In this guest article, IT consultants Blue Saffron discuss their key ‘lockdown learnings’ for recruitment businesses.
Like the rest of the IT industry, we have been under pressure to relocate and restructure our customers’ IT services. In short, we have been dealing with one of the biggest shifts in working practice in the last 100 years—and what a rollercoaster it has been.
Five key challenges
Following conversations with suppliers, customers, consultants and industry observers, we took time to reflect on how we supported hundreds of companies and thousands of users during the pandemic.
We identified five key areas which every recruitment business needs to address:
- Remote working and the redefined workplace
- Creating a more agile business model
- Improved information security
- Data led decisions and automation
- Rethinking your customer experience.
The race to remote working
The first lockdown saw a mad dash by businesses to adopt home working, but many firms found that they were ill prepared. In the rush, compromises and short-term fixes were commonplace.
In the first two weeks of lockdown, we assessed, constructed and tested software for hundreds of individuals to get them securely online. We also dealt with unstable domestic broadband connections and ensured optimal configuration, while recommending equipment upgrades where necessary.
The frenzy to procure laptops led to a global shortage, so we repurposed office PCs as remote access devices, offering an immediate and much-needed remedy.
What is happening now?
Now that things have settled down, recruitment businesses are revisiting what their workplace will look like in the future. In our survey, 52% of respondents said that 10-25% of the workforce will continue to work from home over the next year.
Main issues include the future of home working, workforce retention and what life looks beyond furlough. Technology will undoubtedly play a larger part in how firms operate, which will naturally mean that their relationship with IT suppliers will be crucial.
The benefits of an agile working model are clear as remote working has seen improvements to productivity and the work/life balance of employees. There are also considerable cost savings on property rents, travel and infrastructure spending.
Systems and security
In a post-Covid world, cyber-security protection is essential. In our survey, 53% of respondents felt it was one of the biggest challenges to adapting to lockdown, while 74% reported that their own customers were concerned about cybersecurity.
With 65% of companies using cloud and hosting capabilities during lockdown, there is an increasing demand to use agile technology in the longer term.
Systems need to encourage communication and collaboration between staff, with benefits to both business productivity and the mental health of employees. While video conferencing is widely adopted, not many businesses train staff to use software to its full potential.
Shifting phone-based activity from a central office to remote locations has highlighted the convenience and security of extending collaboration tools to allow phone contact (such as the voice function on Microsoft Team).
While corners were cut in the early stages of lockdown, recruitment companies need to conduct an equipment audit and to identify where investment needs to be made.
How has customer experience changed?
Customer behaviour has fundamentally changed over the past few months, so companies must understand and identify the emerging customer trends and patterns. By adapting their customer experience, recruitment businesses can support their customers better through this time forging a lasting relationship.
Digital engagement, safety and data analytics will all play a key role in delivering an exceptional customer experience. 65% of respondents admitted that responsive and reliable support was the most important attribute of a supplier of technology services.
Internal or external support?
Businesses may need to make some difficult decisions on how their IT support will evolve in the years to come. More than 50% of companies are considering external support agencies, whether in the form of a partnership, hybrid model or an ad hoc project based engagement.
What is clear is that changing working practices is a topic for hot debate and one that 75% of companies are actively engaged in. While some firms have confirmed that remote working is likely to remain in place, others are keen to adopt a mix of office, shared workspaces and home working.
Whatever solution you choose for your business, you will require a combination of a clear vision, flexibility, a robust infrastructure and quality IT support.
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