The past few months have been a rollercoaster, and much like the rest of the industry, we are having to learn and evolve rapidly to ensure we meet employer needs while continuing to support our candidate network.
Our MD Nathan Callaghan has shared his thoughts on the impact of Covid-19 on the Futureheads business model and our biggest learnings as a result.
What impact has Covid-19 had on Futureheads, and what have you learnt over the past few months?
Much like the rest of the recruitment industry, the impact of COVID-19 for us was sharp and painful, a real once-in-a-generation shock to the system. Ever since the early stages of national lockdown back in the spring, we’ve found that the only constant has been uncertainty. The only thing we knew for sure was that things were going to be different and we had to be ready to adapt and change at pace.”
There’s no doubt that it’s been a steep learning curve for everyone in the business but the bottom line is that people still need support in looking for and finding work, now more than ever before.It’s now that recruiters need to demonstrate real value – shortcut transactional recruitment isn’t great in the best of markets and it absolutely isn’t the right thing to do now.
Our values as a business are more relevant than ever; authenticity and ethics underpin everything we do and it’s important for people to see that we are all in this together. We’re all experiencing new things for the first time and learning as we go.
What does that mean for your day-to-day interaction with clients, candidates and your own Futureheads team?
For our clients and customers, we’ve learnt that people may want different things from us at the moment and the key thing is to listen. We won’t be the only business to have recognised that everything has turned on its head and what worked pre-COVID may not work now.
True partnerships are the way forward – we can’t force a way of working that suits us but isn’t right for anyone else, so instead we’ve adopted a far more collaborative approach where both parties are aware of what’s important and the process and outcome needs to reflect that. Constructive feedback loops are a key part of that approach – it’s important to ask for feedback and it’s absolutely vital to listen to it and act on it positively when it comes back without any egos clouding the picture.
Internally, we know that we’re asking our team to adapt rapidly to a constantly changing market. We acknowledge that it’s challenging – expectations are different, which in reality means that the team now needs to engage skills they haven’t had to use for a very long time as we respond to evolving client needs. That’s no easy task, so we’re focussing on finding that tricky balance between asking them to go further and push themselves, while providing them with the support to work through these changes. To help with this, we’ve partnered with Sanctus who specialise in supporting employee teams with their mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
We have also revisited how we approach Equality, Diversity, & Inclusion both internally and with our clients. We’ve partnered with Versiti who are working closely with all our staff as well as the founding and leadership teams on a programme of work designed to deliver an ED&I strategy tailored specifically to the needs of Futureheads and its clients. The work will include a review of current EDI policies and approach both within Futureheads and the wider digital recruitment industry.
What changes have you had to make to the Futureheads business model?
Before making any changes, we first had to ask ourselves those tough questions about who we are as a business and what we needed to do to stay relevant for our customers. It made us realise that there are some core principles that we just won’t change; we still retain our focus on quality and are resisting the urge to engage in a race to the bottom on fees. Of course, we’re listening to our customers and being sensitive to their challenges and the support we can give them when it comes to pricing, but it’s hugely important that we continue to demonstrate the benefit that our value-led process can deliver to clients, and quality still sits at the heart of everything we do.
There are two central elements to our Futureheads product offering that are enabling us to continue to deliver an incredible customer experience, no matter how we engage: firstly, access to a network that we’ve built over ten years of working with digital, and secondly, our approach to how we identify and select talent.
As a business, we have vast experience working through periods of significant change for the digital sector – although admittedly not quite on this level – and for a number of disciplines we’ve seen a swing from it being a candidate-led market to an employer-led market. All this helps us to truly understand and engage with the market.
We’re now providing training to our customers on how to remotely hire digital talent and we’re giving them the opportunity to tap directly into our experience. Having access to pools of talent is one thing but it’s also important to know how to assess, select and onboard that, particularly when the process is all now largely remote or when you’re hiring a profile of an individual that’s new to you.
We’re supporting our customers in the identification of their candidate pool, using fair and consistent methods to assess competence and then assisting in onboarding. In these socially-distanced WFH times, we’re also constantly evolving our ‘on-site’ service so we can still embed ourselves in the client set-up and seamlessly become part of their business without being physically on-site.
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