According to Gallup, the number of people working full-time who are highly engaged and enthusiastic about their work is 15%. Pulling data from 155 countries, their 2017 research reveals a huge obstacle to creating high-performing teams while, at the same time, presenting an enormous opportunity due to the top 25% of companies also being 17% more productive and 21% more profitable.

And then along came COVID.

Bringing with it one of the greatest economic challenges of our time, the pandemic flipped the world on its head. It forced businesses to change overnight, to re-evaluate how they work and, in many cases, what they stand for.
When you think about it, it is all very sobering but, from my perspective, the big positive to come out of the chaos is that the importance of company culture as a key to long-term success is firmly back in the spotlight.

The culture of a business defines the working environment for employees and helps to guide their decision-making. It is the personality of an organisation and, regardless of the corporate values you have written down, is made up of the most commonly shared beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours in your team.

As we all look forward to the return of business growth, I urge you to take inspiration from many of the world’s most successful companies when recruiting and explore the merits of value-based interviews as part of your process.

While competency to do the job is still important, being able to understand a person’s motivation is the only way you can hope to determine whether they will fit well within a team and go on to thrive.

During the interview process, you must provide an opportunity for candidates to showcase their character. If done well, this will help you to understand whether their priorities match your goals and what it is that drives their behaviour.

Your mission is to find the perfect person, but the best candidates will always be well prepared and ready to make a good impression. With their guard up, it is your job to get under their skin. If people trust you, they will relax and make it easier for the conversation to flow into topics they have not rehearsed.

For many years, Timpson – the shoe repair business – has recruited entirely on personality. Priding themselves on great service, the outcome of an interview is the direct result of the cultural match of the Mr Men character your personality most resembles. It may sound crazy, but they live by this rule, meaning you can turn up with the best CV in the world but if they think your ‘Mr Grumpy’, your journey will end there.

While Mr Men may not be right for you, uncovering unseen aspects of people’s personality and behaviour during an interview is crucial to making the right choice, so try opening with a request for their personal and professional goals; and how they see the role fitting in with these.

Ask them to tell you about a situation that has brought out the best in them; giving examples of why they feel that makes them ideal for your company.

I like to find out who the smartest person they know is (and why). By getting people to explain this you will not only find out about their networks, but also the values and personality traits they aspire towards.

These are just examples. You will need to develop a series of questions that match your specific values but, whatever you end up with, try to remember that every interview is also a chance to find out more for both parties.

While you aim to work out what makes someone tick, they will most likely be doing the same to you, so make sure you do not forget to give a good impression of your business and the way it operates.

Given we have been in lockdown since January and are only now hoping to emerge, recruitment has dealt with the dip in business confidence and endless uncertainty remarkably well.

In the world of accountancy practices, as soon as the Government announced schools were closing there was an instant impact on the labour market, with a fall in the number of permanent recruits and a slowdown in the growth of temporary placements.

Switching their focus, businesses became rightly absorbed with supporting existing employees and mobilising teams to work from home once more. Alongside the economic unease, jobs vacancies were placed on hold, with hiring decisions stalling, and people becoming reluctant to move.

Fortunately, the trend has been short-lived, and businesses appear to have quickly bounced back from a recruitment point of view.

The publication of a roadmap to recovery, an extension to the furlough scheme, and being able to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel has helped to buoy confidence and resurrect people’s appetite to think and act positively.

In the past month, we have seen a continuous increase in the number of permanent vacancies coming to market. Whether it is firms playing catch up or new investment, only time will tell, but industry research points to this being the case in other sectors too, with demand for temporary recruitment continuing for those a little more uncertain about the future.
We are also seeing an increase in maternity cover on the horizon. The impact of a “COVID baby boom” is leaving companies with the dilemma of whether to replace temporarily now or invest in permanent cover, intending to retain both people in the long-term.

Sadly, we have not yet seen the same signs of recruitment picking up for trainees, but as confidence returns, I hope this will change so skill shortages can be avoided further down the line.

So, with some positivity in job creation, the spotlight inevitably turns to the availability of great people and, so far, the growth is slow. In fact, in a recent KMPG report, London was the only area to see a real increase in this respect.

I know from experience that those looking for a new challenge in the North East are mostly doing so in light of concerns about job security in their current workplace, because of frustration with a lack of career progression, or because of the way they perceive their treatment throughout the pandemic.

Many have also reappraised their priorities in the last 12 months and struggle with the thought of returning to their old work-life-balance. Instead, they want to leave behind an environment where they work too many hours and replace it with something that fits better with their new outlook.

The most common request is a job offering a permanent mix of office and home working.

Of course, all of this is good news if you are a specialist in your field and want a change. If that is the case, you are likely to be fortunate enough to receive multiple job offers, typically in a short space of time.

However, be warned that even with good people in short supply and fierce competition to attract the best talent common, the frugal nature of businesses right now has not meant that starting salaries have skyrocketed.
Companies are holding firm across the board in this respect, with very little increase or decrease on starting salaries month on month.

The emphasis is very much on the role, the opportunity for progression and the culture, which means if you want to be successful as a recruiter, it is very much on you to either show people why you are the best place to work or find someone they trust to help to do it for you.