Virtual Networking – is it here to stay?

The last 16 months have seen the working landscape change at a pace most of us have never experienced before. From the seismic shift to working from home, to interviews and onboarding being done 100% virtually, as well as social occasions with colleagues being carried out from behind a screen, a large proportion of the population have had to adapt and get used to a very different working life.

At Rutherford Cross we have always been a business that strives to connect our key stakeholders – clients, candidates, colleagues, and communities. Historically we have offered regular networking opportunities at in person events including breakfast seminars, round table lunches, charity dinners and sporting events.

As a business we were keen to ensure we could still allow our network to connect during lockdown, and quickly moved to offering online networking opportunities similar to our in-person events, including some smaller group round table discussions, and others which featured a key guest speaker with over 100 attendees at times.

Many of these smaller roundtable virtual events, particularly at the beginning of lockdown, were really valuable in allowing people from different organisations to share information and ideas on how to handle situations that were new to them.  Attendees shared their experiences around setting up employees for remote working, managing teams remotely, onboarding new staff virtually, mental health awareness, and ensuring work/life balance while employees are working in such unusual circumstances.

Interestingly, as time has gone on and we have become used to a more virtual world of work, we have seen the appetite for attending online events dramatically increase. One driver for this could be convenience. People are now able to log on to a virtual networking event over their lunch, listen to a guest speaker, and be finished in an hour, with the commute to the event eliminated and time spent networking before and after the event also removed.

While this can certainly be seen as an advantage from a time perspective and removes geographical barriers to attendance, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues when more of us return to working in offices again in some form. Will convenience move some of these networking events online for good, or will the draw of meeting people in person again with face-to-face networking take over?

Like many things in this new world of work, a hybrid of both may prove to be the answer to accommodate changing working patterns and the needs of our new working world.

The findings of the Livingston James Group ‘Return to Work’ survey can be viewed here.  To discuss your senior finance recruitment needs, contact [email protected]