COVID not only changed the way we work, but it also altered the balance of power in the workplace.
In sync with the adoption of new technology, reduced travel, and shift in working models, one of the more surprising differences, as we came out of the epidemic, was a reversal of control in the workplace and, in particular, the recruitment market.
Following a low period for new vacancies, millions of people around the globe suddenly chose to reassess their priorities and, in many cases left their current roles in search of a better work-life balance. Simultaneously, firms began expanding quickly and, in an instant, power transferred from employers to employees.
With savvy leaders responding quickly to protect key recruits, they inadvertently opened an opportunity for people to strengthen their position at work by negotiating salary increases and more flexibility for their roles.
Without people to fill the rising vacancies, it meant that skilled workers could enjoy a position of power as they knew they could look elsewhere and quickly find someone willing to offer what they want.
The impact of the downturn
Fast forward to today, and as inflation soars and the cost-of-living rises, in real terms, many people are facing the equivalent of a pay cut.
Regrettably, the economic downturn is also pushing some firms toward redundancies as they restructure in the aftermath of rapid expansion. This has shifted the equilibrium of power back toward businesses.
As employers tighten their belts, several global companies are already flexing their newfound confidence by requesting to bring employees back into the office environment daily, which is a brave and significant cultural shift.
All things are not equal
If history is anything to go by, the impact of power moving back to employers will not be the same for everyone.
In the face of a global recession, typically it is lower-skilled roles or people starting out in their careers that are the hardest hit. As good jobs become trickier to find, experience takes over and becomes ever more important.
In contrast, where there remains an acute shortage of skills, competition for the best people will continue with top talent holding all the cards. That means in professional industries like practice accountancy, employees are likely to maintain a wide choice of roles and enjoy the opportunity to seek higher salaries and improved benefits.
What does it mean to you?
When the balance of power lies with employers, in general, the consequences will be unequal. Some workers will keep the flexibility and benefits they gained during COVID, while others will have to accept whatever their employer offers.
Whether this culminates in a return to pre-pandemic working conditions, I am not sure, as some of the changes made during that time will be difficult to reverse and motivationally detrimental.
If you are an employee currently at the grace of your employer, however, now might be a good time to consider returning to the office voluntarily. Creating closer bonds and spending more time face-to-face with your colleagues could be an important step toward feeling continually secure in your job and progressing during challenging times.
As an employer, if budgets are tight, it is greater flexibility that will soon become your key battleground for talent. Companies that remain conscious of employees’ needs will be the most successful at retaining and attracting talent so, even if you have the desire to reduce workplace flexibility, I suggest you are very careful when you approach it. The wider implications of being too aggressive are significant.
In the end, the best piece of advice I can offer is to try and find time to think about how you feel. What – apart from money – would attract you to join a company? Why would you stay with one? By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes you will make smarter decisions, and that is the best way to succeed.
Last month I spoke about questions to avoid asking in an interview. One of the most neglected aspects of interview success, this month, I’m exploring the questions that will give you the upper hand and help you stand out from the crowd.
When it comes to the end of an interview, the best approach is to ask four or five thoughtful questions that demonstrate you are serious about the role, have done your homework, and are someone who is proactive and will add value to the team.
While it is important to keep your eye on the clock, so you don’t overrun, you need to take the opportunity to impress with a series of smart, considerate, and well-researched questions or comments.
When pre-planning, it pays to consider your motivations. Whether it’s the company culture, professional development, or their approach to sustainability, the answers you get should help you to decide if the job and organisation are a good fit for you.
Learn more about the people interviewing you:
- Why did you decide to work for the organisation?
- What is your favourite part about working here?
- What excites you about the future of this company?
- What do you believe is necessary to succeed at the company?
- What are some of the company’s recent accomplishments?
Find out all you can about the role, making sure questions cover new ground:
- What are the first projects I’ll be working on?
- What are the most challenging aspects of this job?
- Are there any functions not mentioned in the job description?
- Do you expect any change to the role in the future?
- What training can I expect in my first week?
Look for a company culture that aligns with your values:
- Are there ambitious growth plans for the next few years?
- How has the company changed over recent years?
- How would you describe the culture of the office?
- Does the business help staff achieve a healthy work-life balance?
- Is there any volunteering or charitable service opportunities?
