LISTEN: How private household staffing has changed during COVID-19

Young woman preparing dinner table


Coralie Fernando, Head of Marketing and Communication at Tiger, sits down with Laura Glendenning, Head of Tiger Private, to talk through how private household staff recruitment has changed during COVID-19. They discuss the high-quality candidate pool available, the popularity of certain household positions, consolidation of roles and how virtual technologies are speeding up the recruitment process. Listen to the podcast below.

You can find out more about private household recruitment here or email Laura directly for more info.

TigerRecruitment · Private Recruitment Market Update – July 2020

Podcast Q&A

So, would you mind just giving a bit of an overview on who you are and what Tiger Private does, first of all?

I’m Laura and I head up Tiger Private. We’ve been part of the business for about four years now and our provision is working with clients and candidates in domestic family settings and family offices. So, we recruit a huge range of positions, both in the UK and internationally. That could take in private PAs, chiefs of staff, estate managers, house managers, private chefs, chauffeurs, tutors, housekeepers as well, just a huge plethora of candidates that clients may need for their private homes or for their family offices.

My background is actually private houses. So, prior to coming and setting up Tiger Private, I was working for about 15 years as a private PA and chief of staff. My team are also from private backgrounds. So, we’re quite unusual in the sense that, as recruiters, we have got first hand experience of working with private individuals. We understand the environment very well, which I think lends itself quite nicely to both candidates and clients.

What has Tiger Private’s experience been of the last three to four months since the pandemic began in the UK?

It’s been really interesting. We’ve actually kept very busy, but obviously, we’ve been adapting weekly to what our clients need and also to the candidates. I think one of the first observations would be the candidate pool that is available at the moment is probably richer than it’s ever been. Understandably, there’s been quite a lot of movement in this market — clients have had to make changes, they’ve had to let candidates go. So we are really, really rich in candidates who perhaps have been in previous positions for a good length of time and have got some wonderful longevity on their CVs, who have now found themselves available for the first time in a long time. So, I would say that’s definitely been something I’ve really noticed — just the quality of the candidates we’ve been speaking with, registering and who we’re able to access at the moment.

You mentioned there have been some redundancies. Have you found fewer people are hiring or there are fewer jobs available within family offices and domestic households?

Yeah, I would say the family office space has definitely been quieter. We usually recruit evenly between family offices and private homes. But, certainly, the family office environment does seem to be fairly quiet at the moment. I think that’s due to some very practical reasons. Obviously, it’s an office setting and you know, the government guidance has been for people to be working at home [up until this point]. But due to the confidentiality aspect of working within a family office, sometimes that’s not possible. And also, in terms of recruitment for family offices, the due diligence is key and they very much value a final face to face interview, which hasn’t been hasn’t been able to happen until very recently. So, definitely quieter on that front, although we’ve taken on a couple of chief of staff roles actually in the last few weeks, so that is moving in a positive direction.

Where we’ve been busier is definitely in the domestic provision the whole way through the pandemic, as clients have been needing extra resources. That could be anything from a housekeeper to a nanny or a private chef. Those have been the three positions I would say we’re recruiting for constantly.

Why do you think that is?

I think it’s because people are at home! Everyone’s been stuck at home and it’s a huge amount of extra work for everyone. Clients are consolidating a little bit, so, I think are looking for really good quality candidates to come in and just ease some of the strain. They may have used the time during the pandemic to look at their current staffing and consider if it’s up to scratch. They may have had to have let people go at the beginning of the pandemic, due to safety. Now that the lockdown restrictions are easing, I think they’re now trying to plug the gap that’s been left. I think on the nanny point, that’s been quite prevalent because we’ve all had our children at home. It’s a lot to juggle, so that’s definitely been a requirement. We’ve had quite a few of those positions come through.

You mentioned the word consolidating earlier. Have you seen people consolidating role responsibilities into more hybrid roles?

Consolidation is happening in terms of having staff who are no longer traveling. So, the trend prior to COVID-19 was to have really flexible staff who would travel with the family from property to property, internationally. Because of the travel restrictions and the anticipation that they may be in place for quite some time, clients are now thinking “actually, I need to have a smaller body of staff who are static in each of my homes.” So, we’re definitely finding we’ve had some inquiries and work that we’ve been looking after overseas, where we’ve placed a domestic couple or a private chef and those candidates are replacing previous employees who would have been traveling with the family. I think that’s going to be a new trend, where clients have a lesser body of staff in place in each of their homes, but those staff stay where they are.

