The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work forever. Technology would eventually have driven a shift to more remote, flexible white collar work but the pace of that transition has skipped a generation. No longer is working from home every second Friday seen as a flexible arrangement; two days or fewer in the office each week is the new normal.
The upshot is that Covid-19 has changed the entire structure of the jobs market. For a start, business recruitment strategies have become far more flexible. Prior to the pandemic, geographical distance was the main limiting factor in any job search. Now a business headquartered in a location that’s not easily commutable can expect to attract talent from far further afield, or even from overseas, if it offers flexible working. This in turn is raising the quality of people available to employers.
But it’s also creating challenges around business culture. Humans are social beings who thrive on physical interaction. We need at least some element of connectivity to help us buy in to an employer’s core ethos.
Businesses are trying to figure out how best to strike the right balance. Team away days are returning and as Covid restrictions are lifted further employers will set to work figuring out a template working arrangement that balances the need to offer flexibility with the need to stay connected.
The disruptive effect of Covid-19 has also made employers more prepared to loosen the requirements of their job specs. Every retailer is going through a period of transformation to some degree. Voices that can challenge accepted retail wisdom are increasingly welcome. Not only are employers looking for people with experience outside of their core functional area they are also open to recruiting from outside the retail sector (so long as those people can keep up with the rapid pace of retail).
If you’re looking for a new supply chain director, for example, it can pay to look beyond your nearest competitors. Ask yourself who are the people pioneering new supply chain models and technologies in other sectors and then support those people with a strong induction and a capable number two who understands the mechanics of your own business and sector.
From a candidate’s perspective, it’s a great time to be seeking a new role. After two years of slow churn in the jobs market everyone is looking to hire and it’s normal for strong candidates to have at least two or maybe three opportunities to choose from.
As an employer you need to move fast once you’ve identified the right person through a retail executive search and fit in with their timelines rather than your own. You also need to pay them well and offer them attractive long-term incentives, but more than that you need to give them a reason to want to work for you above and beyond your competitors. At a senior level, this increasingly means offering personal development opportunities in the form of executive coaching and other ‘softer’ forms of support and reward. Mental wellbeing has never been higher up the corporate agenda and will remain so as the aftershocks of the pandemic continue to reverberate.
Retailers shouldn’t see these changes as a threat but as an opportunity to build a new relationship with their workforce based on flexibility, adaptability and mutual trust and understanding.
Those that get it right will secure the talent that can lead their business into an uncertain – but exciting – future.