As Cyprus is preparing itself for a post-Covid-19 working life, employers should maintain flexible workplace policies to retain and attract new talent, says Hayley Buckle, Director of Recruitment at GRS Recruitment.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and GRS Recruitment?
GRS Recruitment was set up in Cyprus 15 year ago, and we also have an office in Malta.
I joined GRS almost ten years ago after relocating to Cyprus from the UK. In London, I worked for staffing company Adecco Group until my husband and I decided to move to Cyprus. Cyprus has definitely changed a lot during the past ten years. The economy has evolved, and our business today reflects this transformation. For instance, we are working intensively with companies from the fast-growing forex industry in Cyprus. In fact, we generate about 30% of revenues from placements in the forex industry. We are also witnessing increased demand for talent from the fintech and the payments sector. These are all industries that were nearly non-existent in Cyprus a decade ago.
Which companies and sectors are expressing the greatest need for talent and what candidate profiles are in demand?
Over the past year or so, a number of UK companies set up operations in Cyprus to secure access to the EU after Brexit. These companies are active in different industries; but among them are quite a few forex companies. As a result of this development, we have seen great demand for senior management talent as these companies are looking to recruit CEOs, CFOs, COOs and the like for their new offices. The job market is also still attractive for more traditional roles: companies in Cyprus are always in need of good salespeople and customer support executives.
How would you describe the depth and breadth of the local talent pool? Are you noticing any skills gaps in the country that need to be filled with expat talent?
In 2020, the large majority of our placements were locals – either Cypriots or foreign professionals who were already living in Cyprus. This year we haven’t done a lot of relocations due to the pandemic; flight restrictions and quarantine requirements added an extra layer of complexity to an already difficult and often lengthy process. However, there are some sectors where talent on the island is in short supply, and we are recruiting from abroad. For example, there is a very acute lack of tech talent. In fact, when gas was found in Cyprus some years ago, there was a push for students to learn about oil and gas and pursue careers in this field. However, thus far, not much has happened in this area, whereas technology-related businesses have seen explosive growth. Software development, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology – these are the growth areas. We are always on the lookout for professionals with knowledge and experience in programming languages such as Java, SQL, React and so forth. Any foreign programmer seeking to relocate to Cyprus would have many available opportunities to review upon arrival.
Covid-19 is affecting economies across the world. What impact has it had on the Cypriot job market?
More than anything else, it has affected people’s commitment to change. I think people are very reluctant to make any rushed decisions at the moment. They are very cautious when considering job and career changes, and many simply want to see what 2021 brings. The world has certainly been in a very dark tunnel for the past year, with no certainty on what’s going to happen. However, I am very positive that next year will be better.
Besides, the switch from office to home, practically overnight, introduced brand new ways of working for many. Before the pandemic, workplace flexibility was often talked about, primarily as an incentive to attract and retain talent, but only very few employers in Cyprus had adopted flexible workplace policies. The large majority of companies had very conservative policies in place, often requiring workers to punch in and out. During the pandemic, employers then found – to the surprise of many – that remote working didn’t negatively affect their bottom line. From my conversations with employers, I can tell you that most say productivity has stayed the same and, in some cases, it has even increased.
Do you believe remote working will become a much more common feature in Cyprus going forward?
Yes, I believe employers will offer flexibility at a greater scale in a post-Covid-19 world. Remote working has simply become a preference for many. While some may have struggled transitioning to the home office, the majority has enjoyed a greater work-life-balance by cutting out commutes. They would like to work from home more frequently in the future. Cypriot employers are responding to these new expectations. We are already seeing that a rising number of employers are adding workplace flexibility to the benefit packages that they are offering candidates. This is especially true for experienced professionals who very much know what they have to do. The situation is slightly different for graduates, younger executives or career changers who may require more training. However, overall there is rising awareness that flexible working – reduced or varied hours or working from a different location – can be a benefit to both the employee and the employers.
What key advice would you give to Cypriot employers wanting to attract and retain the best talent?
Firstly, don’t underestimate the importance of a good environment, especially if you want to bring your staff back to office or workplace after the pandemic. So, employers should provide an environment that people want to come to and are excited about. Secondly, make sure that your management has the correct training to support your employees. I believe sometimes people get management positions for the wrong reasons. They get them because they have been in the company for a long time or because the CEO doesn’t know what to do with the person, so they just promote them. There is nothing wrong with promoting internally, but it is important to offer employees good management training to help them become the best leaders possible. Thirdly, don’t fight the move to workplace flexibility. This is the way we are going, so allow it to happen because you will get more engaged employees and better results.
What’s your future outlook for Cyprus?
In 2021, we will certainly continue to feel the effects of the pandemic and businesses will need to recover. However, Cyprus has come a long way in the past ten years and will continue to see growth. Cyprus is a beautiful island, attracting tourists and expats alike. It is a very safe place to live, which increasingly appeals to people from South Africa, England, Australia and the US. In terms of our economy, I think we are being taken seriously now. Our growing financial services sector is becoming well-known for its expertise in forex, payments and KYC-related activities, all of which I expect to expand further in the coming years.