Business as Usual?

Now, more than any time in our recent history, we will be judged by our capacity for compassion.

Our ability to come through this won’t just be down to what government or business can do, but by the individual acts of kindness we show one another. Rishi Sunak, Chancellor

Business as Usual? Not really, but technology and unprecedented government intervention never seen in any of our lifetimes is mitigating the losses already.

As the sheer impact of coronavirus health crisis dawned, there was a real sense of rising collective panic for businesses and employees across the country last week. Thankfully, on Friday evening, there was a collective National sigh of relief with Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a raft of measures to keep the economic heart of the country still pumping.  Even the most cynical or pessimistic of individuals would have been affected by his powerful words, calling for us all to come together in surviving this health crisis and retain our economy, albeit with significant life support:

When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back at this moment and remember the many small acts of kindness done by us and to us. We want to look back this time and remember how we thought first of others and acted with decency. We want to look back on this time and remember how, in the face of a generation-defining moment, we undertook a collective national effort - and we stood together.

Perhaps Rishi was speaking to business leaders across the country to not make any snap decisions, but ultimately organisations all over the world are now experiencing extreme disruption to their operations. Globally, we have combated health issues before, most notably Swine Flu and SARs, but never before have we seen this type of scale, exasperated very much by the increased globalisation of the economic world. We are all so intrinsically connected by business across continents, that this is not a one country issue, but a world crisis which requires a collective effort both economically and scientifically to combat together.  It is in no doubt during these extraordinary times, that there are massive challenges to everyone’s lives, both professionally and personally. Whilst we all do our bit by staying and working at home so that we can return as soon as possible, business does still continue.

The rapid advances in technology have been crucial in preventing the pandemic from causing more serious damage to the way in which the financial and recruitment sector continues; where remote working and cloud based software is enabling firms across the country to offer a service to their clients. Certainly face to face meetings and interviews are not possible, but working from home is an opportunity for business owners and accountancy practices to focus on an on-going strategy, to assess the recruitment plans and conduct video or phone interviews. Accountancy practices across the country are currently in high demand to help business owners to navigate the tricky cash flow predicament many will find themselves in, so they will still be requiring new staff to manage this rapidly changing situation. Jason Reynolds, Director at AJ Chambers Recruitment has some insight on the National situation:

‘So far, whilst certainly not commonplace, we have seen some practices who are taking the current situation as an opportunity to focus on recruitment and are adapting really well to video interviews through Zoom and other technology. The market also has a lot of excellent professionals who are taking some of their downtime as an opportunity to explore their options, so for any businesses who are still hiring, it is a great time to get a jump on the competition in what is typically a very candidate-shy market!’

All organisations, of course, need to have a robust, rigorous and disciplined business continuity plan in place to enable the entire workforce, where possible, to work remotely and securely, while ensuring that business continuity is maintained, entirely independent of the office. The virus’s impact is and will, of course, affect hiring efforts, however companies will be leaning on accountants during this really challenging time, so the sector will still see buoyancy, as will certain sectors such as food retail and delivery as everyone moves towards.

For those continuing to recruit, there will be increases in virtual methods for the assessment and selection of candidates. But while digital-only recruitment methods could help reduce time to hire, they must be used in the right way so applicants are not put at a disadvantage. But there is still hope for the recruitment industry, as many employers will continue to hire for essential roles, and some sectors – such as health and social care and logistics – are already recruiting more workers.

The global pandemic could also change the way employers hire for the better, Pawel Adrjan, head of EMEA research at Indeed. The move from in-person to virtual recruitment, and the widespread use of home working during the outbreak, could be a positive step-change for some, he said.

“We know from our own research that job seekers are increasingly looking for flexible work, including the option to work from home, and even before the outbreak employers were increasingly offering flexible-working options,” he said. “With people across the world being advised or required to work from home, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues after the pandemic is quelled.

This business agility is key for hiring professionals, accountancy practices and business leaders alike – keep calm and focus on finding alternative ways of working to ensure business continuity throughout the coming months, which will also future proof their businesses when we all eventually come out of this health crisis.