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Resilient and responsive: A day in the life of a China recruiter
What is a typical day in the life of a recruitment consultant like? Oftentimes, it can be a people-fuelled world filled with candidate coffee meetings, suited client visits – and hopefully a glass of bubbly when the deal is sealed.
Yet in early 2020, when conditions call for indoor living thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, clearly a plan-B kicks into play. As the outbreak of COVID-19 in China interrupted a nation’s post-CNY business rebound, Michael Page looked at the ‘new normal’ for specialist recruiters: and how when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
1. Stay inside
Over February 2020, many China consultants needed to be confined to home during their extended holiday and quarantine period: the result being that virtual channels kick into play.
Recruiters ply a people-first business, so in order to resume quality services as soon as possible and bring its ‘Customer First’ spirit to life, PageGroup China made every effort to counteracting the tough situation by adopting virtual solutions internally and externally during the period of time for China.
2. Employee experience matters
Talent is our top resource, and as such our employee experience is the basis for our success. Happy employees after all create happy customers.
After the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, PageGroup China offices reacted proactively to protect the health and safety of employees, taking immediate preparations to help business resume.
Before Chinese New Year, some teams anticipated the broad picture, and took action, starting to manage some CNY travel plans pre-holiday, and leveraging IT support in advance. Some employees avoided returning to the most high-risk areas.
During the break, the Internal HR and support teams worked closely with business leaders and stakeholders to interpret official warnings and regulations, setting Michael Page guidelines for employees. They monitored collective health and movement information during the first two-week outbreak period, trying to extend a personal touch in discussions with employees who encountered challenges such as city lockdown or safety concerns. For those needing counselling, our EAP online Webex sessions were available.
Our six Mainland China offices bought and shared over 5,500 masks (18 per person), and numerous bottles of sterilization fluid and rinses, plus infrared thermometers for daily temperature checks.
3. Let’s get flexible
Besides the supporting and admin measures taken, PageGroup China almost instantly initiated a widespread flexible working programme designed to fit the new demands.
In addition to reopening some offices, we offered employees flexibility around the timing of returning to the office, to avoid peak times. For those traveling back from CNY holidays and needing to quarantine at home, or those with offices awaiting reopening, a home office became the new normal.
China leaders quickly adapted to managing remote teams: gaining home access by various online channels, such as Corporate WeChat; personal WeChat; Skype and email to afford consultants daily video meetings, team catch-ups and webinars, and allowing them to share ideas, suggestions, and market information with internal team members with ease.
Though working from home, our team had clear timelines of daily plans and reviews. Remote team members were encouraged to share successes over team WeChat groups to maintain a positive atmosphere, and to use charts and MS Excel documents to consolidate information and share plans internally and externally.
Aware of KPIs, and where the market allowed, home teams felt confident and enabled to achieve them. Leaders say that building in a sense of ceremony with team members was a good way to keep everyone positive at home.
4. Training and support time
Aside from working, teams were also offered additional training opportunities to aid their further development. Having this routine addition for PageGroup employees was a key part of keeping their mindset sharp and positive. Indeed, Yuki Chen, Michael Page Shanghai regional director conducted training on workday afternoons, with topics including hiring role play; BD calls; and selling candidate shortlist. Meanwhile, her teams held online webinars at 6pm everyday to share market trends, as well as useful book tips and articles, to keeps spirits up.
Besides discussing work, business leaders also took some time every day to discuss personal issues and concerns with homebound team members, helping them understand their health conditions, food sufficiency, and ensure that stress levels were in hand.
According to feedback, after this all-round solution was adopted, some of the team’s respective performance at home has actually been even stronger than in the office: surely a testament to their drive and focus.
5. Dynamic hiring conversations
As a leading professional recruitment consultancy, PageGroup works with employers and job seekers to bridge tough hiring conversation, and facilitate a successful match. During this challenging period of time, our recruitment consultants continuously worked to resume ongoing hiring, sharing useful market information, and providing key value-added service to customers.
The first thing consultants did post-CNY was to connect with all customers to share their concerns, asking how they were personally; what precautions they were taking at home and at work; and what PageGroup could do to help under the current conditions.
Business teams shared factual and constructive articles with them on WeChat, as well as some to enjoy in lighter moments. Some teams even predicted the influence of the virus situation in advance, sending emails to clients and candidates before the Chinese New Year to advise them on changing their planned face-to-face interview to video interview.
6. Competitive spirit
Many clients still kept an eye on the competition, siting an interest in the best practices of their competitors and other companies in dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus situation. Our business teams collected whatever objective information they could find, sharing this, and advising as to how to resume recruitment processes responsibly. They actively provided related service, especially-value added ones to clients and candidates.
For most of the time working at home, consultants spent their time on BD conversations, candidate video interviews and sending CVs. They promised that even where they could not meet candidates face-to-face, they would hold video interviews, to assess the quality of candidates at the early stage.
7. Success stories
There were some encouraging success stories and wins. Some consultants noted that due to the COVID-19 coronavirus situation, clients were initially reluctant to resume the hiring cycle. In some extreme cases, offers to candidates before CNY meant that candidates had already resigned from their companies.
Under the circumstances, this was a very unfortunate situation. Aware of the potential impact on people’s livelihoods, consultants actively engaged clients and candidates to help solve these problems. They shared with clients the legal policies and potential risks of breaking promises, trying to convince them to go ahead with the agreed hire. In several cases, this finally helped secure effected candidates their new role.
8. Delayed flights
The virus also impacted some candidates’ flight schedules, yet they needed to fly to other countries for final rounds of interview, especially several C-level candidates. Our consultants assisted them to contact airline companies and airports to endorse the tickets, and further brainstormed with them around alternative solutions to these meetings.
As Michelle Ma, Michael Page Shanghai director noted, over the entire Chinese New Year holiday period, she and her team spent the usual feasting and family period occupied in dealing with such cases caused by the outbreak. “But it was really worth it when we finally helped solve these issues,” she noted.
All above are our collective reaction to the COVID-19 coronavirus situation. We hope it is useful for you and your company. We continue to stand our commitment to service: for hiring conversation or consultation, please contact us at any time.