I’m a pretty positive guy. I like to manage my business, and the people that work within it, with a healthy dose of realism, honesty, and practicality – but also, a double measure of optimism. So that when people come to me with challenges, we find solutions, not problems. Because no matter the size of the cloud, there’s always a silver lining. That’s just my mentality.
Last year was a real test of that mindset. Lockdown 1.0 was a struggle for many of us mentally and emotionally. Family and friends couldn’t and wouldn’t meet each other. The line between work and life blurred, with children at home and parents adjusting to new schedules. Old people that had been resilient for years wouldn’t leave the house. As a parent, one of the things I struggled with most was keeping my kids motivated. Without the routine of school, hobbies and friends, and with little else to think about, their anxiety went through the roof.
But there was also a Britishness to Lockdown 1.0 that said ‘Keep calm and carry on’, and together, we found the silver living. Lockdown raised community spirits, giving us the opportunity to catch-up virtually with friends, colleagues and family all the time, even people that we would normally only see a couple of times a year, and to become closer to our immediate family too.
Going into Lockdown 2.0 felt different. The novelty had worn thin. We’d done the jigsaws, cleaned out the cupboards, stopped enjoying the walks now they were wet and cold. Instead, we spent our days doing hard yards at our desks, with half an anxious eye on what this could mean for Christmas. Christmas, of course, wasn’t as expected, with a large part of the country (including my home county, West Sussex), locked down, and friends and family separated again.
Now Christmas is over, and Lockdown 3.0 has just come into force. I imagine that a lot of people right now are struggling with the thought of what 2021 will bring. But I’ve recharged my batteries, and I want to share my vision of the future with you. One that is far more positive than a year of negative news might let you believe.
Tech adoption as the gateway to innovation
Covid-19 came from nowhere and it completely blindsided the market. But while there were many tragic repercussions to this, I also believe that there will be many positives from the vast change imposed by the pandemic, some which I hope we will retain, and many that are being driven by technology.
Turning to tech has been one of our big success stories for adapting to this pandemic. Without it, we would have struggled to keep businesses running and day-to-day tasks would have been much, much harder.
As the managing director of technology recruitment specialist Lorien, I’ve loved seeing how businesses have used tech to pivot to this new climate. With a family of five, there’s a delivery person at our doorstep every day, thanks to eCommerce. Our local Indian restaurant has invested in a new app and website to support the influx of new takeaway orders, priming the business for the future. And we’ve all turned to tech to keep us connected and entertained – from education to fitness to entertainment. More companies are moving to contactless, developing apps, and finding new ways to trade and transact at a distance. And what I like about this is it’s pushing us forward.
I mean, who would have thought that my 68-year old mother-in-law would know how to order her shopping online, join a Zoom call and set-up an appointment with an e-doctor just a little over nine months ago? Or that she would order her fish and chips from a small, local business via an app?
The entry point for tech adoption has become so small that it’s not just the big tech, digital and eCommerce businesses that have moved with the market. SMEs, start-ups and companies from all sorts of sectors are adopting and accelerating tech. My clients, who were already tech focused, are now going further – finding new ways to innovate and harness digital. And that can only mean good things for all of us. Covid-19 has forced a step change towards tech for everyone, opening a gateway to innovation where we can all get involved.
The new workforce: agile, high skill and global
In tech, we often talk about the skills gap. Tech talent is in rising demand, but globally there is a shortage of STEM skills to meet that need. While Covid-19 has undeniably accelerated this demand by putting renewed focus on operational efficiency and tech transformation, it has also paved the way for us to source talent in new ways and given candidates new opportunities to move up in the world.
For example, as companies invest more in their tech strategy, there will be fresh demand for skills higher up the value chain. With remote working now common in almost every business model, people will have more time and flexibility to invest in reskilling and upskilling – either through company investment or self-learning. This emphasis on self-learning and remote working may also improve work accessibility for many – helping tap into underrepresented groups.
Remote working will enable true globalisation and democratisation of the workforce. If a role can be remote, why limit your search to a 15-mile radius? Companies will be able to find the best talent, economise on resources, and reduce overhead costs in the office. But this will also give a chance to people throughout the UK to apply for roles anywhere, improving the standard of living throughout, while stabilising property costs and bringing down unemployment and overcrowding.
Our quality of life overall will improve, as well as the health of the economy. And importantly, we’ll all have more individual choice over our environment, to pick the workplace that best suits our productivity and our mood.
In recognition of this more globalised world, at the end of last year Lorien formally merged with our sister brands at the Impellam Group. We help tech businesses and businesses that use tech for strategic advantage realise their potential.
There’s a joke going around that says that the best change manager in the UK right now is Covid-19. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I think there’s some truth to it. Covid-19 has been a tragedy, but it’s also been a serious disrupter and an accelerator. And while the anxiety has been justified, I think with the new vaccine on the horizon, there’s something to be excited about too. Because the “new normal” won’t just be different. In many ways, it will be better. But maybe that’s just my positivity shining through!