Do dark clouds have silver linings?
Published: 9th July 2020
The forced adoption of virtual, agile working may provide opportunities for organisations to cast their net wider when seeking talent. Martin Tucker explains
Without question, these are dark days for many. But even the most pessimistic about the future would surely acknowledge that dramatic changes can create new opportunities. The optimists among us might be able to see some silver linings within the dark clouds.
The recent need to move to working from home for many has resulted in the normalisation of remote and flexible working. This change is likely to have a long-lasting impact on how organisations view traditional working patterns. Many employees are telling us they increasingly want the option of working from home, ideally as part of a mix that includes the office.
Technology giant Fujitsu announced this week a 'Work Life Shift' programme which will offer unprecedented flexibility to its 80,000 workers in Japan. A recent survey by IBM found that more than half of US adults want to work from home permanently, while three quarters would like to at least occasionally swap the office chair for the kitchen stool. The pandemic will have proven to many organisations that this is now more than simply a theoretical possibility.
So, does this move to a more agile way of working mean that organisations can widen their talent pools when searching for new hires?
Carers and returners to work
First, it could benefit those who are returning to work after having children or those who have other caring responsibilities. This could open up roles to more - typically female - candidates who want to fit their work around family life. Agile working clearly allows this in a way that traditional office-only based working simply doesn't.
Remote working also has the potential to remove geographical boundaries. Many are well used to working away from home during the week, but why should that continue to be the norm? Is it conceivable that an individual living in London, for example, is able to effectively fulfil the demands of a role in, say, Liverpool, while only physically being in the city once a week?
The pandemic is challenging our traditional views of how organisational leaders remain visible, support their teams and work collaboratively with colleagues, as well as how they engage with partners and the wider community.
Translating this into the recruitment process
Much has already been written in these pages (the Municipal Journal) about the move to a virtual or online recruitment process and this can bring with it a number of significant benefits. We see three areas that could remove barriers and potentially widen the talent pool.
Organisations (and recruitment consultants) can more easily hold interviews on days and at times that best suit candidates. Too often potential candidates can be put off by a rigid timetable that clashes with other commitments. Greater flexibility could simply mean more of the right sort of candidates to choose from.
2. Ensuring confidentiality
The choreography of traditional senior local government recruitment often means that candidates will meet each other in the final stages of the interview process. For many this has become an accepted part of the process, albeit one that carries a degree of risk. But what if that risk is reduced through a virtual process?
Might more candidates step forward? Might we also see a greater number of candidates from the private sector willing to engage in a recruitment process that is more like the ones they are used to?
Many local authorities seek to engage their partners as part of the recruitment process for a host of good reasons. Might a more flexible, virtual process bring a greater quality and diversity of stakeholders to the table?
There will, we hope, come a time when we can all go back to doing things the way we did before the pandemic. However, just because we can, does not mean that we should. Widening the talent pool has been a constant struggle for many organisations in recent years. Perhaps one of the silver linings to the many dark clouds we see currently will be local government’s ability to challenge some traditional norms and perhaps draw potential talent in from a wider, more diverse pool.
First published in the Municipal Journal - 9 July 2020