Do you foresee that’s going to represent more difficulties in terms of recruitment if you’re recruiting local staff?

Not at all! I think, we’re super lucky that we have an international reach. We [Tiger] have got offices in London, Dubai and New York and our candidate pool is global. Our reach is vast and for the last four years we’ve been recruiting internationally anyway. So, no, it doesn’t really inhibit what we’re doing at all.

On the travel side, we did a webinar recently with some workplace experts talking about the future of work  and a little bit more about the [affect] the pandemic has [had]. Do you have any thoughts about how [your clients] are going to move forward particularly around traveling for meetings, or any other changes this pandemic has brought about for the longer term?

With our family office clients, initially they were a little bit reluctant to adapt to anything other than face-to-face interviews, which was why we could feel things were a little bit quieter. But, what has happened over time is they have engaged with the technology that’s available, like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and the various other things. That’s meant that now they’re feeling comfortable with that, they don’t need to be doing the travel for meetings in particular that they once did.

If your clients aren’t travelling as much and are able and open to doing virtual interviews, then it probably means that they’re able to take advantage of more candidates and are less likely to lose them in a longer process?

Yeah, that’s totally correct. We can expedite things as quickly as possible. We’ve had a couple of roles where, historically, because each stage would have been face to face, which would have been subject to the availability of the people who were recruiting for the role. Now, because we’ve been able to facilitate that via Zoom, they have been able to move through the rounds very, very quickly. It’s definitely meaning that from having a job briefed in, to having it filled, the timeline is definitely quicker.

You mentioned some of the ways private household roles are changing. Are you expecting any changes in the way family offices are structured, or the types of roles they’re recruiting?

I don’t know, in truth. I think the family office space is undoubtedly going to change slightly. In the UK, I think that’s also coupled with Brexit as well. So, I think that there will be a knock on effect and there will be some family offices that perhaps reduce their numbers or even close down. But likewise, I think there are clients who always will want to have a family office, at least one in Europe and one further afield, usually. I can’t really see that changing. In terms of roles, I think there will be a bit of consolidation. Again, learning that you can use people remotely does mean that your pool of expertise is far greater.

How do you see Tiger Private adapting to the pandemic and hopefully a further loosening of lockdown measures and government guidance for the rest of the year?

We are very lucky that we have really great repeat business and very meaningful relationships with many of our clients who have often come to us for extra advice. So, we were able to help with advice around furlough and employment law advice at the beginning. We’ve been able to help them work out how to interview and how to integrate people safely into their homes. So, we like to be at the end of the phone to offer any advice they may need. It’s really important that we’re available and we get to the crux of exactly what they want.

Have any seen any sort of trends around the split between temporary or seasonal?

The permanent market has been definitely stronger for us. I think the temporary market has definitely taken a little bit of a hit. Purely from a practical perspective, because of the guidelines and not being allowed to have exposure to different people. I do think that will change. I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks, since the air bridges have been announced and travel is starting to gear up again, we’ve had requests for a contract staff for villas and holiday homes. These staff will go in and be the provision, again, because clients aren’t moving their permanent body of staff around as much as they used to. So, that’s definitely picked up. I think going forwards, it will be interesting to see what happens. It may be that clients feel a bit more comfortable having candidates on contracts they can release. But it may be that they are just looking to consolidate and just have a really special body of permanent staff who that who they can rely on.

Have you seen a demand at all from any clients around temperature testing or testing for COVID? Or, if we get to a point where [testing] does become more finessed, do you foresee that being part of the process, specifically for domestic household staff?

I think definitely. Ironically, I’ve organised an interview this morning, and part of that was that the candidate needed to make sure that they were going to be arriving wearing a face mask and applying hand sanitiser before they entered the building. That’s a new little addition to my interview confirmation that that didn’t exist before COVID. I think the temperature testing, I was speaking to one of my chief of staff candidates who works for a very large household staff team, with 20 plus staff members at any one time in this particular property. We were talking about temperature testing as part of the new normal. Because candidates do work very closely with each other within private houses and it’s very important to keep each other and the family safe. I do think in larger staff homes [temperature testing] may become something that they implement as quite sensible provision.

Author Laura Glendenning Tiger Recruitment Team
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