Shifting currents

From the October 2021 print edition

Both the way people work and the job market have changed over the past year and a half. Work-from-home arrangements to Zoom-based job interviews have altered how we look at our careers. While these trends are undeniable, what the future will bring remains less clear.

Many employers are still considering whether employees should return to work this fall or early next year, says Sean Naidu, business manager, procurement/purchasing at Hays Canada, a recruitment firm. While some employers still want employees to be at the office Monday to Friday, many companies have accepted working from home, at least some days, Naidu adds. Many companies have seen an increase in productivity with staff at home. But the decision depends on the sector.

While candidates are still applying, and there are ample positions available, it’s more difficult to find people in the market switching jobs right now, he says. Candidates are considering more factors before jumping into the job market. Rather than only thinking about salary and location, they now look at flexibility as well.

“There’s still sort of the looming uncertainty,” Naidu says. “From a candidate’s side, the past year and
a bit has created comfort for people to look at working from home and needing the flexibility of being able to work from home as well as from the office. There are most definitely candidates that are preferring to have that hybrid model as opposed to being in the office five days a week.”

Companies with employees returning to offices are taking social distancing seriously while ensuring their employees are protected, Naidu says. There’s uncertainty surrounding returning to work, wearing masks at the office and how that affects interactions. For many job seekers, the option of working from home, either every day or a few days a week, can mean the difference between accepting a new position
or staying put.

“There are candidates that have rejected companies that need people to be in the office five days a week,” Naidu says. “They’re in a position where they have the flexibility. So, if they’re not getting the flexibility, they’re very less likely to move.”

Candidate hunt
Neil Drew, director at Winchesters, a recruitment consultancy, agrees that a desire to work from home has had a “massive” effect on the job hunt for procurement and purchasing professionals. Organizations insisting their employees return to the office full time are seeing challenges in finding candidates, Drew says. Many people have adapted to a hybrid work arrangement, with a few days in the office and a few working from home.

“But even then, lots of candidates that would have been available to your role a year ago aren’t now,” he says. “We’ve definitely had roles that would have candidates that have been offered a job and then, with a slight change in the physical office situation, the candidates withdraw. The more flexible you are from a location point of view the easier it will be to recruit.”

Overall, the job market is short on candidates, meaning more opportunities for those seeking a new position, Drew says. Now represents the calm before the storm, and Drew expects a large increase in available jobs in the fourth quarter. Children returning to school means hiring managers and candidates alike have more time.

Barriers to job hunting have fallen with many professionals working at home, Drew notes. People have more private time in front of their computers to not only job hunt but to conduct uninterrupted Zoom interviews. But while opportunities abound, the situation hasn’t led to as many people job hopping as might be expected.

“What we’re actually seeing is people are looking, but when push comes to shove, they don’t necessarily go through with it,” Drew notes. “There’s still some uncertainty out there and people kind of realize the grass isn’t always greener and maybe the issue you had four weeks ago when you applied to the job, you actually don’t have now, and actually it’s not so bad.”

Drew points out that many organizations are looking for candidates who are adaptable. In a changing environment, the pandemic still represents a challenge – those who adapt well to change have an advantage. Many organizations are also looking for candidates who can prove that they’re interested in taking the position, rather than just testing the waters.

“If you are a candidate looking for a job, show keenness and awareness, get back to people quicky, book your interviews quickly, do follow up, email thank you, all that sort of stuff – it might put you at a strong advantage,” Drew says. “Even if you’re not the best candidate for the job you might still get it because you’re the more reliable candidate versus the maverick who you can’t rely on.”

Continuous learning
For the job seeker and the happily employed alike, Tim Moore, director at Supply Chain Jobs Canada, stresses that supply chain professionals should focus on their careers and keep skills sharp. That applies to those who have earned their Supply Chain Management Professional (SCMP) designation from Supply Chain Canada, Moore notes.

“The world is changing, and lately it seems at a much faster rate, and you’ve got to protect yourself and your career in order to be in demand for years to come,” he says.

That changing world can mean once-common practices can go wrong quickly, Moore says.

An example is single sourcing – once considered the path to deeper, more collaborative supplier relations is now seen as risky due to the pandemic. Specialized coursework offers advanced strategies and tools to guide supply chain professionals through such changes.

Those with a supply chain designation like the SCMP can command a higher salary and better benefits, Moore says. But additional courses and education can keep employees and candidates relevant.
“Today, employers demand faster results and proven strategies be put in place and may not wish to wait years for a return on their investment,” he says.

Certification also acknowledges a commitment to professionalism, Moore notes. Whether a candidate was recently laid off due to the pandemic, is transitioning to another opportunity or establishing a consultancy, having the extra edge that certification provides can make a big difference.

“Often, certification enables a faster way to move up the corporate ladder of success,” Moore says.
“In the past, it may have taken years to gain the appropriate experience and learn the requisite skills.”

Certification helps not only supply chain professionals but also the firms that hire them, Moore notes. Supply Chain Canada, as the certifying body, acts as an independent, third-party authority that can attest that a practitioner meets high standards and has a base set of skills.

“For the candidate, holding the designation and sending in a resume for a job, it becomes a matter of ‘hey, don’t take my word for it that I’m good. Look at my educational achievement and deeper commitment to my profession,’” Moore says. “For the firm, it can be a matter of additional peace of mind, knowing that the candidate has one more advantage.”