Sasza Bandiera: What it’s like to run a recruitment business during the pandemic

Sasza Bandiera


Jul 21, 2022

More or less a global lockdown, very limited travel, and the majority of people currently working from home.

For most of us, the situation isn’t something we could have imagined happening in our lifetime, and adjusting to it can be very challenging.

Undoubtedly there are people who worked from home before the pandemic, including businesses that were home-based. However, this is not the case for most industries including recruitment. Many leaders have had to adjust the way their businesses function and face many challenges during this time.

Oyster Partnership is no different. As a recruitment agency, our work is all about people and face-to-face interaction. We are the kind of business that encourages client and candidate meetings, we want our people to have catch up’s face to face instead of over email which can be lost in translation. Oyster, the same as every other business in the UK has had to adjust to the way we work starting from the top.

Sasza Bandiera our Managing Director answers questions about what it’s been like for him to run a recruitment business of 60+ people from home during a global pandemic.

What is it like to manage a recruitment business during a lockdown?

Very very challenging. I have never experienced anything like this. I started my recruitment career in the last recession but I didn’t know any better… Recruitment is about people, inside and out. I have always been in the office, surrounded by the team, working together, feeding off each other, and creating a buzz. You need to be highly motivated in this industry and motivating, doing it all from home, is a very very different prospect.

I think the whole team has done incredibly well to stay positive and motivated given the circumstances. Naturally, everyone is subject to having low moments at some point, perhaps once a week or day and it’s definitely easier to spot this in person at the office. I and the managers are then able to deal with the issues/problems face to face with a personal touch, that’s lost in lockdown.

Working from home personally isn’t ideal because of everything I’ve just mentioned but luckily I have space and a garden. I know some of the team have found it hard and I feel for them, it’s not easy not having personal or outdoor space, working and living from the same spot, day in, day out – but obviously, that’s most of the country right now.

What have you found to be the most challenging part?

Setting the direction for the business. For the best part of a decade, we’ve had a great client base and we’ve been able to grow this strategically year on year.

We’re now in a time where 90% of our clients aren’t looking, forcing us to adapt outside of what we’ve always known. There are daily national and global announcements that affect recruitment and our consultants are always picking up new hunches which we follow. It’s literally like working in the dark and sometimes we’re having to change the direction of our team daily… But needs must.

Have you had to perform any tasks/jobs that are usually outside your normal list of responsibilities?

Yes, I have gone right back to basics. I’ve found myself mapping potential clients, making business development and aftercare calls to clients and helping in the sourcing of candidates for our current vacancies. I’ve also been in discussions with direct competitors to see if responsibilities could be shared on certain remits.

How is your team coping with the changes to their working environment?

They have adapted really well although you will find mixed feelings. We’ve always considered ourselves a family and I can see this from the buzz in the office atmosphere when walking through. This helps with the day-to-day job, especially during low moments like our current situation where clients are on a recruitment freeze and many candidates have been furloughed or have lost their job.

This with the fact the guys have to work in the company of their partners, housemates, friends, family members, or even by themselves, it can be challenging. I think it’s hard for everyone in different ways but I’m proud of the way they have taken to it.

We have a saying, ‘Recruitment is recruitment is recruitment. But who you do it for and with makes all the difference.

How are you communicating with your team/business?

Whatsapp, a lot of FaceTime and Zoom’ing for team meetings, which has been a saviour really. As things change very quickly, the management team and I are keen to catch up first thing and they then have their team meetings to set the direction for the day. There’s usually a brief catch-up at 1pm as our guys have mentioned it breaks the day up well for them and we have a final debrief a 5:30pm. Keeping it military.

Keeping morale up within the team is more important than ever, how are you achieving this?

Typically I’m having meetings with my management team 2 / 3 times per day – we have to at the moment because of the ever-changing circumstances and giving clarity in our message to our team, client & candidates is vital. I probably only do 2 Zoom’s with the entire company per week however I try and speak to as many of our team 1 on 1 on FaceTime during the week to catch up and check in on how they are all doing.

Reminding them of the positives, their purpose, what times were like and what times will be like once things have gone back to ‘normal’. A good number of our clients across the public & private sector have also said they expect things to pick up, especially across the built environment and support services.

Are there any positives you can take away from the current situation?

Always! We completely restructured the company into 4 teams with weekly deliverables, set them all tasks which they have not been used to and everyone has made headway.

It’s made me think about larger strategic tasks that could be taken on and as the business grows again we could set things up slightly differently. We have also looked at 9 new divisions and provisionally set them up ready to go once we’re through this for whoever wants to take on a new challenge.

I’m sure lots of the team have had time to think about what they want to do long-term and appreciate their normal day-to-day workings, so something new to get their teeth stuck into may be a good thing. Teamwork & attitude has been paramount in all this and I’m very pleased with how the guy’s tasks have been handled when everything around them is so disheartening at the moment in either their personal or professional lives.

What advice would you give to other business leaders out there?

Do what you have to do. Stay positive, look at what you can achieve and from where. Set the direction of the business as best as you can and lead from the front, appreciate the small wins day by day

Imagine lockdown is over, and it’s the first day back in the office – what are you most looking forward to?

Seeing the team & hearing the noise of the floor. Seeing everyone standing up being loud and proud at what they do; doing it with conviction and purpose. I have never appreciated having a team around me more than now.

Are there any lessons that you/the business have learned during lockdown that you’ll carry into ‘normal’ working practices?

Not being put off by WFH if consultants want to do it. Really treating every job like it’s our last.

The current situation is certainly a big learning curve for employers and employees. But one thing is for certain we will get through this and come out the other end even stronger than before. #stayhome #savelives

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Sasza Bandiera

Oyster’s leader, running the business strategically and operationally.

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