Training and development should be tied to personal career goals:
- How will my performance be measured?
- What do you hope I will achieve in the six months here?
- Is there support for professional development in this role?
- Does the role have a planned path for future advancement?
- When I have settled into the role, what opportunities are there for career growth?
The people you work with will have a big impact on your success and happiness:
- Can you tell me about the team I’ll be part of?
- What other departments will I work closely with?
- What are your biggest concerns about the team right now?
- How does the team contribute to the overall success of the business?
- Does anyone on the team get together outside of work?
An interview is a two-way process. With the knowledge gained in preparation, you should be ready to ask a selection of questions that not only interest you but show you are aware of the challenges and opportunities you will face in the new role.
The further along in the hiring process you are, the more crucial this becomes. Try to match the questions to the people you are speaking with and pitch the level accordingly.
Ultimately, businesses want to work with candidates who go above and beyond the basic requirements. By asking questions that show you fit that description, not only will you impress the interviewer, but it can also mean the difference between being offered the job and not.
When helping somebody to find a new job, I offer market and salary advice and support them with everything from their CV content to their interview technique, and contract negotiations.
Throughout the process, many factors can affect the success of a job search, but it is during the interview that both parties genuinely discover if the chemistry is right.
The best interviews are always a two-way affair where both sides are not only selling themselves but also deciding whether they think there is a future together.
From an applicant’s point of view, in my experience, it is the people who are prepared, have done the research, and are keen to make a good impression that comes out on top so, even if you’re not yet passionate about the business in question, you need to show you are.
Assuming all goes well, at the end of your interview you will be asked whether you have any questions for the interviewer. Never decline. By opting not to ask a question, the final impression you leave will be that you either weren’t engaged in the conversation or you haven’t done your homework and aren’t interested in the business.
It pays to think of questions beforehand, however, be careful what you say, as there are some questions you cannot afford to ask, including:
Something Google could answer.
A common mistake people make when trying to show a curious mind is asking more about what the company does, who the competition is, or what clients the firm works with. Any questions you could have conceivably discovered the answer to already need to be avoided. Before an interview, it is your job to learn as much as possible about the company and the last thing you want to do is to come across as being unprepared.
Anything salary or benefits related.
The terms of employment are yet to be discussed so, while you may think questions like “What would my starting salary be?”, “How often would I get paid?”, “When is the next performance review?”, “Would I get healthcare benefits?” show the employer that you are keen, the reality is that they only serve to make you look focused on the wrong things.
Questions starting with the word “Why”.
People are predisposed to take a defensive position when faced with a question beginning with “Why”. Instead, try to rephrase your queries to be less confrontational i.e., rather than “Why did the company do …”, try “What is your opinion on …”.
What happened to the person before me?
Knowing what happened to the previous person in a job is important but, as tempting as it may be, this is information your recruitment consultant should be able to supply and not something you need to ask. Hopefully, it will be offered during the interview but, if not, it is best to steer clear of the topic and pick it up with your consultant, as you don’t want to give the impression that you have concerns about the opportunity.
Do you monitor internet usage, work emails, or social media?
While a valid concern, this is something best left unsaid. Often, it gives the impression you have something to hide and, on a similar note, in the lead-up to an interview, it is also wise to review your social media accounts to make sure there is nothing critical of your current employer or any posts that could be conceived negatively when viewed out of context.
While most recruiters agree that “Thank you, but I don’t have any questions” is the worst possible response when the tables of an interview are turned, your goal is to build on the rapport you have created and ask a few smart and thoughtful questions that not only show you have been paying attention during the conversation, but you have done your homework.
Inspiration can arise from anywhere. It could be a place you visit, someone you meet or, more recently for me, a movie I watched.
Hopefully, Top Gun: Maverick needs no introduction but, without wanting to highlight my age too clearly, it is a famous quote from the 1986 film that led me to think about how “the need for speed” is vital if you want to become the best Navy fighter pilot in the US, but it is equally important in the (slightly less glamourous) world of recruitment.
And, while it is not a death-defying mission into the unknown, presently, competition to attract talent is as fierce as I can recall in over 20 years of practising recruitment in the North East.
Businesses’ intention to bring new people in has soared well above pre-pandemic levels and continues to head skyward, but the severe shortage of quality candidates brings a serious challenge, even if you have a wide network of people at your fingertips.
