November 25, 2020

Facebook ex-HR boss worries grads will miss out due to coronavirus


Fiona Mullan, former vice president of global human resources at Facebook.

Fiona Mullan

LONDON — Graduates are likely to find the workplace “much more challenging” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the former vice president of global human resources at Facebook, who said companies are finding it harder to offer them a satisfactory experience.

Fiona Mullan, who spent almost six years at Facebook, said she is particularly concerned that graduates won’t be able to form the same kinds of relationships with their colleagues that they normally would when they enter the world of work.

“We made some of our best friends in that first job,” Mullan told CNBC via Zoom last week. “We did that because we went on holiday together or we went on boozy nights together or … we learned together. That cohort experience for graduates is going to be much more challenging.”

Mullan, who is now chief people officer at cellphone top-up company Ding, said she’s interested to see whether the pandemic ends up diluting company cultures or whether there’s a difference in job satisfaction levels between employees who joined pre-Covid and post-Covid. “How will it be for people who have never been inside an office or met a physical person of the company that they’re going to work for?”

While some industries such as travel and retail have been decimated by the pandemic, tech on the whole has continued to grow, albeit slightly slower than before, said Mullan.

“The tech industry will be better positioned to continue to invest in graduate hiring than other industries,” Mullan said. However, she highlighted that there likely will be fewer graduate roles available at tech companies this year as a result of the virus.

Engineers, moderators and software developers

In terms of recruitment, Mullan said social media platforms will continue to focus on hiring engineering talent, moderators, and people with the skills to develop software that can automate moderation.

“They’re building for the future and their appetite for the market’s best technical talent is always a strategic plan,” she said. “If they miss a year, they feel the negative impact of that in future years so they will be keen to continue to invest there.”

Indeed, The Telegraph newspaper on Monday reported that TikTok was hiring a new “university relations recruiter” at its London office to find at least nine people to start work at the company next year. Some of the new recruits will reportedly work on developing the company’s machine-learning software that underpins the app’s recommendation algorithm, while others will work in marketing, content development and creative strategy.

Focus on efficiencies

Looking ahead, Mullan said tech firms would likely look to make their finance, legal, and HR teams more “efficient” in the pandemic.

Chris Bray, a recruiter at Heidrick & Struggles who helps U.S. tech giants to find talent in Europe, agreed that strategic decisions around recruitment were now being made, after a difficult period earlier in the year. 

“At the outset of Covid, we witnessed a semi-paralysis amongst many large players, with spending reined in and recruitment strategies put on hold,” he told CNBC.

However, he added: “Over the past quarter, a definite pattern has emerged now that uncertainty is the new-normal and a number of companies have thrived during their first six months in a Covid economy, they are starting to make braver moves and we are seeing a lot of more strategic decision making.”



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