Like everyone else at present, we at Arthur have had to adapt significantly over the past 9 weeks to adjust to working life under lockdown. We are lucky that all we need to do our jobs are a phone, laptop and internet connection but we are all missing the things that make working for an agency in the City unique: being able to meet our clients and candidates in person, attending role briefings to get an insight into our clients’ office environment and of course, being able to buy a coffee with your preferred choice of milk from a list of 24 different options!
But what we’ve also seen is a shift in the market from a recruitment perspective so I thought it would be useful to show you what we’ve been seeing from the UK insurance market over lockdown, from a recruiter’s eye view.
A concern from some was that lockdown would result in a blanket freeze on recruitment and, whilst we have seen some hiring freezes from two or three of our clients, this has been far from the case for all. The reality has been that a majority have simply focused on ‘business critical’ hires.
Where a team member leaves, it is rare to be able to entirely cover their workload using the remaining team and workloads have remained high for most of the market. In these circumstances, our clients are realising that any delay on replacing these candidates only increases the time gap rather than reducing their need to recruit.
By continuing to release these new ‘business critical’ hires, the client not only solves their staffing issue but also reinforces the strength of the company’s position to the rest of the market. Recruitment budgets are invariably tight and are under increased scrutiny at present, some CEO’s now having final sign off for all new hiring processes under lockdown. Therefore, when seeing a new role released, candidates should have confidence both in the importance of the position as well as confidence in the future stability of the company creating it!
As recruiters, one of the most positive side effects of everyone working from home has been that we have had more success in actually speaking with our candidate pool! These conversations have revealed a mixed reaction to lockdown and one that has developed over time.
Those that are happy in their jobs remain so and equally, those looking to leave prior to lockdown have generally continued in this vein. The biggest change we have seen comes from those candidates who have previously been ‘open’ to options but were otherwise happy. In times of instability the common reaction is to ‘batten down the hatches’ and wait for the storm to pass. Understandably, we’ve seen a lot of this but some candidates have also seen this as an opportunity to benchmark themselves against the variety of roles available in the market and sought reassurance in the processes our clients are going through when approving and releasing these roles.
Additionally, with fewer active candidates in the market, there is the advantage of less competition for some roles which may not be the case when we return to ‘business as usual’ (whatever that now means!) as those who have delayed their search re-enter the market.
In the same way that working from home has been embraced across the market, so has ‘interviewing from home’. Our clients have used a variety of softwares ranging from Webex to WhatsApp to conduct interviews which many candidates have actually found easier and more beneficial than more traditional ‘face-to-face’ meetings.
Being able to hold your interview in an environment of your choosing as a candidate offers a feeling of control which is often lost when interviewing traditionally and candidates have reported feeling much more comfortable with the online format.
The changes we’ve seen in recent years where first interviews are viewed as a ‘sounding out’ process for both clients and candidates has also helped to encourage applications. Offering a better range to client shortlists and allowing candidates to conduct a more thorough and informed search.
Beyond the interview, our clients are embracing the challenge of making offers and onboarding remotely too – sending contracts by email, couriering laptops, screens and other essential equipment to candidates’ homes and conducting training over video calls. It’s certainly a different experience meeting your colleagues for the first time over a Zoom call but this is a reality that clients and candidates alike have embraced!
So, as you can see from the above, the recruitment market within insurance has changed but it remains fluid and is certainly keeping us busy here at Arthur! Should you wish to talk through any of the above or your current situation in more detail, whether recruiting as a client or searching for a role as a candidate, then please get in touch with me or any of my colleagues.
By Tom Coates
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