A sentiment supported by the CIPD’s most recent Labour Market Report, spring’s most popular response to hiring difficulties was to raise starting salaries. An obvious but short-term fix, the approach comes with a warning as there is a limit on how far you can go before negatively affecting the morale of your existing team.
Encouragingly, the firms I am advising are also looking at other approaches to tackle the challenges. Upskilling the existing workforce, more flexible methods of operating, and a focus on improving job quality are ways used to influence decision-making but, from a recruiter’s perspective, the speed you engage and take decisions often correlates directly with the rate of success.
You see, generally speaking, the best person for a role is unlikely to be actively looking for new openings in the job market. The perfect people always have options, and it is often only through existing relationships that they can be enticed to explore a new opportunity.
Now, more than ever, the relationship between business and recruitment consultants is key. If you can find the right partner, it will allow you to exploit their market knowledge, access their network, and capitalise on their expertise, reputation, and ability to generate interest in your vacancy in the right circles. From your side, you need to be comfortable trusting the advice you receive, as you may need to be flexible on the final solution, which is not always as bad as it sounds.
Once you choose to engage in a candidate-driven market, you need to be prepared to give time to the process and make fast decisions. As recruiters, we realise you are busy and that hiring is often an addition to your core responsibilities, but the more time and importance you place on the process, the better long-term results you will see.
When an impressive candidate’s curiosity is piqued, it is important to move through the stages of recruitment with speed, not haste. This might require breaking the rules a little to streamline more traditional, drawn-out recruitment processes and protocols but, right now, slow hiring means only the average will remain in your race and making fast decisions reflects a dynamic corporate culture that will endear the best talent to you even more.
So, if you like someone and want to stay ahead of your competitors, my advice is to “feel the need for speed”. Act fast and invite them in for an interview and, if it goes well, don’t delay in making them an offer. After all, your company is only as good as the people it employs.
Almost one in every five workers (18%) believe they are “extremely likely” to change their employer within the next 12 months.
According to a survey of more than 2,000 people from various industries, 32% also acknowledged they were “moderately” or “slightly likely” to make a switch, suggesting half of UK employees are actively considering their future.
That is a sobering thought for business leaders at a time when we are witnessing a growing number of new job opportunities together with chronic skills shortages and a lack of candidates with relevant experience.
It is a dangerous mix and one that has been driving fierce competition and applying pressure to the labour market to the point where accomplished people regularly receive multiple job offers and, in a bid to influence their decision, remarkably high starting salaries.
The paradox of an unavoidable market consequence is, however, that in return for continued dedication, existing team members are subject to soaring inflation and cost of living increases that comfortably outstrip their salary growth. So, can we blame them for being tempted by the opportunity to make more money elsewhere in a similar role?
In many ways, a move appears to have no risks, but I would offer a note of caution to anyone whose main motivation for change is an “increase in pay”.
While salary will always influence, in my experience, it will not always help you make the right decision. Other factors should be considered, factors that if ignored may mean you miss something worth a lot more than money.
REMEMBER WHY YOU WANTED TO CHANGE.
When faced with a dilemma, take yourself back to the original reasons you began your job search. Amongst the flattery of an offer, these reasons can be overlooked but remain critical to being happy now and in future.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT ON YOUR CAREER?
Before any move, take a step back and think carefully about the big picture. The decision you make will influence your direction of travel and your ability to progress in the future. The best way to do this is to forget about the salary and base your choice on the role, company, and potential for development.
CALCULATE THE REAL FINANCIAL IMPACT.
If you are fortunate enough to have multiple job offers, keep in mind your current salary, and calculate the impact any financial increase will bring after tax and over 12 months. Often, the difference is not as large as it seems and may help with your decision.
WILL YOU RECEIVE TRAINING AND SUPPORT?
To keep evolving you need to keep your skills fresh, but this does not necessarily mean a study support package – although that will factor into your decision-making. Think about day-to-day training. Is there mentor support available? Will your role develop new skills that move you closer to your end goal? And does the company have the resources to support that?
HOW FLEXIBLE IS THE ROLE?
A healthy work-life balance is important and being able to work from home or mix your time between home and the office may be a priority for you. Whatever you prefer, make sure the company matches your favoured working pattern and expectations.
