Dave talks to Cara O’Leary – Talent Matters Podcast

Essential Employ

Dave talks to Cara O’Leary about a recession like no other, caution amongst candidates, flexibility as the number 1 candidate motivator in the UK, employers needing to listen to and trust their employees, a change in productivity measurement from input to output and the diversity of thought on LinkedIn.

The One Where They Talk About…

In episode 10 of the Talent Matters podcast series, Wave CEO Dave Jenkins talks to Cara O’Leary, Sales Director at LinkedIn. With over two decades of experience in the talent sector, Cara joined LinkedIn in 2016, having used the platform since its fledgling days. Of course, LinkedIn needs little introduction. As the world’s largest professional social network, it has 875 million members across 200+ countries and territories globally. It is a hugely powerful recruitment tool and produces valuable talent trends reports.

Cara shares her insights on shifting working patterns, thoughts and behaviours, the biggest candidate motivators both in the UK and globally, heading into the recession with a view to seizing opportunities, and the direct correlation between growth and diversity in LinkedIn. It’s a truly insightful chat from someone that has access to data from the global recruitment market as well as a wealth of experience in recruitment and recruitment marketing. A listen to the full podcast is wholeheartedly recommended and we have collated the key takeaways here for you so you don’t have to take notes!

A rapidly changing market and a recession like no other

When asked what’s changing in the marketplace, the simple answer is that everything’s changing, all the time. The world of work has never seen so much change in such a condensed period of time. From the complete flip businesses had to perform during COVID, when suddenly the world had to work from home and market trends rapidly changed, to the current climate of hybrid work, we have become used to constantly changing trends. We’re witnessing a massive shift in economies and have seen a war that is causing not just a humanitarian disaster but a global energy and food price crisis. We’re also experiencing high inflation rates alongside low unemployment rates, which has caused a recession like no other experienced before. We have almost full employment and are seeing phenomenal numbers of open jobs on LinkedIn. The rate of change is so fast, even the economists are finding the next few months, let alone the next few years, difficult to predict.

Candidates are more cautious about changing jobs – but people are still moving

LinkedIn research such as the Talent Trends Reports give us a great insight into what’s happening in the market. And what it’s telling us now is that people are open to work but are not willing to change jobs with the gusto they were this time last year. Given the current economic climate, many are taking a more cautious approach – LinkedIn researchers can see that because people on the platform are looking at more jobs before applying for a role. In conversations with corporate customers that Cara is having, she’s hearing that candidates are accepting jobs but then accepting counter-offers, or they’re accepting jobs and then not turning up on first day. As those who have been in the industry long enough will know, people will continue to change jobs, there will always be job to job movement. The difference now is the added layer of caution.

Flexibility is the number 1 candidate motivator in the UK…

A recent LinkedIn Talent Trends Report found that in the UK, flexibility has become the number 1 priority when searching for a new job, even above pay. Globally, compensation remains number 1, followed by balance and flexibility, and then up-skilling. In the UK, flexibility is at number 1, followed by compensation, then advancement, with job security coming in at number 4 (the latter highlighting the increased caution candidates are demonstrating – job security has heightened importance in times of economic and political uncertainty). This incredible desire for flexibility in a role provides an opportunity for employers and recruiters to capture that huge marketplace of people looking for job flexibility.

… and employers need to be in sync with candidate needs

The world has changed and people’s priorities have changed alongside it. Many of the behaviours adopted during the pandemic are hard to shake – we have realised that working from home gives a better work/life balance and that we can do the same work remotely as we do in the office, but without the commuting time. Mindsets have shifted and people are now questioning why – why do we have to come into an office when we can perform just as well (if not better) from home but without the stress, time and costs incurred by commuting.

The problem often stems from ‘productivity paranoia,’ whereby employers are fearful that working from home, where they can’t see their employees, will negatively affect productivity. What’s interesting is the total imbalance in opinion between employers and employees. This is perfectly demonstrated by a recent work trends index report by Microsoft, based on a survey of 20,000 people globally, along with trillions of data points from Microsoft and LinkedIn data. When employees were asked whether they felt productive working from home, 87% said they do. When employers were asked whether they felt it is possible for people to be as productive working from home as in the office, just 12% of them said yes – a stark contrast to the answer from employees.

