Update: what does work look like after the pandemic?

Last May, we commented on a Quartz article, What does work look like after the pandemic? Our guidance was that company leaders should prepare for an increasingly virtual workplace. The pandemic would force manager sentiment to catch-up with candidates’ desires for remote work and flexible arrangements. The pandemic is not over, but we’ve finally hung the 2021 calendar on the wall. Where do we stand? Here’s what we saw in 2020 and an update on what we expect work to look like in the future.

Looking back at 2020

When office workers went home in March, we were concerned that our clients would stop hiring. Remarkably, they did not. By and large, the need to hire won out over the need to meet in person. There were hiccups with remote interviews and it was hard to get comfortable conducting final interviews remotely, but employers’ message was clear – “we need talent.”

The combination of remote work and hiring demand tilted the tables strongly toward high-value, passive talent (often to the dismay of active candidates who were out of work). Uncertainty related to the pandemic and remote onboarding led to increasing conservatism amongst most passive candidates and significant handwringing amongst those who made the leap to a new opportunity. The sticky question persisted: can one build real bonds with their new team and make a strong impression over Zoom?

Our clients were uniformly empathetic and willing to be flexible. The strings of old pre-pandemic knots loosened as managers became more flexible on re/location, onboarding, and long-term work arrangements. We hired several candidates in 2020 who will not live in the same city or state as their team in 2021. While this may sound unremarkable to some, it’s a new leaf for banking, trading, and investment teams. Employers have been especially flexible on relocation timetables as the need to be in-person for onboarding disappeared.

Looking ahead

As a reminder, candidates were already asking for flexibility before 2020’s great transformation. Managers were reluctant to grant it, preferring to have new hires in the office, at the desk, and working alongside the team. We believe the new reality will flexible, but not to an extreme – it will be balanced. We expect increasing comfort with virtual solutions to some problems and more flexibility towards remote work, but the value of in-person collaboration and socialization cannot be understated. Here’s what we expect:

Zoom (interviews) are here to stay

While still imperfect, video conferencing and collaboration software proved its value and is only becoming more robust. We expect more work will happen online whether collaborators are working from home or down the hallway.

Interviews will be more flexible and easier to coordinate. Preliminary interviews will be virtual-first with the option to arrange an onsite, while final interviews happen in-person once again. Candidates will save travel time and PTO as many employers – though not all – will see the sense in conducting early stage interviews virtually. Candidates will be given the option to hike into the office if they choose (and if their interviewers are not working remotely). Candidates should expect to suit-up for onsite interviews with executives and hiring managers, but Zoom and Teams interviews are here to stay for everything preceding.

Virtual onboarding left a void

It is extremely difficult to form a relationship and build bonds with new teammates online. Expect some aspects of onboarding and training to remain virtual, while the desire to collaborate and build relationships will draw teams back together. We expect to hear this desire to be expressed from both sides.

Back to the whiteboard for critical project teams

In the words of one manager, virtual worked in 2020, but they will tackle critical problems more quickly when they are back at the whiteboard.

“We proved that we can do it remotely, but I know we can solve some problems much faster when we gather around the whiteboard and figure it out together.”

New teams and those leading critical initiatives will be some of the first to be back onsite and working at their projects together.

More flexibility, but no WFH revolution

Bottom line, we expect most employers to allow new hires to work from home at least one day per week, and many will give more. Some employers will break new ground by hiring candidates who work remotely but live within commuting distance of the office. That is, close enough to be present for critical meetings and some facetime.

However, we do not expect a WFH revolution. In our experience, candidates who live and work remotely eventually express the desire to be with a team again. We expect to hear that desire in chorus when normalcy returns. At the same time, employers will be cautious about their location strategy, especially with respect to impact hires. We expect more flexibility on a week to week basis, but most candidates will be expected to live near the office to maintain a strong connection to their team. In the end, all parties should be better off.

What do you think? Let us know!

Sean Locke is Managing Partner and Founder of TLG |

Tom Hudson is a Partner and Head of TLG’s Quantitative Services practice |

The Locke Group (TLG) is a specialist executive search firm which has served the financial industry since 2003. As a boutique, we are deeply invested in our clients – our care for their experience and the experience of their candidates is second to none.

And keep an eye out for our upcoming 2021 Candidate Experience Manifesto, where we’ll lay out the keys to crafting an excellent candidate experience. Find our inaugural 2020 publication here.

To emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, companies should start reskilling their workforces now (McKinsey & Co.)

To emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, companies should start reskilling their workforces now

Companies and their employees must respond to the rapidly changing conditions that the COVID-19 crisis has thrust upon the workplace. Firms must help their people adapt and evolve to those changes. By addressing these issues now companies will be stronger and prepared for future disruptions.

This article published by McKinsey suggests these six steps to reskilling:

  • Rapidly identify the skills your recovery business model depends on
  • Build employee skills critical to your new business model
  • Launch tailored learning journeys to close critical skill gaps
  • Start now, test rapidly, and iterate
  • Act like a small company to have a big impact
  • Protect learning budgets (or regret it later)

(II) How far will asset management pay fall?

(Institutional Investor) How far will asset management pay fall? 

Johnson Associates, a compensation consultancy, gives projections for 2020 bonus expectations (relative to 2019), with down numbers across the board (almost). Private wealth and traditional active managers can expect 75-80% of their 2019 numbers, while hedge fund and private equity professionals will be down less (in that order). In each category, exceptions can be made based on the size or strategy of the company, with some macro and even-driven strategies as notable outperformers in Q1. In our experience, individual performance is a significant driver in line with firm-wide performance.

Up on the 18th floor, equity and fixed income sales/trading teams at the Banks should look forward to a 15-20% increase in bonus incentives.

(NY Times) We get and give lots of bad *career* advice. Here’s how to stop

(NYTimes) We Get, and Give, Lots of Bad Advice. Here’s How to Stop.

In this short read in the Times, Adam Grant, an Organization Psychologist, author, and Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania provides basic tips on how to give better advice and make better decisions ourselves. Grant’s recommendations are 100% applicable to career and recruitment related advice, so we find ourselves thinking about how we’ll best apply it to client and candidate conversations.

As Grant says, we get a lot of bad advice on the receiving end. Sometimes it’s because we’re asking Grandma, but more often it’s because we’re just asking the most accessible person or the person we like the most. The best outcome isn’t guarantee in those scenarios. And when we give advice, we sometimes depend too much on our own experience or successes.

When giving advice, Grant recommends avoiding a single recommendation. Rather, help the person you are advising on a career decision by simply giving them perspective or uncovering blind spots. It will help to clarify their thinking and help them to make the best decision, themselves.

If you did make a recommendation, would you follow your own advice, yourself? When you’re in need of career or recruitment advice, Grant recommends stepping back and thinking about things from a third-person perspective. What would you tell someone else in a similar predicament? He says, “listen to the advice you would give to others. It’s usually the advice you need to take yourself.”

From our experience, people make their own decisions – rarely do they jump blindly at the recommendation of others. We are helpful as consultants by providing information, asking questions, and sometimes challenging their perspective, but otherwise resisting the urge to control the situation. Now, if we can apply the same rigor to our own business, we’ll be on our way. Please keep in touch with us throughout 2020 if you need help, have help to give, or simply want to hear about the challenging recruitment problems we’re tackling.