It has been just over two years since the UK announced its first lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has Climb Online evolved during this time? And what do you believe has been the greatest challenge?

5 years ago, we would never have believed the workplace revolution that we have witnessed over the last 2 years.

I think most businesses have had to evolve to not only keep pace with market changes but to ensure they remain commercially competitive and attractive to new and existing talent. Climb Online's biggest challenge has been finding a hybrid working balance that keeps our employees motivated but also keeps collaboration alive.

Most businesses have changed how they work and operate as a result of COVID-19, with many either moving to remote or hybrid working. How has Climb Online changed its working patterns for staff members and do you think all businesses now have to offer flexible working to remain competitive?

The uptake of flexible working will mirror the uptake of computers in the workplace during the 1980's. The pandemic will be seen in history as the beginning of a new era to ways of working. It's unfathomable to think of a workplace without computers; fast forward 20 years and it will be unfathomable to imagine the workplace without flexible working, be that working full time from home, or a hybrid split. 

At Climb Online, we have found a good balance with 2 days in the office and 3 days working from home. Additionally, we have also cemented different working options for all staff that include flexible working hours and a dedicated "work from anywhere" scheme that allows staff to work from anywhere in the world for a period of the year.

Do you think there are any drawbacks to remote working?

I don't think there are drawbacks, but there are a few more challenges that employers should be aware of to ensure the right solutions are provided for their employees. For me, collaboration and communication are the biggest challenges, and if anything, the pandemic has shown that we should never underestimate the power of human contact.

Collaboration is especially vital to those who are new to a role or at the start of their career where they can learn and absorb more information by physically spending time with, listening to and learning from their colleagues.

A lot of businesses are finding recruitment extremely challenging, with over 1 million vacancies currently available across the UK. What do you think businesses need to do to attract talent to their company?

-           Prioritise retaining your talent. Can you improve the employee progression roadmap for your employees? Are your staff benefits competitive? Host staff 360 feedback sessions to identify any roadblocks your employees are facing that stops them from thriving within your company.

-          Ensure you have an efficient recruitment process that doesn't allow great candidates to fall through the cracks.

-          Continuously refresh your hiring strategy. Be open to what is working and what isn't and be ready to change it quickly to attract the best talent.

Why do you think businesses are struggling to recruit?

The competition right now is unprecedented - larger companies are making it almost impossible for independent companies to be competitive when it comes to salary benchmarking. The focus for independents should be a focus on your company purpose and values to attract the right talent fit. Also, a lot of companies think great staff benefits are free breakfasts and beer on Fridays. Those things are great, but they don't keep employees on your payroll. Training, employee progression, and flexible ways of working attract and retain talent.

How do you feel the employer/employee dynamic has shifted? And what do businesses need to do to embrace this change?

I think pre-pandemic there was a clear divide in the business world: Those who moulded employees into their way of working and operating, without concern for employee needs, such as mental health and wellbeing, and those who have always put their employees first.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed this divide and forced many businesses to essentially wake up, become more human and change their approach to people management. As a result, true flexible working, mental health days and employee perks have become the norm, meaning to retain and attract the right talent, all businesses need to keep pace.

How has Climb Online remained competitive in recruitment? Do you have any words of advice for businesses struggling with their own recruitment?

-          A huge focus lies with employee progression and providing a roadmap for how every staff member can progress within their role.

-          We have shortened our recruitment process to make quicker decisions at point of hire.

-          We have aligned our company values to our people values to ensure we hire the right cultural fit.

Finally, for any business struggling with their recruitment, know that you are not alone - there is a talent shortage world over and we are all riding the same wave. Focus on promoting your purpose as a company and retaining the talent you already have. I am the biggest believer in "build it and they will come".