What Happens Next?

In this post let us think about what happens next as we start to come out of the Covid-19 related lockdown.

No country can claim to be immune from the economic effects of the Covid-related lockdown. However, as countries start to emerge from the lockdown some will rebound faster than others.

What is happening now?

Let us next look at where we are today. Today, large number of people and businesses have seen the flow of money reduce to zero. The expectation of a return on investment is low for a large section of the economy. That said, certain sectors are doing quite well or as normal (e.g. groceries, online retail) as they are getting overflow business.

In this situation with little or no money going to people / businesses someone has to step in and be that ‘credible borrower’ and borrow on behalf of those who are struggling. This is the Government as the ‘credible borrower’ which then passes the borrowed money on to its citizens in a low-waste manner one hopes. One point here is that it is easy for a Government to print money rather than borrow, but that can lead to inflation without actual growth – so called ‘jobless growth’.

We can take the current situation as artificial suppression of demand and supply (as people loose incomes and stores are forced to close/reduce visitors).

This can also be understood as a scenario where blood supply to an organ in the body has been blocked. The body reacts in the very short term by reducing the function of that organ and rushing out chemical support to suppress pain but in the long term the body is severely impacted unless the block can be removed and/or another path can be found to deliver the required quantity of blood.

What happens Next and How to Deal with it?

It all comes down to effective planning and effective use of people, processes and tools.

Businesses that have or are able to quickly get the required plans in place for short and long term changes to how they work will benefit from overflow business.

People who are able to re-skill or move from impacted areas to areas of new opportunity will be able to benefit from continued employment during the rebuilding period.

Both the above things should allow some blood to flow to the organ but it does not restore normal supply nor fixed the original damage that resulted in a block.

Repairing the Damage

The repair will start once the lockdown ends. Those countries that release the lockdown earliest (and are able to ride the second wave of infections) will have ‘first movers’ advantage towards normalisation. This should also promote local business that step in to fill the gap from imports where possible.

The key point to keep in mind here is that we will not go back to status quo. Just as scar tissue is never as smooth as the torn skin it replaces. We will loose some businesses. Some people will fall into debt and be unable to recover without help.

Due to loss of incomes, social distancing and widespread work-from-home we will find demand continues to be suppressed for some time to come. This will be especially true for ‘non-essential’ goods. This means the suppressed demand must be unlocked using some of the options we will discuss below.

Who sinks/swims is down to how they prepared during the crisis for the post-crisis period (i.e. if they did not look to change business-as-usual and let a good crisis go to waste then they will sink) and how effectively they can implement those strategic plans in the coming months. This is a good example of Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest.

Who will survive:

  1. Those who are quick to plan and implement new processes that allows them to generate revenue.
  2. Those who have deep pockets to fall back on, for the next 12 months (at least)
  3. Those who are able to focus on their strengths and optimise resources – when we look at (2) we must remember “Markets can remain irrational for longer than you can remain solvent” (by John Maynard Keynes)
  4. Those who are directly benefiting from the crisis (short term survival)
  5. Those who enjoy a good name in the market or are ‘expected’ by the market to bounce back quickly

But what is the Recipe for Success? What should we do more of as a business?

  1. Advertise: Replace front-office with a slick website, smartphone app and/or virtual agent (even a chat-bot helps handle the first level of queries)
  2. Process transformation: Reduce the need for manual processes in business operations – this is not something only multi-million pound business need to do! In fact this is something everyone needs to do!
  3. Digitise and Automate as much as possible – from fundamental building block apps (e.g. billing) to more advanced planning, optimisation and prediction apps (Here is a golden chance for AI at the lower price-point. Or even local AI consultancy)
  4. Concentrate on strengths and focus your resources on the service/product that provides the greatest rewards – enable home delivery where possible – smart phones + hybrid/electric vehicles should reduce cost of operations and bring home delivery to the same price point as in-store
  5. Don’t stop innovating.. innovation is the hidden strength of any business (large or small!)

