The Corona crisis has forced employees in numerous service companies to work at home. This is also true for us at Mercuri Urval. But is this really just a temporary setback, or does it not also represent an opportunity for the future? There's no doubt about it, working in an office and interacting with experienced colleagues is important in many industries and professions. And direct contact with clients will never be entirely digital. But we also see that many things are possible that we thought weren’t until recently. We now communicate with clients and candidates primarily from our workplace at home and thus via various digital conferencing solutions instead of in personal meetings. This works well and is also accepted by companies. A special survey carried out by the Federal Association of German Management Consultants at the end of March and beginning of April showed that the acceptance of video-based selection procedures for staffing has increased considerably. Digital selection procedures - such as online assessments or diagnostic procedures - are also being used more frequently.
Basically, it is hard to believe today that a few months ago climate change was the dominant topic in our society. And whether it was still morally acceptable to fly on every occasion. At the moment, airports are reporting a decline in aircraft movements of more than 90 per cent and several runways are being used as parking areas for aircraft tied to the ground. But the current crisis shows us that you don't always have to get on an airplane and meet people in person to drive the business forward. When the economy picks up speed again after the end of the lockdown, the issue of sustainability will be back on the agenda. The megatrend of digitalisation, which has already affected so many sectors of the economy and created new business areas, will then also become even more prominent in Executive Search. After all, it is much more efficient for all those involved in the process to dispense with the odd business trip or two and conduct conversations from their office. Many other business meetings will also take place digitally instead of in person. This will enhance the environmental balance sheet of companies and thus their position vis-à-vis various interest groups.
Despite the current corona crisis, I am currently working on a project, among other things, together with a mid-sized company to find them a managing director. Due to social distancing regulations, we have conducted interviews with all key stakeholders, including the CEO, CFO and investors, via online channels. An assessment with the final candidate, which lasted several hours, also took place online. In the end, the hiring decision was made without the parties involved having met personally so far. Only a short time ago, I would have thought something like this unimaginable. But thanks to the latest video call tools and our Mercuri Urval Online Assessment, it is possible.
New Work requires new skills among managers
Against this background, we will have to replace personal talks with new instruments not only during the acute crisis. Rather, once the Corona pandemic is over, there will be no turning back the clocks. However, this will require organisational and personnel adjustments in the companies when it comes to the necessary skills of managers and employees.
- Evaluate the lessons in your company
External learning: Which services were converted easily into digital services, and where is still room for improvements? How do customers evaluate the new forms of collaboration and which of them would they like to use in the future? Internal learning: How efficient was the workflow during the crisis? How did managers and employees stay in touch during the crisis and how did the social distance affect the management? What is the desired relationship between presence in the office and working from home in the future?
- Improve the communication skills of your managers
Managers and employees who worked with each other at different locations even before the crisis may confirm what was new for many: leadership at a distance works differently than leadership on site. Therefore, check the corresponding skills of your managers and offer appropriate help if there is a need for improvement. After all, employees who are working at home also want to be led and need a contact person.
- Recruit digital leaders
In the post-crisis period, managers who are flexible enough to adapt to New Work and the needs of their customers and employees will be increasingly important. And they need to be able to promote the personal responsibility of employees and to lead agile teams, even if they are not working in one room but distributed over many workplaces at home. You will find valuable insights into which kind of managers you’ll need in the post corona world in our “Way Ahead” series of articles by Richard Moore, CEO and Partner at Mercuri Urval.
The distance remains, New Work is coming
In the past, as Head of Recruiting in an international group, I set up a central recruiting department in Poland and at that time I was still very sceptical that Europe-wide recruitment decisions could be made via video conferencing. Now, a few years later, I realise that it is even feasible at management level. From my point of view, this should not become the rule and the personal interview should continue to play an important role in the application process. But it is good to see that digitalisation helps us to continue to work successfully in such times and to be able to offer solutions to our clients.
We will have to keep our distance from each other for quite some time yet. We can use this enforced social distancing, which would be better described as physical distancing, to anchor New Work in the company and adapt the processes accordingly wherever possible. Mercuri Urval is leading by example, helping companies to get the right people on board for a change of strategy, or to support managers in doing so.