The North-West tech sector had a hugely successful year in 2019. Indeed, the beginning of this year was looking very promising… but then the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the UK and changed everything. To try and make sense of it all, we consider the importance of recruitment agencies in the ‘new normal’.
What Just Happened?
Firstly, what on earth has happened over the past few months? Well, when the UK officially went into lockdown, a ripple of panic was felt throughout the entire business community. The initial knee jerk reaction from most companies was to freeze all recruitment activity instantly. Many were quick to take advantage of the furlough scheme while others made redundancies.
Where are We Now?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the media have reported nothing but doom and gloom in the UK jobs market. But is it as bad as they make out? The government estimate that 8.4bn workers are now on furlough, which equates to roughly a quarter of the UK workforce. Furthermore, a quarter of employees say they expect to make redundancies as a result of the lockdown restrictions imposed.
However, according to APSco’s Recruitment Trends Snapshot for June 2020, statistics show signs that the recruitment industry is recovering. To put this into perspective, there were 50% fewer permanent placements made in May than April. By comparison, June showed a drop of only 2% against the previous month. While this is still a drop, this is an indicator that the economy is showing signs of recovery.
On a local level, our clients are advertising vacancies more confidently than they were this time last month. Furthermore, the number of new candidate registrations we are receiving is the highest we have seen all year.
What is the Importance of Recruitment Agencies in the ‘New Normal’?
The government advice remains that anyone who can work from home, should. Furthermore, wherever possible, we should all avoid public transport.
We have not come far enough yet to say what the new normal might look like. For the time being though, we are all settling into very different working environments. So what is the importance of recruitment agencies in helping their clients get through this challenging time?
The technology and marketing sectors, particularly seem to have adapted very well to the situation. However, remote working doesn’t suit everyone. Of course, some employees are thriving working in isolation. For others, being away from friends and co-workers is taking a noticeable toll on their mental health.
Under ordinary circumstances, the main benefit of businesses using a recruitment agency is saving time and money. Good recruitment agencies also help businesses connect with applicants possessing skills and experience, which may otherwise be out of reach.
However, the current situation has brought a massive amount of change to a recruitment consultant’s job. Of course, there are the usual tasks such as trawling job boards and social media channels to headhunt suitable candidates for full-time positions. Additionally, they must now also facilitate virtual interviews and assist with new onboarding challenges presented by the crisis.
Changes we have Observed in Recent Months
Our team has always taken pride in providing our clients with a consultancy service, rather than just a placement service. Recently, our roles here have become more about advising on the state of the market than ever before. In particular, we have made the following observations:
Changes in the Candidate’s Expectations
A distinct trend we have noticed is that candidates seem more willing to accept job offers which they might previously have disregarded. As a result, many roles which were previously hard to fill, now seem relatively easy to place candidates in.
Of course, it is fantastic that, businesses who were struggling to find talented professionals, are now filling their vacancies. However, if they don’t stop to question why, they could find themselves merely being a stop-gap for candidates who are reluctant to have a period of unemployment in their CV.
This might sound harsh. However, there must be some reason those top candidates, who previously overlooked these positions are now so keen. Our advice to businesses where this is the case is to address issues which may have previously put candidates off. By not doing so, they risk losing talented individuals who might be easily tempted by a more attractive offer long-term.
Wherever possible, we have assisted our clients in conducting remote interviews and virtual office tours. In our experience, both candidates and clients seem to be happy with the way this has gone.
However, this does not seem to be the case within recruitment as a whole. There have been many reports from job seekers and employers alike who struggle with trusting people without meeting them. Indeed, disgruntled candidates have been seen lately, venting their frustrations on social media. It seems employers are expecting them to attend interviews in an environment where they don’t feel safe.
On the employer’s side, such issues of trust should be easily overcome by conducting thorough background checks. For candidates, there is no easy way around this situation. They either accept it, or they don’t, but either way, suffer the consequences. Consequently, we worry that they may keep quiet about their feelings of unease with their new employer for now. Long-term, however, it will be interesting to see how long these employees remain loyal once normality resumes.
Just The Tip of The Iceberg
The above scenarios are just a few examples of situations neither ourselves, our clients, or our candidates have experience of. Although, as consultants, we must advise according to our professional judgement.
Thankfully, being members of the Recruitment Employment Confederation (REC), and the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSco), we have a wealth of information and a strong network of expertise available to us. Both have proved to be invaluable in these unprecedented circumstances.
Who Knows What The Future Looks Like?
As for what the future holds, or how long this pandemic will last, only time can tell. What has been most surprising is the impressive speed at which our clients have been able and willing to adapt. Furthermore, we are reminded daily, of the importance of recruitment agencies in these bizarre times, and the advisory service we provide to our clients.
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Alternatively, if you’re a business needing advice navigating this bizarre recruitment landscape, please, don’t hesitate to contact us.