As an individual, facing an uncertain future in terms of employment, lot of the above points are just as relevant (once the context is changed):

  1. Advertise your existing skills and experience (make a website, LinkedIn profile), talk about your interests and hobbies! Blog!
  2. Look inward: Look at all the good stuff you have done, all the mistakes you have made and the lessons you have learnt. Try changing something small about yourself that you feel will improve the way you feel about yourself. For me this was ensuring I take in a lot of outdoor play time with my kids!
  3. Prepare your tools: make a CV, take stock of where you have been and where you want to get too! You won’t get another chance like this to plan your career!
  4. Concentrate on your strengths: reduce expenditure, improve efficiency by doing the important things and ignoring things that lead to waste of time, money or both. One personal example: we started cooking more at home which resulted in not only money saving but also us discovering new things that we could make at home!
  5. Don’t stop learning! Now is the time to take a risk. Make sure you use all the tools available to engage with people who are leaders in your field of learning as well as fellow students – this can be anything – from cooking to a language
  6. Don’t stop thinking and creating. Write a short story, create a new dish, draw a picture, change the layout of your living room! These act as massive confidence boosters

Additional Thoughts: Automation

Automation was on the rise before Covid. The bigger players have already moved online and use automation enabled IT therefore continue to sell effectively (albeit within constraints). But the contact-less nature of the solution to this problem will push app/online interaction even more. As this happens, it makes it easier to automate the interaction. Two small examples:

  1. Pizza shops now only support cashless delivery, no collection. Therefore, all my interaction with the pizza shop is through their website or an app (e.g. JustEat). The pizza is placed on my doorstep and I hardly even see the delivery person as they back away more than 2 meters and leave as soon as they see me pick-up the pizza.
  2. Food stalls in various food markets have started home deliveries (again cashless and contact-less). Earlier they would hire staff to manage long queues, today they operate behind a slick website (that you can throw up in a few hours), a scheduling tool, and WhatsApp messaging to personalise the interaction.

This effect when combined with the long term trend of more people working from home (which is bound to accelerate now) is an opportunity for small business to deliver local services through different app-based platforms involving lots of automation (to make it cheaper). The smaller players have to make use of the same force-multiplier tools, platforms and channels as the bigger players right now! The most basic one is the ability to accept online orders and payments.

Now that people don’t travel for work then they no longer form a captive market for food vendors, coffee shops and bars. But these things can come to their doorstep! With automation enabled IT the cost of home delivery can be managed especially with the added benefits of scale.

Finally: I am still waiting for the day I can order Starbucks coffee to my home for the same price (if not cheaper) as what I get in the stores. Starbucks could open coffee-making kitchens in different areas and serve the area from there. Automation will help by providing seamless links between different stages, AI-based planning and prediction of demand.

Dealing with Job Consultants in UK (Part 3: Remaining Stages)

Part 1: Here
Part 2: Here
Part 3: Here

IMPORTANT ADVICE IS IN ITALICS

There are several stages (as mentioned before):

1) The Initial Call

2) Pre-interview Phase

3) Post-interview Phase

4) Finalization Phase

5) Bye-bye!

 The Pre-interview Phase

If the client likes your CV the consultant will contact you to arrange an interview date. Most companies reimburse rail ticket costs especially if the interview is in London. Make sure, before you select a date and time, you confirm whether your travel expenses will be reimbursed. Also find out the duration of the interview so that you can plan your return journey. This is especially important if you are working.

The consultant will also send you a detailed interview description and call you up to find out if you are all set for the interview. Make sure you know the location of the company and other logistic details.

Make sure you cover all the points and if you are at all confused by anything related to the interview (from the nature of the interview to what kinds of clothes you should wear), don’t feel shy and ask the consultant!

The consultant might want to meet with you before the interview. Try and meet as this may allow the consultant to give you some important tips before the interview.

The Post-interview Phase

The consultant will surely call you after the interview is over to discuss with you how it went and what you thought of the company. Make sure you are honest. Sometimes a consultant might be able to get you through to the next round if they have some influence with the company.

This is the second most important phase. Here most consultants change sides. Now they will push you hard to accept the job, provided obviously that you clear all the interviews (especially if there are mutliple rounds of interviews). Make sure that you are comfortable with the job and the company.

Most probably you would have visited the offices of the prospective employer and seen the work environment during the interview. By now you should have a good idea of whether this is the way ahead for your career or not.

Be very clear and honest with the consultant. Don’t come under pressure and remember your consultant will show you the positive side of taking up the job. You have to find out the negatives and balance it out with the positives to ensure it is the right move for you!

If you are confused TAKE SOME TIME TO THINK ABOUT THE JOB OFFER!

Every consultant will give you time to think but just remember that most consultants will expect a definitive yes or no afterwards.

 

Finalization Phase and Bye-bye!

If you accept the offer the consultant will keep you updated as to what is required next. There might be some paperwork or a meeting with the employer and consultant. This is usually the shortest phase and the consultant’s work is almost done.

