What happens to recruitment after COVID-19?

At 11.59pm on the 25th March, 2020, New Zealand was placed in lockdown under Alert Level 4. The situation was unprecedented and the effects on businesses were felt almost immediately.

Those who had fallen behind on the digital maturity scale were exposed straight away and dragged kicking and screaming to come up with a digital play to survive.

Some businesses simply couldn’t react quickly enough and haven’t survived. Some managed it … just. Then there were those who placed digital and technology investment at the centre of their strategy that fared way better. Not unscathed, but better!

The knock-on effect on New Zealand business post-COVID-19 has been profound - from those businesses who actually need to expedite cost out initiatives because their business has reduced considerably, to those who have taken this as an opportunity, somewhat questionably, to clean house and make their business leaner and more efficient.

As a consequence, the local available talent in most sectors appear to be full of available candidates.

There is a real slow down on permanent recruitment, contract is showing signs of growth understandably and a client said to me the other day “it’s a buyers’ market”.

To a certain extent, they are right. This is a luxury New Zealand has never had in the 18 years I have been here, but the key talent that everyone wants is still well paid and well looked after by the businesses they are in.

So if you are good at search/headhunting, you will be able to differentiate and bring huge value to clients in post COVID-19 in New Zealand.

That said, as a specialist recruitment consultancy focused on digital and technology, we had a sobering conversation with immigration to update ourselves on current immigration policy/position and they had a very simple message: “The borders are closed”.

So, for now, no mobilising offshore talent to New Zealand, unless deemed essential i.e. the Sky Tower is about to fall and you are the only engineer who could fix it.

You will still be quarantining for 14 days though, so let’s make sure it falls really slowly!

In all seriousness, it means there will be very little if any growth of the specialist talent pool in New Zealand … enough said.

I am proud to say that I have joined a business that hasn’t lost a single head through COVID-19. Our CEO John Wyatt was nominated and won the 2020 RCSA COVID Hero award, which he accepted on behalf of all leaders in our group of companies.

They all had their part to play. The initiatives that were put in place to remove stress for staff and ensure they were supported, engaged and still felt connected to our business, the leadership and their team was simply incredible.

It is a great feeling joining a leadership team that is not only driven to succeed, but is empathetic and truly focussed on the health and wellbeing of their staff and families first and foremost.

There were others that were not so fortunate. Some still hadn’t adopted cloud-based technology (we had thankfully) and had to mobilise a remote workforce during lockdown working with technology partners.

It was a scramble. Some achieved it and some didn’t. There was mass reduction of pipelines, contracts being cancelled and offers being pulled or never eventuating. The result was varying degrees of large scale disestablishment of staff, multinational companies pulling out of New Zealand entirely, and some fledging businesses closing their doors.

Those recruitment businesses that are still here learnt some valuable lessons, such as how having a strong contract book helps in tough times.

The depth of your client relationships and strength of your brand and the part that plays in your success/failure is important.

Recruiters can still be as productive and sometimes even more productive working from home. You can have Zoom and MS Team meetings to interview candidates, meet clients, participate in Friday drinks, collaboration sessions, networking sessions, client drinks and much more. In fact, some of these video processes actually sped up the recruitment/engagement process.

Access to the information you need as a recruiter to do your job from any device, anywhere is essential. So it is great to see that post lockdown, work-from-home policies being discussed, business improvement projects are kicking off and a real desire to reconnect with candidates and clients face to face is evident.

Yes, the market is slower, but one thing is for sure since the reset button was pressed - the recruitment industry is still here and will emerge stronger, leaner and more focussed than pre-COVID-19.

We have to.

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