During the past 3 months, we have spent a considerable amount of time just catching up with our clients and candidates through zoom and phone calls. The number of roles in BD and Marketing during this period has dramatically decreased (anyone who says any different is being selective with the truth) as firms have understandably looked to stabilise, but as lockdown slowly eases (probably less rapidly than initially thought) we are starting to get a picture of how things look on the other side.
Many BD and marketing teams have remained busy through the period. There have unfortunately been some early redundancies (seen more in the property, consultancy and accountancy sectors), and a fair amount of furloughing again in those sectors but also in some law firms. The full effects of this we suspect, will be seen over the following few weeks.
What is clear is that working practices are going to continue to be significantly different to pre-March times – we won’t be sitting as close as we are in the image above for some time yet – and this will impact on how we partner with our clients to recruit. When the lockdown started, firms focused on navigating their new landscape and on the whole, successfully set up their home working systems. Some of our larger clients kept recruiting existing live roles and (even some new ones) and it has meant putting their faith in video interviews. Likewise, we have been involved in processes where candidates have started and finished interviewing during lockdown and have made positive decisions about joining new firms, without even visiting the offices they are going to be working in. We have also had several new starters in law , accountancy, property and consultancy firms who have been on-boarded virtually and all of them have had a very positive experience. This is a great testament to how well technology can work going forward.
Continuing our conversations over the past week, the likelihood is that even as lockdown measures are eased even more, 5 office based days might be a thing of the past. A number of firms have started the process of a gradual opening, but at the moment, it is entirely voluntary if people want to return to the premises or not. Offices are being adapted now to ensure social distancing but of course one of the biggest concerns will be commuting and most, are understandably in no rush to get back onto packed tubes, trains and buses.
Staggered starting times and only selective days in the office will certainly help in this respect but it also may cause some teams to be split (some in the office and others, working from home) and it is likely that there will be no outside visitors for a while yet. Allied to the fact that it has been proved without doubt that home and flexible working is a good thing, video meetings will continue and this applies for job interviews.
At the start of lockdown, firms that put their recruitment on hold were generally saying it would be reviewed when everyone is back onsite. Business has to continue and we adapt. The fact that a full return to the office is unlikely anytime soon, means that in some cases these clients are reassessing and starting recruitment processes now or in the near future.
Interestingly having spoken to a range of recruitment and BD contacts from varying sizes of organisation that it’s some of the mid-tier and smaller firms who have been more reluctant to start processes during lockdown. The bigger (multiple office) firms, have been very comfortable with the video approach. They are the ones who have continued to recruit business critical roles and where we have seen the most movement over the past couple of weeks with roles coming back onto the market. Some of the more traditional firms may need some persuading but given that face to face (social distanced) interviews cannot happen for the next few months, if they have a gap to fill or a new role, they will need to embrace it.