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Employing nationwide - could it work for you?

Amongst a whole host of “seismic” business changes emerging from our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, approaches to recruitment are changing and look to set to change permanently. With many organisations reluctantly having to let go of staff whilst others frantically hire to keep business coming in, the marketplace has well and truly been shaken up.

Employing nationwide - the pros

How often have you penned a job spec and then had to adjust it to suit the local market? For office-based organisations, pre-coronavirus, location was everything, so the chances were that unless you had a city centre HQ, you may have had to mould the spec around the talent available to you locally.

A recent survey by the BBC revealed that 50 of the UK’s largest employers had no plans in the pipeline to return to the office - and this parallels the number of businesses resigning leases and/ or downsizing their premises. In so many cases, the office is no longer the core and what should have been the core now needs to stand stronger and taller: your culture, values and vision.

In this new arena, it has become viable to look for talent in adjacent towns, cities or even nationally. Video conferencing facilities have proven themselves to be more than adequate at keeping businesses running; and, provided that you continue to mandate and instill healthy working policies around the likes of Zoom or Microsoft Teams to avoid burnout, you effectively have the means of joining up a geographically disparate team.

Casting the recruitment net a bit wider means that you can start to look at your organisational structure in a much more strategic way; hiring people who will help you achieve commercial and cultural goals, rather than replacing an outgoing role with its like-for-like equivalent. In time, we may even see regional differences in salaries flatten out in what could well become a much more level playing marketplace.

All of these things, if managed appropriately, are hugely positive. With an increasing number of our workforce “#OpenToWork” a more open-minded approach to recruitment can ensure that candidates are getting back into truly gainful employment with exciting new businesses that wouldn’t have been on their own radar previously, rather than “making do” locally.

Employing nationwide - the cons

When it comes to potential drawbacks, all of these can be managed and mitigated. The key challenge revolves around employee engagement: effective interviewing, induction, integration and - of course - teamworking.

We do miss so many of the paralinguistic signals from a face-to-face conversation when we use video conferencing instead, which can be harder to read in an interview situation. This makes it more important than ever that you put the interviewee at ease so they bring their true selves to the interview and feel relaxed when they answer the questions. Rethink the tried and tested questions you ask them to assess cultural fit and wherever possible (and guidance-permitting), try to arrange a distanced chat in the flesh!

Would we go as far as advocating employing someone from the opposite end of the country? In many cases, absolutely: if you are confident in your processes and foresee having a large remote working contingent into the future, you could be about to unearth some exciting new candidates.

However, for other organisations with plans to come back together “at some point,” it may be wiser to keep that net cast wider but within commutable parameters, so that your new recruits could perhaps visit HQ once a week. That still leaves a world of opportunity.

The much trickier part lies in genuine team integration. If you want to hire a new leader, they will need face time with your employees to secure their trust and buy in. Likewise, a colleague will need and crave some face-to-face interaction with their peers, to learn about the unique runnings of your organisation and to form some camaraderie. Whilst this might prove more challenging between the “old” and the “new” staff, it is likely that remote recruits and workers will find their support from others who have been brought into the business in a similar fashion. That’s all well and good; but your challenge will then revolve around preventing an “old” versus “new” divide.

Employing nationwide - a middle ground?

Given the diversity of the UK’s businesses, there is no best fit approach to cover all bosses and hiring managers in one go.

If you plan on having a base where staff will work from flexibly or permanently, we suggest looking to the local market where a “best in class” hire is apparent. Where it will pay to look further afield is when you feel that your hiring needs are compromised by a local pool of candidates.

If recruiting on a more national level, this new approach will work for you, if you are entirely transparent about eventual expectations with office working and frequency of days at HQ. Everyone can be a winner here.

Remember that just as salaries may level up nationally, so too will expectations of commensurate benefits for a given role in a given organisation. That doesn’t necessarily equate to a race to the top with salary: employees crave a package that demonstrates you really care about their success and wellbeing in your company. Getting this just right will facilitate recruitment and retention.

What about retention?

The idea of an open market very much works both ways. You may be tempted by candidates from previously off-grid locations; and your current team may well be looking at appealing opportunities in a different town or city. This is where a genuinely effective employee engagement and retention strategy comes in.

If you have confidence in your culture, you will want that to come across in your job specs, at interview and throughout the careers of all new and current staff. Showing them that you care is a solid platform to start from, particularly when so many workers profess to exacerbated mental health concerns tied to remote working.

In responding to this need, you might consider employee healthcare. This is something that could really help your team to be the best version of themselves, in allowing them to dip in and out of physical and mental health services on a self-serve basis, with the security of knowing that all advice given and intervention sought is provided by an impartial third party. Very helpfully, this is the sort of benefit that will stand you out on a job advertisement as well!

Now, more than ever, to base recruitment and retention strategies solely on competitive salaries isn’t prudent: not only is it not viable for so many organisations in the continued wake of the pandemic, it also provides little to no long term incentive for a superstar employee to stay with your organisation. Our Healthcare for Business is an affordable option, at just £11.90 per employee per month, that allows you to look after everyone regardless of whether you’re a big company or a little company. You can get started via our free guide, or alternatively, give us a call for free on 0808 291 3312 to discuss a better way of looking at staff engagement.

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