By Peter Henry, Managing Partner of Odgers Berndtson Scotland, explains why the pandemic has created opportunities for senior leaders to consider roles in Scotland
Currently many of us remain working from home and most geographical barriers have disappeared in a work context for executives. But what will happen in the future and will this affect hiring decisions? Does this present an opportunity for leaders in the UK and other financial centres around the world?
There is some evidence to suggest that companies are realising remote working is not a long-term panacea. Culture erosion is cited, the challenge of collaborating across silos and the fact that informal and serendipitous interactions no longer occur. There is also a risk of two cultures being created – one for on-site and one for virtual. A hybrid model is likely to work best going forward. One where you can achieve a flexible way of working and deploy the best teams to provide solutions but still retain the culture and identity of your firm, as well as nurturing younger talent. Most graduates learn much of their trade shadowing their more experienced colleagues and this is far easier when they are in physical proximity to each other.
If your decision to live in London or the South East has previously been driven by your commute – unless you are in the fortunate minority – affordability is likely to have restricted the purchase of your ideal home. Perhaps in the near future, you can strike a better balance and why not Scotland?
As a headhunter, one of the biggest challenges I face is persuading a candidate that they should move even though they are excelling in their current role, hence the ‘headhunt’. Throw into the mix a suggested move to Scotland and very often, the conversation is a short one. Scottish employers shouldn’t have to compromise on talent due to geographical restrictions and candidates shouldn’t feel their future career choices are limited by moving to another country. For candidates who have no underlying motivation to work in Scotland this can lead to a host of questions. There is no exact science but if moving jobs results in minimal change to your personal circumstances then two thirds of your decision making is about the job and one third is ‘the life stuff’. The opposite is true when it comes to relocating for a job and it is vital to provide as much practical insight and overcome certain misconceptions.
We are sometimes asked “what happens next and/or if it doesn’t work out?” This may have been a legitimate concern many years ago, but Scotland is a vibrant and diverse economy. Second to London in terms of financial services activity, there are over 160,000 people employed within the sector and this is before you consider the growing hub of FinTech firms. Scotland is also home to a substantial number of PLC and family businesses in the food, drinks and global spirits sectors, as well as listed and private companies serving a multitude of industries. The list is extensive and looking towards the low carbon economy, Scotland is home to SSE, Scottish Power and many others involved in the renewable energy sector. Aberdeen remains a centre for the oil and gas sector and for those organisations diversifying into the low carbon economy.
On this basis, it really is a case of why shouldn’t you consider a move? Away from the PLC and financial services sector there can be challenges attracting talent to join family businesses in Scotland. Coupled with relocating is the fear of the unknown of a family business and the lack of brand awareness when certain candidates consider their ‘value’ and career trajectory. “If I want to return to a PLC environment further down the line, will moving to a seemingly unknown family business count against me?” Family businesses remain a significant part of the Scottish economy and
continue to create significant income, wealth and employment. While some Scottish family firms are modest businesses, the size and scale of the larger family enterprises is on a par with publicly quoted companies in terms of multi-million-pound turnover, sophisticated global operations and substantial workforces. For some senior executives, the opportunity to work for an organisation with a genuine long-term perspective, strong governance but devoid of PLC scrutiny is liberating and as rewarding financially.
From a lifestyle perspective, very few individuals or families that I have relocated to Scotland over the years have ever wanted to leave once they have a taste of the life on offer here. Access to the outdoors, the diverse range of activities available and accessibility to such, provides a genuine quality of life upgrade. In addition, there is no dearth of culture and the arts, as most Scottish cities boast a wealth of museums and galleries to suit most tastes and of course the Edinburgh International Festival is globally recognised as the biggest arts festival in the world. Education is first class and is often not as competitive and high pressure as it can be south of the border. There is access to world leading healthcare and in most areas, children are afforded more freedom and independence because most parts of Scotland are generally considered safe.
The hinterland of opportunity exists in Scotland and offers candidates ongoing career opportunities. Granted, the economy is a fraction of the wider UK economy and the number of senior roles is less, but good people get good jobs and there are plenty in Scotland.