affecting your business, looking for help planning your staffing strategy, or to discuss job opportunities, please book time in our diary.
Founder of Vivo Talent Solutions