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March 2, 2021

A New Type of Leader: COVID Solutions and Strategies That Are Here to Stay

This is the last installment of a four part series on the trends, solutions, and strategies that have proven themselves to be far more than Band-Aid solutions to many of the challenges faced in the year 2020.

Here we’ll be taking a look at how a new type of leadership has emerged; one that trades the traditional manager-worker dynamic for something more nuanced, meaningful and productive.

The evolution of leadership

You clock in, you clock out. You’re a number, not a name. Employment is a privilege bestowed by the company. For much of recent history, these sorts of ideas informed the mindset of leaders. The worker was the lesser, the leader the more.

A few decades ago, when staffing firms and other businesses began to understand the value of employer/recruiter branding in attracting the best talent, the manager-worker dynamic began to transform. The values of a mutually beneficial relationship began to be recognized - one in which hard work was rewarded, and workplace culture was put up in lights.

In some ways COVID-19 threatened to undo this good work. As business began to work remotely and virtually, many staffing leaders felt a loss of control. How would a lack of office impact the culture of the organization? And how would that in turn impact how the brand is perceived?

Many of these issues were mitigated through technology, like using Zoom for both morning huddles and Friday night drinks. But if a large chunk of the workforce is to remain remote beyond the pandemic, more effective and permanent strategies for nurturing internal culture will need to be developed.

Another question that staffing firms must ask themselves is one of activity vs accountability. Is this new world of work causing organizations to lose sight of accountability, instead simply measuring day-to-day activity? If that is indeed the case, an organization risks trading broad, long-term focus for a more limited, short-term view. Does it really matter how many calls are made if they hit their goals?

Offering flexibility

While finding ways to retain culture is beneficial for the organization and team as a whole, the needs of the individual must also be considered. 

The idea of work-life balance has been in ever sharper focus in recent years, but no one could’ve predicted how important it would become. Pre-COVID around 4.3 million Americans - 3.2% of the workforce - worked from home. Almost overnight that number exploded, in many states accounting for all but the most essential workers.

As we all found out, working from home comes with pros and cons. Depending on the individual, it can be comfortable, convenient and cost-effective, or it can be isolating, frustrating and anxiety-inducing. No virtual platform will replace the positive impact of an in-person chat or a hug.

In an ideal world, employers will create a hybrid workplace, offering their teams the option of working from the office or remotely. Balancing the needs of those both within and outside of the office will undoubtedly be a challenge. But it’s in the best interests of leaders to solve it.

Where other industries like tourism and travel ground to a halt during COVID, staffing most certainly did not, particularly as clients began to recover from the initial hit caused by the pandemic. Many recruiters have been left feeling burnt out, which, combined with the challenge of separating their personal and professional lives, has served to further compromise work-life balance.

In this respect, leaders must look at ways to relieve their workers of as much work as possible, and as discussed in our last article, automation is the primary way to do it.

The importance of empathy

The best staffing teams are those built on a foundation of trust. Trust is earned, and empathy plays a key role in that effort. To build trust within your team, a modern leader must be empathetic, just like a modern recruiter

If 2020 was good for anything, it made staffing and other industries take notice of the things that are truly important. Personal and professional lives clashed in a way that they never have before - toddlers interrupted Zoom calls, workers lost family members - and the personal quite rightly won out.

In the process, staffing industry leaders - perhaps not historically known for their understanding - have seen that there are times when work is relegated to second place. As such, recruiters can’t be asked to answer their phone 24 hours a day. The expectations of clients and candidates must be managed - if they try to get in touch at 6pm on a Friday, they should know to expect an answer on Monday morning.

At the end of the day, this is in the firm’s best interests, as a recruiter can concentrate their energies on the hours when they are actually at work.


COVID Recovery Strategy Guide


An eye on the future

For staffing firms, the ability to navigate the current challenges can be put down in no small part to the strategies that the industry developed in response to a similarly destabilizing crisis in 2008. Cultivating customer relationships in recession-proof industries, diversifying, even if it’s within a single vertical - these are the things that can help to insulate a firm during an economic downturn. 

The best time to plan for the next crisis is right now. Leaders should treat the current situation as a free pass to try the new and different, to test technologies and strategies that will allow their businesses to grow, no matter what lays ahead. Flexibility will prove to be key, so it’s vital that we look for solutions that grant agility and adaptability.

And it’s on that note that our series on the current and future impacts of COVID-19 on the staffing industry is brought to a close. We hope you enjoyed it, and have ideally pulled insights that you can apply to your own firm.

Interested in learning more? Click here for more insights on the future of staffing.

You can also check out all of the articles in this series below: