Workforce challenged to be flexible first in post lockdown world

Sue Cockayne

Sue Cockayne discusses East Devon business recovery after Covid - Credit: Insta @saltwaterdays

How have you responded to the latest extension to the Covid restrictions – have you noticed any impact for you or your business?
Last month I talked about change – big change - and the impact that a restructure or redundancy process might have for an employer and employee.   I looked at the process from both sides to create some understanding of what’s involved.
The advantage of change is that it is a chance for a new beginning.   It may not feel like that to start with, but if you find yourself in a situation where you are at risk of losing your job, being prepared can help to overcome some of the anxiety.  As an employee, being “job fit” will give you confidence to reach for that new beginning.
For employers too, we are about to go into one of the busiest times of the year in the South West and many of you are looking to recruit new people.
It’s a challenge though, with many businesses saying they are struggling to fill their vacancies and that people simply aren’t coming forward.  
There may be a number of reasons why people aren’t moving around – for those still on furlough, there may be a reluctance to leave their current employer in case there is another lockdown and they are again furloughed or the scheme is extended – if you aren’t on payroll at a certain point, you may not get any pay – if you have financial commitments or a family to support, that is a worrying situation to consider, and may cause you to sit tight in your current job.
There is also the impact of Covid and Brexit and this means not only are we not getting workers from outside the UK coming for work, it also means that there are travelling restrictions which are severely impacting on the number of workers travelling to the UK.
Whatever the cause, at the moment, it is candidate short market and employers will need to make themselves attractive to get their vacancies filled.  So, what can employers do to attract the right people?
People want to work where they feel appreciated and valued, doing a job that gives them satisfaction and somewhere they can be happy.    As an employer if you can create this, your employees will be engaged with your business, productive and more likely to stay.   It sounds so simple!!
What can employers do to attract prospective employees?   Think about the job you want doing – it is technical and does it require expertise?  
Last week a local employer said to me – “I can teach someone everything they need to know – I just need someone with the right attitude”.  
It’s an important consideration – do you really need everything you put in the job description?  Are you putting obstacles in the way of getting the right person?
Consider the network of people you already know – assuming you have a good workplace, your current employees will be your greatest ambassadors – people know people.  Use your current network to recruit your new people; encourage your employees to find your next employee – you could even offer an incentive for them to do that.  Where are the people who might want to work for you?   Talk to them in that place – whether that’s online, social media or LinkedIn, or in your local rugby or football club – ask your network to share far and wide that you are looking for people.   
Think about what a prospective employee might want – the biggest want post Covid is the opportunity to work more flexibly – how can you offer that?  
As an employee, how can you prepare and get “job fit”.   What does your CV look like?  Has it been a while since you had an interview?  
Have you thought about the experience and knowledge that you can bring to a new employer?   Think about the skills and knowledge you can bring not just those things in work, but also outside your job.  Your hobbies can be a valuable place for additional skills and qualities.  For example, do you play a sport – that could mean you are a good team player and you are fit because you exercise regularly.   If you play sport regularly, it also means you are committed to turning up every week and supporting the team – those are great qualities that an employer will want to know about.    
What strengths can you take to a new employer – good time keeping; that you always work hard and deliver your targets.   That you get on well with a variety of people?  That you are happy to take on additional responsibility if needed and want to deliver a great service on behalf of the business?    If you don’t know or don’t feel confident about yourself, ask a friend to tell you what they think your strengths are.
Do some research about the jobs you are applying for.   Don’t just send a generic application or CV – make it individual to the job you have applied for.   Read the job description carefully and understand the business and what they are delivering.   Make sure that your application describes how you can deliver the various responsibilities of the job.    If there is an offer of finding out more information, give them a call and make a connection – let them know you are interested and ask them to tell you more about the job or the business so you can make sure your application tells them about that.
Be realistic, it is likely that you won’t get all the jobs you apply for; if you get an interview, you may not get the job.   If you don’t get the job, it doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, it just means that on the day, someone else was a better fit.   Try not to be discouraged, ask for feedback and keep looking – there will be a job that’s right for you.
In many ways we are all having new beginnings – as we start to come out of lockdown there is a risk that we will go back to old familiar things and behaviours, but there is too an opportunity for new beginnings – those things we have done over the last 18 months to make our lives feel different – take the good bits of that and make sure you bring them forward.    Maybe it is time for a change – so consider what benefits that might bring for you.
If you’re nervous about writing a CV or need some tips or coaching for an interview and you want some help, give me a call for a free one-hour coaching for job confidence.   You could also talk to an employment agency or a job coach at your local job centre; they should be able to give you advice and support as well.

Sue Cockayne is an HR consultant with East Devon HR

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