A focus on productivity output rather than input

One of the major mindset stumbling blocks for employers is the shift from being able to walk the floor and subconsciously measure performance based on the busyness of the office, to focusing on productivity in terms of output rather than input. What matters is that employees are doing what they need to do and producing the right output.

However, it’s been a hard shift for some employers, which has led to this level of paranoia when it comes to employee productivity. Some are trying to measure productivity by how much an employee’s cursor moves, how long they spend online, and other arbitrary measurements. All this really translates to is an online version of the presenteeism that happened in offices around the globe prior to the pandemic. It’s productivity theatre. What is needed is an adjustment to the methods by which productivity is measured and that is on what is produced, however and wherever that happens.

Employers need to trust their teams

A level of trust is always going to be required to feel comfortable when offering remote and hybrid working but it is essential to attract candidates and then get the very best out of employees. Trusting people and giving them the space to choose where they do their best work drives productivity. Wherever people are happy and healthy is going to result in the best work. If you can create a work atmosphere (whether home/hybrid/office) that drives happiness, healthiness and wellness, you’re creating a space for employees to be productive.

LinkedIn as a platform for all

LinkedIn has huge coverage and it is a misconception that the platform is only used by white-collar workers. As LinkedIn has grown in member numbers, the engagement on the platform has also expanded, and this goes hand-in-hand with the growth in richness of content. As more people from different industries, in different roles, from different parts of the globe join the platform, a diversity of ideas and opinions are shared. This in turn serves to attract more people who want to listen and/or have an opinion, and the content becomes increasingly diverse. As LinkedIn becomes known as a platform that is relevant to all, one on which everyone has their voice, you then achieve diversity in terms of who is posting and what is being posted.

Recessions offer up opportunities

The next 6-18 months will be a very interesting time and, as each recession is unique, it’s hard to find indicators from previous recessions of what will happen. This is a ‘job-full’ recession, in contrast to the 2009 recession in which unemployment was incredibly high. What’s important to remember is that recessions are a natural part of any economic cycle, occurring every 6-10 years and lasting for 6-12 months.

It’s also important to note that there is always an opportunity in a recession or in any shifting economic time. Some of the biggest and most influential businesses began and boomed in a recession – just look at Airbnb, Disney, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Microsoft, and WhatsApp, all of which were created during different economic downturns. Recessions provide great opportunities for companies to plan for the future, think about how to grow and diversify, and cement the direction in which they need to move to make that happen. We saw this a lot during COVID. It was the companies that were agile and stopped to think about what the world needs right now, that pivoted in response to current market conditions and behaviours, that saw the greatest success.

Agility is the key to surviving and thriving in a recession

The most important piece of advice when faced with a recession is not to panic but take time to figure out how to plan for growth. Ask yourself, “what resources do I have, where is there an opportunity, where can I invest intelligently to survive and thrive over the next 18 months?” Candidates will be feeling more cautious so there’s an opportunity for recruiters to spend time early in the process qualifying candidates, understanding their motivations for leaving their current roles.

Become a strategic advisor for your clients. Ensure you understand what’s happening in the industry in which you recruit as well as the wider economic situation, take the pulse of the marketplace for both clients and candidates. What people really want in times such as these is information and advice to make important decisions and that is where recruiters will prove their value. Those that do will shine. Sometimes recessions force us to think about what we’re doing and pivot. They provide an excellent opportunity to revisit what we’re doing and why. A positive, leaning in approach to the recession will help you to not only make it through to the other end but to grow and prosper during it.

And finally, on a lighter note… food! This is what Cara would cook at a dinner party:

“I love to cook and my kids love to eat. I find food is always the solution with boys of all ages – they’re always in a better place after eating! For a dinner party, I’d cook medium-rare roast beef, with Yorkshire puddings, carrots, peas, horseradish sauce and gravy. And of course roast potatoes. I can confidently say that I make the best roast potatoes ever. They’re my mum’s recipe. Top tip: use rooster potatoes, peel them but don’t throw the peelings out – toss them in olive oil, add salt and pepper, roast them and give them to the kids to snack on while you prepare the rest of the meal. Par-boil the potatoes, drain them, rough them up, roast them in really good melted butter (always Kerry Gold for me), turn them a few times and baste them. Delicious.”