19 October | Agilium Worldwide
Executive Search in Corona Times
An interview with some members of Agilium Worldwide on the impact of the Corona pandemic on labor markets and international headhunting.
What’s the situation in India, the USA or Spain like, after almost two years of the pandemic?
Bipashit Bose, India (www.prospect.in): The lockdown at the onset of the pandemic brought the economy and the labor market to a complete standstill. In the second half of 2020, some large companies cautiously started hiring again while others used the pandemic to lay off non-performers. Schools were closed and bringing up children is a woman’s business in India, so many women were forced to quit their jobs. Now that business has picked up again, these often highly educated women are being hired by growing IT and technology companies, the same ones that suffered from a shortage of skilled workers before Corona. And the state infrastructure program is expected to create jobs too.
Bernard van der Lande, USA (www.tulaexecutivesearch.com): In the first half of 2020 we had 40 per cent fewer placements as most firms were just waiting to see what would happen. The first vaccines in the fall of 2020 changed all that and in the meantime, we are really busy again and there are plenty of unfilled positions. The problem now is, however, potential candidates are reluctant to switch jobs at this stage.
Monika Borgers, Spain (www.ellis.es): It’s exactly the opposite here. Many candidates used the lockdown to develop their skills via online seminars, for example, and now really want to switch. But it’s the companies that are holding back with hiring and being very cautious. They still highly value linear CVs and long tenures, a characteristic of Spanish companies that has been reinforced by the pandemic. Surprisingly, though, because the first lockdown in 2020 came as a huge shock. Spain was thinking, what will become of our economy, especially as it depends heavily on international tourism? What will have to change? However, now that economic activity has started to pick up, we are seeing more of the “business as usual”. Companies are actually thinking tradition, and not innovation or transformation.
How did Corona restrictions change the world of recruiting?
Bernard: Hugely! In the US, we usually find potential clients and candidates through networking and at events, and these are still not really happening. And with online candidate interviews you just don’t get the same impression of a person as you do in a face-to-face meeting. So meanwhile I’ve taken to meeting candidates in the park so we can get to know each other while out walking.
Bipaschit: Yes, also in India it’s still difficult to meet people. For jobs below first management level candidate selection is done exclusively via video. Companies are hiring people without ever having seen them in person. Only in top management is the final meeting face-to-face.
Monika: In Spain everything was done via video during the lockdowns and now we are using a combination of online interviews and personal meetings, where we wear masks. I’m not sure which is better because the mask makes it hard to read facial expressions.
Will things return to normal once the pandemic subsides?
Bernard: In the US around 40 percent of the population is still not fully vaccinated. Worldwide, the percentage is much higher. The pandemic is going to be with us for a long time yet.
Bipaschit: Yes, and with all consequences for corporate and HR management. The problem is, how do you communicate corporate culture and values when people are not present in person, and face-to-face encounters are not even possible? How can “remote performance” be monitored and assessed, and how far does trust reach? How do you motivate employees who are working exclusively from home? It’s difficult to show real empathy online only. What we expect from our managers and HR specialists will change fundamentally as the pandemic continues.
Founded in 1984, Agilium Worldwide LLC (https://www.agiliumworldwide.com/) is an international executive search group of independent, owner-managed retained executive search firms, with members who are active in virtually every market. Agilium Worldwide ranks among the world’s top 25 executive search organizations.
Agilium Worldwide’s member firms offer personalized, specialized, client-oriented services. By eliminating the formally structured, pre-programmed approach they can remain proactive and secure prompt, skilled and expert service to their clients, to help them find the “Perfect Fit” – the right person for the right position, at the right time, at the right location.
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