The Recruitment Corona Conundrum: How to thrive and not just survive!

30th April 2020 | News

We asked member Tom White, CEO of Paratus People – an engineering solutions specialist – to give us his views on how companies are dealing with staffing issues in the shadow of Covid-19. We were especially interested to get his views on how engineering companies might position themselves favourably to mitigate, innovate and ultimately position themselves favourably for a range of possibilities. Here’s what he has to say:

The Recruitment Corona Conundrum: How to thrive and not just survive!

So…things were going well, you had your plans, you knew where you were going then the pandemic struck. [do you carry on regardless? Do you stop and risk losing ground or momentum?] What strategies can you adopt today to strengthen your hiring plans tomorrow?

To furlough or not to furlough

This has been a widely discussed topic since the announcement of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme this month.

Every business is different and there is no definitive answer on what is best for you to take though it is important to think logically and not panic.

It is simply not plausible to furlough your entire team and maintain momentum in your business so look at your critical team, who needs to be there driving projects forward or maintain sales at this time. Statistics show that you can furlough 20% of your workforce but maintain 80% of forward motion so if money is sensitive or there is uncertainty in the supply chain this is a good number to work towards.

To your team, make sure they are aware that furloughing is a sign of respect and appreciation, you are not making them redundant and you value their input but know that a moratorium of their services is needed right now for the greater good, reinforce this message and make sure you keep in touch weekly for social and mental wellbeing and implore those who are furloughed to seek personal development and utilise their time productively.

Can you still hire, how and why?

Absolutely you can still hire, as Merryn Somerset Webb recently tweeted we are in a deep freeze, not a recession. The pandemic is a health crisis, but we could talk ourselves into a recession quickly if we don’t act quickly.

Look at your BAU hiring plans and those that are project-based and decide is it cost-effective to cancel a project or maintain it, how far down the line are you? The consensus is a talent pipeline can take months to mature and simply turning that off is unwise, you can slow it but if the time is right, you should embrace hiring and forge closer relations with your talent partners in-house or externally to work on talent pooling.

Talent pooling is a highly effective strategy to map all people who are a potential match to join your business in an organised and methodical way. This can be done via your in-house teams and/or in partnership with a supplier.  In simple terms, what is your total addressable market (TAM) and have you been proactive in communicating with them.

The scheme can help you build long list of potential applicants that can be contacted again when the time is right, it’s an expansive and great exercise in branding for your business and streamlining your hiring when you eventually need to act quickly. Now is the time to take stock of your current route to market and make it more effective for when confidence picks up in the market. If you turn the taps back on at the same time as everyone else you risk onboarding the first or the last person and not the best, get the edge, stay ahead of the competition today.

The Silver Linings

Albert Einstein was quoted in saying ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’

This is hugely relevant amid a global pandemic, there have been some obvious debates on office space recently with uptake in modern online video conferencing software, the long-overdue embracement of remote working and analytics behind productivity vs time spent.

One thing is certain, the world has changed and will continue to adapt and change shape as we see ourselves through this situation.

We’ve seen a real trend from our clients to the awaking of remote-based contractors, able to perform at home with lab equipment that they’ve either bought or rented.  Those businesses that are successfully implementing this focus on outcome-based deliverables with associated milestones rather than hours spent.  Construct a work from home policy with a confidentiality agreement and you’ll find that productivity is likely to increase.

Interviewing, for longer than we care to remember the interviewing process is inherently flawed at most organisations, simply put an assessment of someone based on merely hours of conversation and some technical testing is not sufficient to understand team culture and long term hiring fit.  Our recommendation is to support working interviews, letting people into your business to meet and work with their peers remotely for an extended period of time, including a whole day or in some cases up to a week.  If you combine this with a flexible notice period (usually immediate in the first week) you will see a truer reflection of ability than you would under a more traditional approach.  Remember a good candidate can interview badly and a less favourable candidate can interview excellently. You are assessing the person, not the ability to interview.  This will also let you get the edge on competitors as they hurry around trying to organise themselves for a second or third stage interview which can take weeks and is usually less efficient.

Diversification, whilst it’s important to focus on your core technical competencies as an organisation in today’s market the chance to diversify across sectors is more easily achievable and, The UK ventilator challenge saw many businesses answer a call to arms to help produce a robust solution based on the designs from the Abingdon based, Penlon.  This is just one widely known example of companies adapting in today’s market, taking stock of their current situation and fostering great talent.

Whilst there is no denying some businesses will be struck hard from these events, the ability to adapt and modify your offering will be key, start and scale up’s are easily placed to do this but there is no reason why others cannot follow suit in the interest of both public demand and commercial awareness.

No one is certain when normal life will resume, and if it will even be the ‘normal’ we expect, now is the time to accept the reality of the situation and adapt to thrive.

About Tom White

 Tom White is the CEO of Paratus People, an engineering specialist in Deep Tech and IoT working throughout the UK, North America and Europe.

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