We are coming up to two months of lockdown and over the course of the past couple of months, both the insurance and the recruitment industries have seen several developments which will change the way we work forever. Embracing that change will ultimately dictate who adjusts best to the ‘new normal’ (as everyone keeps calling it) and so below, I’ve summarised my observations from a few angles.
We’ve seen companies of varying sizes deploy differing approaches during this period, from the complete shutdown on all recruitment, only hiring ‘business critical’ roles (aren’t they all?!), to business-as-usual.
Insurance, and the London Market, in particular, has always been a ‘face-to-face’ industry and so COVID-19 was always going to have an adverse effect on many aspects of trading; most people will prefer to make decisions where they’ve met someone in person whilst for back-office roles this is less critical. Although it employs thousands of people, the London Market is still small in the sense that ‘everyone knows everyone’ and so it is still possible to press ahead with front office hires as it’s likely the candidates are known quantities in the market through conferences, client meetings and mutual contacts.
If companies are going ahead with recruitment processes then clear communication, managing expectations and timeframes is absolutely key. This means laying out exactly what candidates can expect at interview stage (how many rounds, who is likely to be involved, the technology platform used) and at what pace as well as an indication as to whether the company is able to hire and onboard remotely, should this be required.
We’ve seen some clients go down the business-as-usual route and I’ve illustrated my own assessment of this in the conclusion section of this blog.
Candidates are more accessible than they ever have been before; working from home means they’re able to speak more freely than previously and are probably able to think more clearly about their longer-term aspirations without being rushed off their feet with a commute, numerous meetings and family life.
This juncture is a true period of reflection which doesn’t come around too often. Again, the stance candidates are taking varies from a reluctance to rock the boat amidst perceived uncertainty to carefully analysing how future-ready their current employers are.
Those who are cautious tend to think along the lines of ‘what if I resign and the hiring company pulls the offer before I start?’ In my 16 years’ experience, I have never seen this scenario play out I’m pleased to say.
Another line of thought has been ‘what if I join, the economy dips further and they operate a last in first out policy?’
During this period more than any, you would expect companies will have done their homework on the various permutations on what the future might bring and so any hires which have been signed off will have been done so with a huge degree of confidence.
Some candidates are thinking even further ahead and assessing how well-equipped an employer will be when ‘new normal’ kicks in – something I feel is going to be hugely important going forward.
From an employer perspective, regardless of what stance they may take on hiring candidates without a face-to-face final interview, there is still much that can be achieved in the interim via video interviewing and completing all processes up to the face-to-face (if required). We’ve seen a number of clients making offers and onboard remotely – if you think about it there’s actually very little you can’t achieve remotely, it’s just that as an industry we have become so reliant on seeing someone in person.
In many ways it’s this face-to-face aspect which has made the London Market what it is – you can pop out for your morning coffee and bump into a broker or an underwriter and have a quick chat and learn something new that day. As an industry, it’s how we balance these old and unique traditions with technology which is our challenge going forward not just in the short term but also five, 10, 15 years into the future.
A blended approach where you’re perhaps in the City two or three days a week is most likely but that requires all of us to be even more economical with our time than we usually are.
Speaking to both senior and less experienced candidates, it’s clear that most have really enjoyed the work/life balance (even though we’ve been unable to go anywhere!) and we’ve seen evidence of productivity levels being maintained and, in some cases, exceeded as people are actually working longer hours. This tends to be those with families who are currently in the midst of homeschooling and will more often than not find themselves working outside of core hours more in order to balance work and home life. Once schools open, I fully expect these individuals to be able to enjoy the work/life balance even more.
With the vast majority of individuals having a positive experience of remote working, they will question having to do the morning commute during rush hour five days a week; they will question whether it’s necessary to be missing out on simple things like dropping off / picking up their children from school as often as they can, or being able to exercise when it suits them. It’s true that some people enjoy the rigidity of being in the office from 9 – 5; it provides structure and a familiar framework from which they can operate but does this necessarily make them more productive?
In recent years we’ve seen a number of organisations move into offices which, when full, can only accommodate for 70% or 80% of employees and therefore providing encouragement to work from home where possible. These companies offer us a window into the future and will no doubt hold the upper hand when it comes to attracting talent.
We’re already seeing candidates assessing opportunities based on how tech-savvy and future-ready companies are and how they’re faring during this period – are they sitting on the fence or are they being bold and assured in their decision-making?
As a result of agile working, we’re also hopefully going to see a rise in women with young families moving into key leadership positions.
It’s difficult to see anything but positive change coming out of the period we’re currently in. As we’ve all read and heard in the various newspapers and soundbites from experts, the way in which we work will change going forwards. Employers and candidates who embrace this are going to be the ones who thrive and ultimately create better opportunities for themselves.
If you would like to discuss your hiring plans or your career aspirations, please do not hesitate to contact the following individuals:
Actuarial – James Rydon, firstname.lastname@example.org
Broking & Underwriting – Sanjeev Vegad, email@example.com
Claims & Operations – Sam Crayk, firstname.lastname@example.org
Compliance – Tara Robinson, email@example.com
Europe – Mouna Kaess, firstname.lastname@example.org
Technology – Mark Thomas, email@example.com