Vanessa McKay - Director of Office Support - Permanent Division
Vanessa specialises in permanent working with office support and legal secretarial talent, specifically within the legal and professional services industries. A commercially minded and seasoned recruiter, Vanessa has been successfully forging long term and lasting relationships across a diverse array of candidates and companies within the Dublin Market since 2007.
Office Support Industry Assessment
The onset of the global Covid pandemic in March 2020 had a significant and far-reaching impact across the jobs market and the future of work for all industries. As with most unpredictable circumstances, businesses reacted with apprehension and unease. And many companies with reduced demand put growth plans on pause and stopped onboarding new staff. In what was a surprisingly quick change, the adoption of the work from home model eased fears. And the situation slowly began to improve once companies and employees adapted to their new normal in 2021. The last 2 quarters of 2020 saw a more active Administration market as companies began to hire again, and candidates became comfortable with moving jobs from a remote-to-remote setting. With the onset of remote and hybrid setup, the Office Support talent pool became bigger as candidates were able to accept roles remotely, which would have normally been outside of their commuter zone. The upward trend in terms of roles becoming available and candidate activity in the marketplace has continued into 2021 and 2022. Certain industries have prospered during the pandemic, notably the Pharmaceutical and Life Science industries as well as Technology and Financial Services. And their Office Support needs have grown at a quick rate, roles including Executive Assistants, Administrators and Customer Service Representatives are now in high demand. Interestingly, the demand is growing quicker for Irish SMEs than for the large multinationals. SMEs are not in as strong of a position to increase their offerings in comparison to the large growth sector employers in Technology, Life Sciences and Financial Services. We are seeing some increased salaries and benefits from the SME market. Benefits like increased annual leave are easier for SMEs to implement than Wellness programmes or learning and development. While these have become prevalent, SMEs are looking to quick fixes like taking on graduates and more junior staff.
What are the underlying forces at work in the Office Support industry
Across all industries, there has been a widespread change to the way we work. And the Office Support sector is no exception. As returning to the office has been indefinitely delayed and companies have been adapted more to WFH by digitalising their processes, Office Support staff can look forward to the hybrid model staying in place for the time being. However, many customer support roles will be returning to an office environment once the pandemic recedes. The persistent move towards a digital workplace has also unearthed a reliance on “people analytics” to manage remote working across companies. Over time it is likely these digital platforms will feature heavily across all businesses as a means of communicating with employees and managing talent. Job roles and what they entail remain fluid, particularly in those where a high amount of travel and face-to-face meetings were required to be organised by Executive Assistants. Employees who remain in these roles are now experiencing a job shift with regard to internal movements or are now looking to exit their roles as they have become very stagnant and quiet.
What is attractive about the Office Support industry for 2022
Although a vastly different landscape to that of pre-Covid there are some positives about the current job market, most notably, increased Office Support roles in growth areas like Life Science, Technology, and Financial services. There are clear advantages in terms of the time and ability for candidates to engage with recruitment processes due to their flexible working arrangements. This means that interviews and briefing calls are easier to arrange and means the number of opportunities candidates can actively be pursuing has significantly increased. Onboarding and training processes for new hires at this stage in the pandemic have been developed and for most companies are now part of a very streamlined efficient process. For companies, there have been an increased number of candidates who have used the pandemic as an opportunity to upskill and partake in continuous professional development. For candidates, companies are starting to provide clarity surrounding their hybrid work model, which again empowers candidates about pursuing roles that will suit them from both a personal and professional perspective.
What are the key issues facing the Office Support industry in 2022
The consumer-goods industry (non-essential retail) and hospitality were the hardest hit industries of the pandemic with lockdowns enforcing the closure of premises for months at a time. Companies in this sector had to rapidly pivot to emphasise the e-commerce side of their businesses to generate revenues and reactively respond to the evolving situation. Many businesses in these sectors may be putting a lot of resources into stabilising their revenue streams as lockdowns ease and for this reason growth may be slowed while they attempt to climb back up to pre-Covid levels of turnover.
The continuance with preference to work from home may have long-term well-being issues on employees that haven’t been fully realised yet. This may have implications for anyone at a senior/executive level with a people management function and companies will need to be aware of the importance of a well-being strategy to ensure they continue to invest in the human capital of their business.
What critical skills do companies need to develop for success in 2022
With Office Support positions, companies need to be flexible when recruiting and embrace the widened talent pool available to them in this post-Covid era. Companies continue to need to invest in upskilling their employees across all levels of the Office Support sector, as remote working has been the catalyst for the digitalisation and automation of previously manual processes. As restrictions ease, companies should be informed and be sure to continue consulting their people to ensure the senior leadership teams' policies are aligned to the general appetite and expectations of the people. An inclusive and consultative top-down approach is required to ensure employee concerns are met and dealt with in an appropriate fashion and that new policies are just and fair for the current Covid climate.