Special Report
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Some sectors have grown in pandemic

How industries have adapted and grown so fast that they are constantly hiring new staff

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody some good and the pandemic has certainly been uneven in its impact. While some sectors such as hospitality and the night-time economy have been subject to lengthy closures and near devastation, others have prospered as a result of changing consumer habits and the global health emergency.

Industries such as biopharma and medtech and the online payments sector were among the most obvious beneficiaries but there have also been winners in areas such as logistics and in-home entertainment thanks to the mass switch to e-commerce and the closure of live events. Meanwhile, manufacturing generally has come through the past 21 months in rude health.

One company that spans many of these sectors is PM Group, which manages the design, construction and commissioning of high-tech facilities for the world’s leading pharma, food, data centre and medtech companies. With more than 3,500 employees in 16 offices across 10 countries in the US, Europe, and Asia, the company had revenues of almost ¤400 million in 2020.

“We have experienced significant growth over the past number of years, the last three in particular, and now have 53 different nationalities working in the business,” says PM Group head of recruitment and talent acquisition Dave Egan. “We continue to go from strength to strength. We opened new offices in Germany and Philadelphia in last year.


“A lot of our clients are continuing to invest in their facilities across the world, where many of them are involved in the development of vaccines and new treatments for Covid-19. This activity is likely to increase in 2022 and beyond.”

The organisation coped well with the pandemic. “It forced remote work on a lot of organisations,” Egan notes. “But if you stand back and look at it, there was definitely going to be a change in the work environment. The pandemic accelerated that. A lot of our people had been working on their laptops for a long time and were ready for the move.”

The people element is equally if not more important, he adds. “People need to interact and engage with each other and have those five-minute chats at the coffee station. We miss those informal moments when important information can get shared in an unplanned way. The key thing for us has been constant communications so that people always know what’s going on.”

The company has surveyed its staff to establish what they expect from the workplace. “The consensus was that people wanted to spend two or three days in the office ,” says Egan. “This is the voice of the people, and we listen to it. This is part of our culture as a 100 per cent employee-owned organisation. We want our employees to know that they can play a part in shaping the future direction of the business.”

While recruitment can be challenging, the nature of the business helps. “Our growth has opened up opportunities for us to recruit in different markets and regions. What stands to us is the different type of client we deal with and the type of projects we work on. That definitely attracts people in.

“I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s a challenging, competitive environment, but that helps. Also, culture matters to a lot more people now and that does stand for us as well. Our employee ownership structure is quite attractive.”


Fiserv operates in the fast-growing fintech and payments space where talent shortages have been a feature for a number of years.

“While Ireland has many excellent and well-subscribed third-level graduate technology programmes, the demand for both graduate and experienced technologists vastly outstrips supply and many technology organisations have struggled to find the talent they require,” says vice-president and general manager Alan Burton.

“Despite hiring more than 200 associates in Ireland in 2021 across our Nenagh and Dublin offices, we still have more than 100 open roles across several functional areas including programme management, product management, technology, finance, HR and sales.”

He has noted a shift in employee expectations since the pandemic began. “Candidates are more actively evaluating the things that are personally important to them, including professional growth opportunities, corporate social responsibility and flexible working conditions. The post-pandemic workforce is voting with their feet, and we can see that many companies are experiencing high levels of attrition.”

The company is meeting that challenge through its carefully crafted employee value proposition. “We hire those who want to be at the forefront of fintech, those who have a passion for learning and those who want to have fun,” says Burton.

“The payments industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and we want associates who are excited about helping change the way people live. We offer ample career mobility, from internships to graduate roles up to senior-level employees.”

Unsurprisingly, the Bon Secours Hospital in Dublin is experiencing significant growth in demand from patients and has vacancies across almost every area, from nursing through allied health areas and administration. “I am 15 years in the health service and I’ve never seen demand as high at every level,” says the hospital’s chief executive, Mike Tonery.

“A lot of people are concerned about the implications of Covid on the healthcare system and have taken up private health insurance again. It is not back to its pre-crisis peak but getting quite close. Coupled with that, we are seeing pent-up demand associated with the lockdowns. For three months in 2020 we handed the private health system over to the HSE – that meant normal work didn’t get done for that period.”

People are also opting to have elective procedures now they are vaccinated. “They don’t want to wait any longer for surgery,” says Tonery. “They are voting with their feet and coming in.”

