Five months since the country initially went into lock down, and from a recruitment standpoint, it feels like a lot has changed, yet time has stood still.
From speaking to clients, the past couple of weeks have been spent in anticipation of September. Contrary to the most recent government announcement, September was spoken about as the time when normality would resume. Schools would be back open, and in turn offices would slowly but surely be able to increase the number of staff returning in. It is far easier to interview, hire, onboard and train staff face-to-face. This is mostly because it is familiar, it’s what every manager knows. Therefore, an overarching consensus has been: We will resume hiring when we have more visibility on when we will be back to the office.
In preparation for such, “business as usual” recruitment has begun to resume – with further roles coming live or “awaiting sign-off” across Underwriting, Claims, Advisory / Consultancy, and Operations. Saying that, what has really changed, and what can we expect going forward?
What are companies doing?
Nearly all of the roles I am currently recruiting for are ones that existed pre-lockdown, or else the need for said role had been identified pre-lockdown, but had the pause button pressed on them during the uncertainty of the last few months.
Timelines to close out processes with candidates have gone from one extreme to the other. “We need this person yesterday!” has to be one of the most commonly used phrases when a client is seeking to make a hire. This would imply an urgent decision is needed to be made, however between red tape, decision-makers on annual leave, and just typical chaos of day-to-day business as usual – Recruitment processes, even seemingly urgent ones, can take their time.
In the past couple of months, I have had clients need to seek approval from numerous layers of management, across numerous countries, in order to get the necessary sign-off to make even one hire – Something which was rarely the case pre-Covid. On the other hand, I have had clients hold multiple round interviews on the very same day – or scheduling interviews with less than 24 hours’ notice – in order to close out processes within days of the first CV being sent in. Again, that was once a very rare occurrence.
A few general observations:
- In terms of recruiting, it has been equally as busy within general insurance, as well as within the life and pensions space.
- Insurers have been busier than brokers – but there is still a healthy level of recruitment activity from brokers also.
- The majority of furlough and redundancy cases in the insurance space (of which there has been very few to begin with), were within brokers as opposed to insurers.
- Recruitment for the reinsurance space has been relatively steady throughout the Covid crisis with more “business critical” positions arising in reinsurance than in other areas.
What are our candidates saying?
Mirroring the client side – a lot of candidates I have that are on the market at the moment, were also on the market pre-Covid, however decided to stay put understandably due to the uncertainty.
For some, the Covid crisis has undoubtedly heightened existing problems which may have existed. Perhaps these centred around communication, or micromanagement, or opportunities to climb the ladder which may now seem further away. Hence the desire to move on may still be there or may have indeed heightened.
By and large in the Insurance space, there has been very little candidates complaining about their employers’ reaction to the Covid crisis. The attitude from clients has very much been to get on with things, and it appears that the necessary action – such as setting up WFH, establishing new processes particularly around communication, and designing safety measures for returning to the office – were taken in a timely manner. The effectiveness of such measures will likely vary from company to company.
But there are always exceptions to the rule – and so there are new candidates to the market who have reported being overstretched by current responsibilities, feel the need to constantly be on-call, struggling with maintaining a work-life balance, and feeling isolated from their team.
The most complaint has been that of being overstretched, which is unsurprising given that the majority of “new” roles called in, are ones that existed pre-Covid. Brokers focused towards SME Commercial Insurance, particularly with a client base in leisure, tourism and hospitality, are the most obvious casualty in the market. In most other areas of Insurance, business as usual has been as busy as usual – if not more so.
Insurance as a sector relies heavily on activity from other sectors. As the economy reopens, there will no doubt be more and more work for the Insurance industry. The need for insurance did not diminish during Covid – It just changed. Less claim activity – more advisory services needed.
Blended home / office working
Very few of our clients in this industry offered Work From Home prior to the crisis – If they did, it was reserved for senior or long-standing employees, and it was normally a day here and there, or 1-2 days per week in the most flexible cases. It was far from common.
A lot of smaller brokers have opened their doors again – with a few saying that they had never closed them. But as to be expected, nearly all the large multinationals are still at home.
Going forward, it is likely that the majority of larger firms will adopt a blended approach between home and office-based working going forward. Although rent is not known to be cheap in Dublin, where the majority of activity in this sector takes place. There will be many companies both in this sector and others, that will face the difficult decision of keeping physical doors open – or cutting losses with regards to office space. Furthermore, it would not be surprising to see more companies moving operations outside Dublin over time.
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