The impact of Covid-19 on your job search – an employer’s perspective

The only constant in life is change

Martin Corck is Director of Athletes Inspire, a small-scale business operating in the sports consultancy sector. 

This post offers an employer’s perspective, and gives our valued new potential workforce (you, the student) some insight into what’s happening right now. As a potential Graduate taking your first steps towards a new career, doing nothing is not an option for you!  I urge you to take action, review your professional job search plan, research carefully, and build intelligence and insight so that you can make well-informed decisions.

As we all experience a phased exit from lockdown, we’re entering uncharted territory. As the owner of Athletes Inspire, a small sports consultancy business supporting the Government’s ambition to create a more active nation, I will have to think and plot my way ahead, for a new look world of business. New thoughts, new values, new systems.

From the perspective of a student preparing to enter the world of industry and meaningful employment, it is recognised that this will be a confusing and testing time for you. Well-rehearsed and long planned strategies for job searching will need to be reconsidered, career choices will need reviewing in terms of the viability and coming back on stream of each sector.  Working environments that are being offered to you will require careful reconsideration. You will need to think about whether you need the stimulus of shared team working and an office environment, or whether you are equipped to work from home, saving you commuting cost and potential risk to your health.

“All business will have been impacted by the pandemic, and for many it is a simple matter of survival or closure. For all it has become necessary to re-strategize, reset, and renew our thinking, our policies and our actions.”

All business will have been impacted by the pandemic, and for many it is a simple matter of survival or closure. For all it has become necessary to re-strategize, reset, and renew our thinking, our policies and our actions. The impact on my business has to date been controllable, albeit challenging as we are a remote based organisation, so I spoke to my Brother in Law who is busy heading up the HR function in a global company operating in the highly volatile petro-chemical sector. Interestingly, no matter the size or scale of the business, the challenges and principles moving forward are very similar.

Like all good planning the key to sustainable success for a business is to look forward and to plan back. Intelligent businesses are rehearsing what the new order might look like, how their sector might be impacted, and how long it will take to recover, and are they already well advanced for a return to life in the post Corona era. Office life as we have known it may look different with reduced investment into office space, split on-site teams, phased returns, managed social distancing and a real shift towards home-based working.

There will certainly be a higher investment in technology which serves to strongly underpin any business with an intent to succeed. Increasing VPN bandwidth capacity and new internet-based protocols are most likely in many firms. The use of Zoom for example by so many businesses to deal with multi- person team and client meetings has become the acceptable norm.

“As business owners we have a duty of care to our employees both within the workspace, and whilst engaged in business activity on our behalf, so clear guidance and personal responsibility are vital to the future.”

A return to dedicated desk space to avoid the potential for contamination through hot desking is likely, stronger protocols in terms of personal interaction, and a whole new style of management is likely to be needed. As business owners we have a duty of care to our employees both within the workspace, and whilst engaged in business activity on our behalf, so clear guidance and personal responsibility are vital to the future.

Many will have learned during this destabilising period that we don’t need to be face to face with each other to be effective managers, but that empathy, more collaboration in our approach and innovative ways of working will help us to become hallmarks of us becoming better business leaders. The sense of ‘community’ extends beyond our Thursday night neighbourhood applause of the key workers. Finding effective ways to work effectively from home in a controlled environment will require creative solutions. Health and safety and staff welfare checks will be needed to ensure suitable working environments as part of good team welfare for any business that is rebalancing its office/home based working arrangements. As a potential employee, it is important for you to clearly articulate what you need and want to feel safe and productive.

Most businesses will need to rethink staff/team engagement and the underlying culture that is so vital to making any business successfully tick. There are likely to be reviews of home working policy, relaxing or stiffening of dress codes (home based pyjama days are but a temporary indulgence), and the investment into professional interaction through digital platforms to create a successful and motivated workforce. We are already seeing flexible and innovative ways to operate, with my Brother in Law introducing into an established multinational organisation ‘bring your pet to the virtual meeting’ sessions, a weekly engagement opportunity for all employees with the CEO, a tripling of regular internal communications to keep colleagues engaged and motivated, the introduction of fun based activity such as virtual quizzes, post work virtual social networking and success ‘shout outs’ which name and fame particular achievements. All of these are measures beyond the normal practice. These have all been utilised so that employees feel blended and bonded as a team, not as an isolated end of the line call worker. Full staff meetings have become more common rather than the usual segmented or departmental approach adopted by his, and so many organisations.

“Key to much of this will for businesses to reset the mix of metrics by which personal and team performance results are measured… As the team are working in a more isolated way, I am listening for signs of anxiety or frustration. The mental wellbeing of my team is my absolute priority.”

Key to much of this will for businesses to reset the mix of metrics by which personal and team performance results are measured. Whist results are key to any operation, balanced, motivated, and committed teams and individuals will be vital in a new era of trust based working relationships. I find myself spending more time taking a keen interest in how my colleagues are coping with lockdown on a personal level, and I have strengthened my listening skills. As the team are working in a more isolated way, I am listening for signs of anxiety or frustration. The mental wellbeing of my team is my absolute priority.

So that does this mean for you, as you ponder how to approach your next step in your job search? As I have already suggested, start again with mapping out your options, research the viability of your preferred sector and targeted companies, be clear on your personal preferences to office or home based working, be honest about your capacity and discipline to work remotely in a structured and disciplined manner. Perhaps most importantly is for you to have a clear sense of the underlying culture, support and professional development offered by your potential new employer. Investment in people still sits way above any other quality you should seek as a new entrant. You will offer enthusiasm, fresh creativity, and a new way of thinking to your employer. In return you will need nurturing, valuing as a colleague and coaching as you become business hardened. The new interview style will be more a two-way process than ever before – you need to make sure you are buying into good practice, not simply good promises.

“You will offer enthusiasm, fresh creativity, and a new way of thinking to your employer. In return you will need nurturing, valuing as a colleague and coaching as you become business hardened.”

Ensure that you review your set of transferable skills, and most of all, use the internet and personal networks to gain the intelligence you will need to make informed career choices. There is a plethora of free to access podcasts, webinars, and masterclasses for you to tap into out there.

Yes, the world is changing. Risk management and personal responsibility in decision making has made us all more accountable for our own futures and destiny. To make a better world we must start with creating a better self.

As employers we want our new entrants to survive and to thrive. We are here to welcome you in, irrespective of the challenges that we currently face.