By Simon Roderick, Managing Director, Fram Search, a specialist financial services recruitment firm (www.framexec.com)
The coronavirus pandemic is the second major crisis I‘ve worked through in my career. The first was the Financial Crisis of 2007/2008 and in many ways, they couldn’t be more different. Whilst their effects on the economy were both devasting, the approach of firms in how they approached them, I feel, couldn’t be more different.
Despite occurring only 13 years apart, we do live in a very different world from 2007. The iPhone was first launched in June 2007, and its effect on the world has been profound. According in Statistica, LinkedIn broke through 50 million users in late 2009, and today LinkedIn has 756 million users. I use these figures to highlight how large a part of our lives’ technology has become, and as a reminder of conditions in 2007. I also think the workplace has change enormously too. In fact, changes in the workplace have been gathering speed at pace over the last five years. Five years ago, female candidates never asked me about the diversity of leadership teams, now I’m rightly asked regularly. Mental health wasn’t as prominent in the thinking of governments or employers as it is today either. We also have a generation still in the workplace, who, like me, have now worked through two significant crises. All of these factors have contributed to how firms have approached their business communications over the last 18 months, and I suspect what we’ve learnt during the COVID period will influence business communications for years to come.
In 2007, social media and digital use wasn’t at anywhere near the same levels at is today. How many clients had access to video conferencing facilities? A camera on their computer? Therefore, communication with clients at the time was more limited and slower. Now, COVID has forced many employees to work from home in many countries, and firms have used technology to significantly increase client engagement. I support financial services firms in my work as a headhunter, and many firms have held successful online events during the pandemic. One of the upsides, is that previously hard to access senior figures are now able to communicate with large numbers of clients regularly. They’ve posted more articles on social media, and across all industries we’ve seen a significant switch to digital advertising. Most importantly, clients seem to have embraced this form of engagement. I’ve heard tales of better attendance for these new online events than the pre-pandemic in person events. Also, stereotypical thinking has been challenged. Older customers, who are often thought of as less digitally savvy, have embraced life online, ranging from conferences, meetings, events and, of course, shopping. Many of these new online shopping fans will inevitably stay online, even after the pandemic recedes. Firms have also been stronger in highlighting their values on social issues too, explaining to clients what they stand for as a brand and allowing consumers to make choices based on more criteria than just a product or service. It’s been a period of immense innovation and change and many elements of this “new normal” will stick.
The pandemic also challenged how leaders communicate with their teams who were now not in the office, but displaced across the country (or countries, in some cases), as working from home was mandated by many governments. They could no longer see how someone was feeling. They could no longer build culture in the office. They could no longer brainstorm in person. The office has been the centre of work life for generations, and literally overnight it wasn’t. At the start of the pandemic, the overriding concern of most leaders was for the safety of their teams. This is still the case, but as the crisis has evolved, focus has shifted to addressing many of the issues around culture, collaboration, and mental health. From online quizzes and virtual pub trips, to increasing a sense of belonging and online training, many firms found that teams who perhaps never normally met each other due to geographical constraints, were more connected as video meetings were widely adopted. I also feel that high quality management teams have put more work into increasing their communication with colleagues and improving transparency.
I feel we are undoubtedly moving to a world of hybrid working where managers will rarely be able to give town hall speeches to large crowds in person. However, many of the lessons of increased communication, increased care, and training will be kept by many.
Established in 2010 by Simon Roderick, a recruiter with 20 years City recruitment experience, Fram Search is a specialist boutique financial services recruitment consultancy. We focus on permanent and interim recruitment in the UK & internationally with most of work being experienced hires through to the marzipan layer.