The bounce-back of recruitment post COVID 19: frozen or skating on thin ice?
Sandra Smart, Company Director of Octopus Personnel, responds to questions about recruitment post COVID 19, the challenges currently faced by the sector, the opportunities for growth and the long-term changes likely to become sector-wide.
How has the recruitment industry been impacted by the measures introduced to tackle the COVID 19 pandemic?
The impact of COVID 19 has quite simply been unprecedented, with companies either putting a recruitment freeze in place or shifting start dates significantly. However, this freeze isn’t due to recession; it isn’t due to lack of demand or funds. Many companies and clients still want to recruit but are frozen themselves due to the nationwide lockdown.
Like many businesses, recruiters have worked extremely hard to adapt to lockdown conditions and provide continuity and the same high-quality service to their clients and candidates remotely. With more recent news from the Prime Minister and the furlough scheme open, there is definitely some light at the end of the tunnel, unfortunately no-one is clear how long the tunnel may end up being.
What is the biggest challenge for your clients?
The biggest challenge for our clients currently is the unknowable. How long will this go on for? Between February and March, employer confidence in the economy dropped by 22%, according to the specially-commissioned COVID-19 REC Jobs outlook survey. With regard to recruiting permanent employees, things have become harder with a clear, short-term slow-down across most sectors.
However, the recruitment industry is vast and wide and when employers think longer-term, it’s clear that recovery is on the cards and they are still looking to hire staff. So whilst some areas have been extremely hard hit, others have prospered during this time.
The REC survey showed that short-term demand for temporary workers increased by 15%. Whilst some roles for temporary staff, such as those in retail, hospitality and leisure, simply vanished overnight, other jobs including those in supermarkets, food production, delivery and cleaning increased in demand.
Another area that in the South West which will continue to create jobs is agriculture. With international workers unable to travel there is a fear that crops will rot in fields and greenhouses, and food very much remains an essential service.
How has Octopus Personnel dealt with the crisis? What have been your priorities?
Recruitment as an industry is extremely vibrant. It is high energy and highly social, with dynamic flow between needs of the clients and the candidate. Our focus during this time has most certainly been the wellbeing of our clients and candidates, supporting our clients with advice and reaching out to our candidates to make sure that nobody feels isolated in these days of self-isolation.
We have a fantastic team who were able to transition to remote working extremely well. We are used to supporting each other in the office, and we have found new ways to offer than same level of support at home. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and email have kept us in touch in real time and allowed us to focus on short-term productivity goals which have kept the whole team driving forward.
We have worked hard, wherever possible, to reassign our brilliant temporary workers to those companies and industries which are fulfilling key worker roles, areas where there is still demand for workers. For those individuals seeking permanent roles, it is about helping them to use this time as productively as possible, to reskill, or upskill, to be ready once lockdown is lifted. Recruitment post COVID 19 may look quite different, with a dramatic shift from a candidate-driven market, to a client-driven market
What do you anticipate might be the long-term changes to recruitment moving forwards?
I have been incredibly proud of the way the Octopus team has risen to the challenges of this time, using technology, team spirit and hard work to achieve. I know we will take many lessons forward from this time and it will alter the way we work.
On a larger scale across the industry I would expect to see wider changes too, such as:
- much of the interview process moving online
- development and utilisation of recruitment technology
- a much greater availability of flexibility and remote working options
- a review of employment contracts and employee benefits
- candidates who are open and actively seeking to reskill and upskill
- a more long-term focus on recruitment strategy and conscientious budgeting
- a greater focus on flexibility and dynamic team members with proven response to challenge and change
- the focus to be on retainment and development of staff, as well as ensuring the right people are recruited
When might things get ‘back to normal’? When might recruitment post COVID 19 bounce back?
I think we can all agree there will be a new ‘normal’, but I do believe that the Government’s measures, especially the furlough scheme, will have a significant impact on businesses’ ability to retain their staff. This will make it quicker and easier for companies to return to previous levels of productivity, something which will be vital for the recruitment sector, opening up the funds and the focus for staff who can continue to drive businesses forward.
For us, we are ready for the bounce-back of recruitment post COVID 19 and prepared to support our clients & candidates effectively. We have continued to register high-calibre candidates during this time as well as funnelling our quality temporary staff into roles within the key worker industries. Whatever challenges you are facing, whether you need temporary staff, advice, or simply a chat, Octopus Personnel are here to support you. Call us on 01747 825568 or visit the website to request a call back.