DO YOUR VALUES MATCH?
A pay rise may lure you in but to stay engaged you need to be enthusiastic about the company’s vision and purpose, and how your role fits into that. Ask yourself whether you are interested in what the organisation does, whether you align with its purpose, or are simply being tempted by the money.
Ultimately, the choice is yours but whatever you decide, you will be spending a lot of time in this organisation. If you are unhappy, it will have a significant impact on your work and general wellbeing, so be sure you are moving to a place that satisfies the reasons you wanted to move in the long term.
The job market has endured a lot of upheaval in the past two years but, for now, it is being firmly driven by candidate availability.
In the world of accountancy, there are far more opportunities in Public Practice than people who are looking for a new challenge.
It is fabulous news for ambitious, skilled professionals who can present themselves well. They have a pick of fantastic positions, and a new job offer is never far away, but this can also become a slightly double-edged sword.
After 20 years working in the North East recruitment market, right now, when a good candidate reaches out to me and is sure they want to move, quite often I can help them to secure a job offer within a matter of days. And for many, this is far too fast.
From the time they decided to start looking to when they receive the offer, they haven’t had the time to feel like they have explored their options properly and, while I would only put them forward for something I think fits with what it is they said they wanted, moving jobs is a big decision and they need to be sure the offer is the right one for them.
When speaking to people about this, I always ask them to consider several different elements before making their decision:
1. Firstly, take a moment to make sure you have enough information to be able to make a choice. Have you researched the company thoroughly? Did you ask all of the questions you wanted to at the interview? Once a role has been offered, don’t be afraid to ask for further information. You could even arrange to go into the office for a tour so you can get a feel for the place and culture. At this stage, you are in the driving seat, so do whatever it takes to give you the peace of mind you need.
2. Be honest with yourself and discuss any doubts you have, however small they seem, with the business, your recruiter, or family and friends.
3. Once you have an offer, go back to your original reasons for leaving your current role. Consider carefully whether you are satisfied that the new job and business is going to meet your objectives.
4. It is very easy to get carried away with the financials. A great offer may sway your decision making, but try to remember that salaries can change, especially if you are in the right company and doing a good job.
5. Think about the long-term. Do you want progression and if so, is there a path in place for you? What is it that you ultimately want to achieve, and how will having this experience on your CV influence your options in three to five years?
6. Try not to be too influenced by emotions. You must put yourself at the centre of the decision-making process and think practically, as the impact of your happiness at work has an enormous bearing on so much of your life.
7. We all have the best of intentions when it comes to work-life balance but will the new role give you the balance you want? If not, do the benefits outweigh the sacrifice?
8. A little compromise can sometimes be okay, providing that it aligns with your bigger picture and goals. This is particularly useful to remember if you are considering a number of different offers at once.
Above all else, a new career move should excite you. That’s why I would also say don’t be afraid to listen to your gut a little too. You know yourself better than anyone so, if it feels right deep down, and the rational analysis checks out, then it’s time to make the change.
At this time of year, my work and life tend to become especially hectic, and I don’t think I’m alone.
For many people, the nearer we edge toward the sanctuary of a well-earned festive break, the more this most wonderful time of the year transforms into one of the most stressful.
Whether it’s linked to the pressure of sales targets, the financial year-end, or the need to lock down new budgets and plans, the calendar’s end never fails to instigate a deep desire in people to clear any outstanding jobs and tick them off their list before they can even begin to contemplate relaxing.
This year, when you add into the melting pot two years of constant change, irregular holidays, the blurred work-life boundaries created by homeworking, and the pressure of organising a magical Christmas at home, it is all too easy to see why December and January are the months that carry the highest risk of people burning out or losing the enthusiasm to work for their current employer.
What can you do to help yourself?
A certain level of stress may be unavoidable but, even if you are working long hours, burnout is preventable.
Firstly, there are some common warning signs you should look out for, including an increasing number of errors at work, higher than usual levels of anxiety and worry, being constantly tired, or becoming disengaged and moody.
If this sounds like you, then it’s time to sprinkle a little bit of joy back into your life. Start by stepping off the daily treadmill, even if only for a short time, to look after your health and well-being:
Not only is exercise good for physical health, but it is also good for mental health and gives a positive emotional boost.
