Post Pandemic hiring and working practices – welcome to the ‘New Normal’

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April 2022

Written by Adam Richardson (adam.richardson@arresourcing.com), Managing Director and Owner of AR Resourcing. Adam has over 20 years’ experience recruiting procurement and commercial professionals across the built environment industries.

Following more than two years of upheaval and uncertainty it feels as though the latest phase of our approach to the pandemic i.e. living-with-Covid is enabling businesses to settle into a ‘new normal’.  In construction candidates, employees and employers are moving towards a hybrid of pandemic and pre-pandemic working practices that require face to face contact but also allow greater flexibility than employees enjoyed only a few years ago. So what does the ‘new normal’ look like?

New Recruiting Practices

1st interview = video interview: in spite of restrictions on movement being lifted, most first round interviews will continue to be via video reflecting the improvements both in technology and online interview techniques that were accelerated by lockdowns. Online interviewing not only does makes scheduling far easier than it is for face-to-face, but it also gives an idea of how well candidates communicate via video, something that will remain an essential skill going forward. The ubiquitous use of online interviewing also removes the time and cost barriers of face-to-face interviews that previously encouraged both candidates and employers to focus on local opportunities.

2nd round = face to face: while the overwhelming majority of 1st round interviews will be remote, subsequent rounds are likely to be face to face as interviewers look to really get to know candidates and understand their skills, experiences and motivations. Face-to-face interviewing also significantly improves the likelihood that the successful candidate(s) will be a good cultural fit.

New Working Practices

The new balance of working life reflects the new recruiting practices in many ways. Although companies are increasing their use of online meetings and offering more flexible working opportunities, employees in the construction sector will nonetheless be expected in the office or on site between at least 3 days per week.  

Few companies will require staff to be present in person five days a week, nor will employees be expected to attend social events if it makes them feel uncomfortable. However, we would expect individuals who network actively to progress faster in their careers than those who choose to opt out because they will be better connected and have greater exposure to both the business and industry.

The amount of travel involved with most roles will be significantly less than pre-pandemic however, to avoid losses in productivity, companies’ expectations of individuals to add value in team meetings, especially in relation to innovation and developing strategies, will increase i.e. a focus on quality rather than quantity of engagement. 

Other ‘New Normal’ trends and what they mean…

  • Greater variety in flexible working options: lockdowns forced all companies to develop robust remote working capabilities and most are now exploring how best to dovetail the business’ needs with the varied preferences of their workforce. The result is that as businesses use flexible working options as one way to differentiate themselves to attract the talent they need, candidates have far more choice of working patterns than pre-pandemic. 
  • Greater focus on workforce wellbeing: the rise of mental health issues during the pandemic was well documented and drove the employee wellbeing agenda forwards rapidly. Individuals who thrive in a nurturing environment will find that a far higher proportion of employers are conscious of employee wellbeing and mental health and as such there is a far more diverse range of approaches to managing those issues.
  • Workforce exodus from cities: the pandemic made many of us reassess the pros and cons of living in large cities. Widespread acceptance of working from home, improved technology, fewer days commuting and the memory of the claustrophobia many experienced in cities during the pandemic have already led to more people seeking out less densely populated places to live. 
  • More sophisticated online monitoring: mass working from home drove a rapid adoption of technologies designed to help companies monitor both activity and productivity. With a global trend towards more remote working these tools are becoming ever more sophisticated. 
  • Greater cyber security awareness: with less time spent face to face and more communication happening via email, fraudsters have doubled down to exploit the opportunities this creates, and businesses face increasing numbers of ever more sophisticated cyber threats (email-based scams, CEO fraud, phishing, vishing, DDoS etc). Companies are investing both in their cyber security systems and educating staff. 
  • Increase in staff who aren’t full time employees: anecdotally, the construction sector is experiencing an increase in the number of employees who aren’t full time i.e. job shares, 4 day weeks, contingent workers or contractors. In part this is being driven by the general shortage of skilled labour which is encouraging employers to consider alternative working patterns as they try to fill vacancies.
  • Adjustment of organisational planning to balance resilience and productivity: the pandemic highlighted problems with modern workforce structures. Many roles have become highly specialised and while this leads to greater productivity in a stable environment, when there is a major disruption it can leave companies exposed both in terms of lacking the skills and agility to adapt their business to cope with the new environment; and in terms of carrying significant overheads in the form of staff who are no longer productive. Going forward companies will be looking at improving their resilience to major market shocks by revisiting organisational structures, the skills mixes they recruit and the training they provide.

If you would like further details about any of the trends or would like to speak with us about how we can support you then please email me: adam.richardson@arresourcing.com or call 0330 174 6801.

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