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.
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 | email@example.com
Tom Hudson is a Partner and Head of TLG’s Quantitative Services practice | firstname.lastname@example.org
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.