- Eat Well
Eating healthily and, if possible, including foods in your diet that act as natural antidepressants, like those rich in Omega-3, can also help to lift your mood.
- Get some sleep
Resting your body and resetting your mind is essential for your welfare, and that means getting into a healthy and regular sleep routine.
- Ask for help
During stressful times, it’s so important to reach out for help when you need it and share your problems instead of burying them and letting them build.
I know it’s not easy – and I need to take a lot of this advice myself – but these four widely accepted pieces of wisdom should help to navigate you safely to the Christmas break.
If you still feel unhappy, however, the holidays also offer the momentary pause you need to reflect, and I would start with four key questions; where you are, what is important to you, where do you want to be, and are you happy with the balance between home, family, work, and time for yourself.
They are big questions, so you must be brave and honest with yourself. If you struggle, try chatting openly with family and friends, and thinking about what makes you truly happy. The answers to what you do next won’t be far away from there.
Personally, I like to use the downtime Christmas brings to be with my family and plan for the new year by creating lists and setting new goals and routines. This helps me to be clear about what it is I want to achieve in the coming months and how I plan to make it happen.
This year, I have a feeling it could lead to introducing and sticking to some new work-life boundaries, but whatever it means for you, don’t be afraid of change. It is always better to try something new than settle for something that doesn’t make you happy. Not many people regret making a choice, but plenty regret doing nothing at all.
Millions of people around the world are re-evaluating their working lives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commonly known as the ‘Great Resignation’, this growing movement of reflection continues to drive record numbers of workers to voluntarily head for the door and join a job market brim-full of labour shortages and rising unemployment.
Should I stay or go?
Many different inspirations can trigger the search for a new job. When compiled by the pressures of a global epidemic, permanent changes to working environments, or even a new appreciation for the ephemeral nature of life, it is no surprise to see so many people reassessing their situation.
Like most things, jobs have ups and downs and, while it is easy to get swept along in a sea of change, here are some thoughts to help you to decide whether it’s the right time to make a change, or not.
- Know your purpose.
Whatever the catalyst for change, when working out the best way forward, the most important thing to do is to make sure you understand what it is that truly motivates you.
We spend more than half our waking life at work, so getting satisfaction should be the priority. If you aren’t happy then maybe it is time to weigh up your options.
- Be honest with yourself.
Start by asking yourself questions along the lines of What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What do you like about your current job? What is important to you?
You need to work out what matters most in the long-term and, if you’re lucky enough to match this with your strengths, it should become a lot easier to figure out the direction to your goals.
- People grow out of even the best jobs.
Sometimes you need a change or a new challenge to reinvigorate yourself, but before you begin to search, make sure you take time to think about your current role, your employer, and your prospects.
Does your company’s ambition match your own? Do you get on with your colleagues? What does your boss think of you? What do you think of your boss?
There’s a lot to be said for being appreciated and trusted in the workplace. If you feel empowered and have autonomy, you need to make sure that will remain if you decide to move on.
- Work-life balance sometimes requires compromise.
Try to avoid making decisions based purely on money. While it always pays to be aware of your market value and the quality of your total package, sometimes you may have to compromise a little on some of the wider benefits like holiday entitlement, pension payments, or bonuses, if you want to positively affect your overall level of job satisfaction.
That’s not always the case, but key questions to consider should be whether you have flexibility at work? Are you supported when you need it? And what is your current work-life balance like?
- Think long-term.
No job is completely perfect, so it’s important to think about the bigger picture. Consider the experience you’re gaining, the networks you’re exposed to, and the kudos you get from working where you do. This should all help you understand what to do next.
Is the grass always greener?
The grass is not always greener but if you’re not happy you need to make a change of some kind rather than live with regret.
The decision to move on comes down to knowing what you want and understanding what your employer can offer, so, don’t forget to speak to them and give them the chance to change things.
It could simply be that you’re stuck in a rut and it’s not as bad as it seems once you adopt a more positive approach but, whatever you decide, be confident and don’t be put off by the fear of change because the rewards from finding a job you love can be life-changing.
There can be any number of reasons to kick start a new job search but, whatever the trigger, the most important thing to do is to understand your motivation for change.(more…)
Making sure you make good career choices is crucial. Here is how you know if a new job offer is right for you.