Most consultants remain in touch at least till you start at the new place. They might get in touch later if there are any issues or just to take feedback from you about the job and to find out if all is going well.

Dealing with Job Consultants in UK (Part 2 – The Inital Call)

Part 1: Here
Part 2: Here
Part 3: Here

IMPORTANT ADVICE IS IN ITALICS

There are several stages (as mentioned before):

1) The Initial Call

2) Pre-interview Phase

3) Post-interview Phase

4) Finalization Phase

5) Bye-bye!

Lets start at the beginning (always the best place to start!)

The Initial Call

This is the most critical phase of your interaction with any consultant or recruiter. The first question they ask you is the MOST important one (as I have learnt from experience). After introducing themselves they will ask you if it is a good time to talk or not. I would suggest you be truthful and if you are in the middle of something do not get into the call with a distracted mind. If you want things to work out it is best you listen to whatever the consultant has to say carefully. Most consultants will call you back if you request them to call later. Remember they called you because they are interested in your skills!

Usually consultants call to figure out your skill set and to generally get your profile (which includes things like salary requirement, willingness to relocate etc.) for:

– an opening that they have for which they wish to send your CV

– future openings they might be expecting or just to store your details on their systems (I call it a Fishing Call)

They will ask you questions about salary expectations, current employment status, work experience, career path desired, willingness to relocate, whether you can drive or not and if you have just completed a degree about the degree itself. You should answer all these questions truthfully to allow the consultant to judge whether you are suitable for the offered job.

Remember not all jobs are suitable for you and you are not suitable for all jobs. So try and be as clear as possible with the consultant as to what you are looking for and try and not get desperate for a job. Desperation is the worst thing to guide you in your job hunt.

Also remember consultants usually know what they are talking about in UK. While they are not experts they are aware of the general profile required for a job. If you feel that you would suit a particular opening you can try and convince the consultant but as I said before DO NOT GET DESPERATE.

The consultants also ask two – three other questions especially if it is a Fishing Call.

The first and most damaging question they can ask is if you have any other interviews lined up (with other consultants or direct through company HR). The reason they give for asking this is so that they can avoid duplicate submissions of your CV (i.e. your CV going for same job through different consultants). There is a sinister side to this question as well. If you give them the info the next call the consultant is going to make is to the company where you have your interview lined up and offer some more CVs to them which would increase the competition for you! That is why many consultants, if they have a specific opening in mind for you, will ask you not to discuss the details with anyone else and keep the client name a secret.

The second question which can harm you is when they are talking about your current employment they ask you in a very casual tone the name of your manager and what part of the organisation they work for.  They will usually say that they have done a lot of work with your current company and might give you two three names to gain your confidence. Do not answer this question under any circumstance! It can harm you in many ways:

– If you are on a contract and your contract is about to expire the consultant can send some other candidate’s CV to your manager and your contract may not be extended if the candidates are better suited or work for a lower rate.

– they will call your manager to find out if they are recruiting and may let slip the fact that you are talking to consultants.

Remember these are desperate times for the consultants as well! There are not many job openings out there so consultants have to work twice as hard for leads!

 

 

Dealing with Job Consultants in UK (Part 1)

Part 1: Here
Part 2: Here
Part 3: Here

Looking for a job in the UK? Then read on!

If you are really lucky you will never have to come in contact with job consultants, instead you will get to interact with company HR (which is a whole different ball game).

To make things clearer let me clarify what the difference is between a job consultant and company HR. Job consultant is usually the ‘middleman’ between you and the prospective employer. They get a percentage of the salary that they place you at (if you get the job), this is called ‘placement fees’.

Therefore a consultant needs to maximise the salary you get placed at, while ensuring you get the job. It is a tough job, to manage the expectations of both the job seeker and the employer. This means your average consultant needs to be smart, aggressive and pushy. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on which side of the gun you are facing. For proper opportunities you need someone aggressive fighting for you with the company.

A company HR person works for the company. Their loyalties are usually not divided. They usually come in during the beginning and end of the interview process.

Your interaction with the consultant is likely to be divided into the following phases:

1) The Initial Call

2) Pre-interview Phase

3) Post-interview Phase

4) Finalization Phase

5) Bye-bye!

Out of the above five phases the first (The Initial Call) and the third (Post-interview) are most important. These determine (to a great extent) which side of the gun you face.

More on these in Part 2!