Another demand driver is the private system’s safety-net agreement with the HSE.

“The public system has had to curtail or stop completely elective work due to Covid-19 and they are outsourcing that to the private sector,” he explains. “The third source is the increased National Treatment Purchase Fund budget. The public hospital waiting list is now over 900,000 and will soon hit one million. That’s not going away.”

Patient pathway

Bon Secours Hospital has responded to that increased demand through investment in facilities, introducing procedures to streamline the patient pathway, and a shift to a six-day-a-week service. Additional staff are still required, however.

“We have been involved in a number of recruitment initiatives during the year,” he points out. “We had an open day for nurses in our catchment area. That was reasonably successful.”

The hospital also participated in a major nursing recruitment event in the Merrion Hotel in December.

“Finding people is a challenge across every part of the health system,” he says. “It is particularly challenging in the Dublin area where you have so much competition for staff. We have up to 25 nationalities here without whom wouldn’t be able to keep our doors open. We are competitive in our offer to employees and we are quite successful in our recruitment efforts. We are recruiting all the time. We have to do that if we are to meet the needs of our patients who we are privileged to treat and who entrust us with their care.”

Most people will by now be familiar the stylish Clover point-of-sale machines to be found on retail and café counters. They display clear details of purchases to the customer and enable both contactless and chip-and-pin payments while also connecting back to the retailer’s stock control, purchasing and other management information systems.

Fiserv is the fintech firm behind these devices. “Consumer behaviour is changing rapidly, not only in terms of the migration towards cashless card transactions but also through far more online commerce,” says Alan Burton at Fiserv.

“Our Clover and Carat solutions support many aspects of the global payments ecosystem and despite the effects of the pandemic, consumer spending is increasing across the world. We have therefore seen high demand across all aspects of our client base, from small-to-medium businesses [SMB] right through to our enterprise clients.”

The company is growing rapidly, having hired 200 people this year, with 100 roles still open. “We are accelerating the build out of our SMB-focused development group, Clover,” says Burton. “The Clover group was established in Nenagh in 2021 and currently has 47 associates with aggressive plans to hire an additional 100 people in 2022.

“The challenge in attracting the talent to fill these roles is significant but we see this as a great opportunity for candidates. We want to identify the right people and invest in them through training and accelerated professional development opportunities. A rapidly growing organisation requires talent to step up and take responsibility.

“We are providing an environment where our people can thrive – one that offers tremendous learning opportunities such as bootcamp programmes and partnership initiatives with universities and education-and-training boards.”

Professional goals

Retention also matters. "This is fundamentally important, and our leadership team remains committed to investing in our people for the long term in order to allow people to fulfil both their professional and personal career goals. 
"We see culture as a constantly evolving but critically important dimension of organisational success."

The company offers a wide range of opportunities across the entire software delivery lifecycle, including programme and project managers and product managers, as well as across numerous technology areas.

“Our engineering opportunities include server, front-end, full stack and mobile engineering positions and we also seek DevOps engineers, site reliability engineers [SRE] and software development engineers in test [SDET],” says Burton. “We build blended teams where people can grow by learning from more experienced colleagues and we therefore seek people with experience at junior, mid and senior levels across all these areas.”

Qualifications and expertise are only part of the story. “We are looking for people who are hungry to learn and progress in their careers and who bring a positive vibe to their work. We want our people to progress in their career at Fserv, so we provide multiple careers under one roof by encouraging our people to regularly review their career plan to get them where they want to be.

“In 2021 we had 17 per cent of our workforce apply for internal mobility opportunities, which is a process we actively encourage and support. We are looking for individuals who are interested in a long-term move and who want to be an integral part of our group’s development.”

Professional development is a key element of the Fiserv employee value proposition. “We offer ample career mobility, from internships to graduate roles up to senior-level employees,” Burton adds. “We have devised a standardised process to ensure that our team is given the opportunity to reach their full potential.

“We also take into consideration individuals who would like to develop as individual contributors or individuals who would like to develop as a team leader. This ensures that all personality types can succeed with Fiserv. Diversity and Inclusion is at the core of our hiring and includes elements such as gender-neutral job descriptions and unconscious bias training for all managers.

“We believe that having a can-do attitude, curiosity and a strong team-based philosophy is key to driving our success, as well as retaining the elements that achieved Great Place to Work status for the company.”

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times