POST-PANDEMIC REALISM

POST-PANDEMIC REALISM

The search for the software customization specialist proceeded for several weeks without a single candidate proposed as interview-worthy. The Abel Personnel recruiter suggested that the IT Firm’s HR Manager and the recruiter have a virtual huddle to review their approach before continuing.

“I’m not surprised you weren’t immediately successful,” the HR Manager began. “We weren’t being inundated with resumes when we had tried finding qualified applicants on our own.”

“Oh, finding well-qualified candidates has not been the problem. We’ve spoken with several who we knew were passively looking for a new opportunity. Many felt enthused about the software you handle and your reputation for the team you’ve put together. Your compensation, benefits, and career opportunity were also meeting their expectations. Those haven’t been the problem,” the recruiter reported.

Hearing that surprised the HR Manager, who now wondered if their software customization process was no longer cutting edge or if they were missing something the talent market now wanted. In a way, the HR Manager was right about both these concerns.

“In the last few years, during the Covid Pandemic, there has been a shift in the market. For example, employees gravitate more to hybrid work conditions,” the recruiter continued.

“Oh, but we did that, and within weeks of the start of the general industry office lockdown. We were one of the last local IT companies to call everyone back to the office. Based on that record, applicants can bet that if there is another flare-up, we will be ready to switch back to hybrid or full-time work from home.” The HR Manager then proudly added, “Our employees are our greatest asset!”

“I gathered from several potential candidates that hybrid work is no longer a ‘pandemic thing.’ Many found that they were more productive working from home. One person wants to have two days a week out of the office to allow her to have long stretches of sustained focus and the ability to control phone calls and people stopping by her cubicle to chat. Many want to continue to work that way regardless of positivity rates,” the recruiter explained.

“But teamwork is the hallmark of our company culture. A few programmers, meeting together spontaneously to solve a glitch, that’s what I’m told works for us,” insisted the HR Manager.

The recruiter paused here. How to convey, as many candidates had patiently explained, that there is not necessarily a causal relationship between being in the office and the opportunity to spontaneously solve problems as a team? Using an imaging technique, she pressed forward. “If I may ask, what was the effect of working from home on productivity during the height of the Pandemic? And, aside from the PPP Loan, were there any great losses in profitability?”

“None whatsoever. The PPP loan helped cover the cost of the receptionist and some maintenance and janitorial staff that we did not need when no one was working in our offices,” the HR Manager responded.

“And if you are, rightly, focused on the well-being of your staff, does that mean you must treat them all the same? Does everyone work just as well in the same work environment? One size fits all?” the recruiter then asked.

The HR Manager first chuckled at this. “One size does NOT fit all” was a slogan that the company often used to promote its software customization services. That was followed by a long pause, as there was a visible change in the HR Manager’s expression, mirroring their internal shift. Diversity of experience, needs, and opportunities was a very familiar HR concept.

“I get your point. We’re preaching one approach to our customers and a different approach internally,” was what had evolved for the HR Manager.

That became the starting point of a “what if” conversation, identifying broader work parameters for the still-open position. The conclusion: work conditions were negotiable. The recruiter then reconnected with the applicants that had declined their interest. Within a few weeks, four candidates were interviewed, their references were contacted, and a background check was completed for the preferred applicant.

When the HR Manager called the recruiter to present the offer to the candidate, the postscript was added, “Of course, we had to extend the same flexibility to current employees. We couldn’t offer new employees a better deal than existing ones. My management was quite overwhelmed by the positive feedback from this announcement, way beyond holiday cheer and yearend bonuses. One employee told her supervisor that the flexibility was even better than the bonus. We were also surprised that there wasn’t an urgent rush to go hybrid. The ones who declined still said they were grateful to have a choice. So, what else should we be doing to attract and retain talent?”

This was a conversation that the recruiter loved to be having with client partners. Customizing recruiting approaches that recognize that every company, position, and applicant is unique.

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