What a crazy 12 months we’ve had!
I remember the first two months of 2020. We were experiencing a candidate-driven recruitment market, caused by the lowest levels of unemployment the UK had known in years, with the average rate of unemployment across the country sitting at about 3%.
Some regions were experiencing rates as low as 2.4%, which meant that for many skilled roles, employers were now having to compete; not just for clients but for staff too – a ‘Brave New World’ indeed.
Recruitment In A Fast-Changing Market
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to bite, I remember that we were still consulting with employers and advising them on how to attract candidates to their vacancies.
The sheer number of vacancies available had allowed potential candidates to be extremely choosy about the roles they’d apply for. This meant they sometimes asked difficult questions.
Not just about the advertised role itself, but about the day-to-day realities of the job too. Candidates would also want to know everything about a potential employer before they agreed to be put forward for a role.
Frequently asked questions shifted to issues like career development opportunities, the support required to achieve them, the potential employer’s growth strategy, their success in the marketplace, and the benefits offered.
Then, on March 23rd 2020, the roof fell in.
Most of the economy – and recruitment activity especially – ceased overnight. We started March 23rd with over one hundred active vacancies, and by the morning of the 25th, we had a mere handful.
By the end of that week, our entire team had been furloughed, and what had started as a year full of opportunity now felt like it would instead be a disaster – both for us as a business, and for our team and their families.
The Recruitment Geeks remained shut until July 2020, and when we finally reopened, it was with a sense of trepidation.
Would there even be a business to return to?
The last few months have seen us add new clients – continuing the growth of previous years – and while it’s not been plain sailing, we’re glad to say that the future is looking brighter than we expected.
At the moment, the economy is a tale of two halves, and we feel desperately for those whose work is in industries that are suffering.
But at the same time, we count our blessings, and are glad that we are still here to help businesses and candidates find each other.
It has been interesting to see how the job market has changed over the last few months, and to consider what may become the norm over the coming years.
You may presume that employers are now firmly in the driving seat, and able to take their pick from hundreds of applications received for every vacancy, but in fact, for many sectors this is far from the case.
Indeed, for some roles, the situation seems even more skewed towards candidates than it was previously.
So what can we take from the current state of affairs, and what could they mean for the future of recruitment?
Firstly, over the last 12 months businesses and employees have learnt that remote working is definitely possible, with many employers who had previously dismissed it now being forced to implement remote working practices across their teams.
This has presented many challenges for the business world, but it has also offered opportunities – and some forward-thinking companies have made the most of them.
Here are just three of the working trends that have developed during the pandemic, and how they may impact employers over the coming years.
The Rise Of Blended Working
Spotify is a company that is an extreme example of offering employees the flexibility to work from wherever they wish – even internationally. Obviously, this model won’t work for every business or individual, but it still points to a future where a mix of on-site, remote, and even international employees are the norm.
Many organisations of all shapes and sizes are now reviewing their office space needs for this very reason. The future may see going into the office as being an exception to the norm, used primarily for collaborative work, while working from home will be the standard when doing routine tasks.
We have noticed a recent trend of candidates ruling out potential job opportunities if the employer requires full-time office attendance, so that particular cat is now firmly out of the bag; we don’t think a full return to office working as it was before is ever going to happen.
Our prediction is that companies will return to their offices, but teams will work in a much more blended way – with staff only coming onto the employer’s premises when they specifically need to.
Travelling for a routine sales meeting may well be a thing of the past too, as the last 12 months have taught us that remote meetings are straightforward and productive.
The ability to have more meetings in a day, without incurring the wasted time and additional costs associated with travel, is a win-win for businesses and staff alike. Face-to-face meetings will still happen, but nowhere near as frequently as they did pre-2020.
The shifts in working patterns over the past year also provide a real opportunity to attract and employ the best candidates available, regardless of where those individuals may be based.
For example, we’ve recently been working with several Plymouth-based organisations who have decided to advertise vacancies across the whole of the UK, whereas pre-pandemic these job openings would likely have only been promoted locally.
This approach allows businesses to attract a wider range of candidates with a more diverse skillset and a greater level of experience.
The knock-on effect of this, is that in order to secure staff based elsewhere, these companies have been forced to pay salaries that are consistent with those offered in other parts of the country.
These businesses have interviewed, hired, and successfully inducted new team members without ever having met them face-to-face. They have even found that it is entirely possible to comply with right to work legislation while working remotely.
This trend is the one which may have the most dramatic impact on both businesses and employees in future, as it means people won’t have to move away from their home region as much in order to find their dream role.
The Rise Of The Remote Interview
There has been an understandable hesitance to organise and attend face-to-face interviews during the pandemic.
Moving forward, we can definitely see a case for there being a rule that first stage interviews are to be held remotely – especially if organisations are attracting candidates from further afield, when travelling for a first stage interview will not be viable for many people.
Final stage interviews may still occur face-to-face, but even then, that will be down to individual preferences and not considered a necessity.
Plus, as the government starts making noises about charging drivers for their road use by the mile, there may be an even more dramatic shift towards remote interviewing than we anticipate.
Candidate-Driven Recruitment Is Here To Stay
The reality of the candidate-driven recruitment market was being felt even pre-COVID, but with the rise in remote working caused by the pandemic, and the increased flexibility that this affords, employers will probably have to be even more sensitive to the needs of their present and future teams over the coming years.
For example, before the pandemic, some recruitment companies and larger organisations shifted to relying heavily on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). This produced an impersonal experience, with candidates left to apply online – having to fill out endless forms and being unable to speak to a real human.
There will always be a place for the ATS, but with candidates now having so much choice when job-hunting, across a much wider geographical area, potential employers will be forced to look at the value proposition they make to candidates.
This will start from the first point of contact and continue throughout the selection process, lasting into their tenure with their new employer.
For SMEs, this is a potential threat.
Larger companies are adept at attracting strong candidates because they offer great career development opportunities, backed by strong training provisions and attractive benefits.
If candidates no longer need to move location in order to take up attractive jobs with large businesses, this means that every SME – no matter where it is based – is now competing for the same talent that larger organisations are trying to attract.
Candidates are very perceptive, and if this trend progresses, you can be sure that local employers will be compared (favourably or otherwise) to a wider range of employers – both regional and national.
How Can Employers Prepare For Changing Expectations?
Every organisation is going to need to focus on the culture they present to potential employees. Are they a leader, driving their sector forward and developing their teams? Or are they lagging behind the competition, consistently losing ground in the marketplace?
In future, attracting and hiring the best candidates will be contingent on how the business is perceived by others.
Don’t believe this?
Just check out Glassdoor and see how brutal the reviews can be when a business gets its employee experience wrong.
From our point of view, one of the first questions asked by most candidates when discussing a role is, ‘who is the employer?’ Once they know, candidates tend to check Glassdoor reviews before agreeing to be put forward for a role.
So, what is the number one step that employers – large and small – need to be taking to prepare for the future?
In our opinion, the most critical thing that any employer needs to focus on is their culture, and how they communicate it to the outside world. As the old saying goes, ‘people buy from people’ – and it’s still true.
You should look at your business as if it were a person. How does it feel? Is it cold, distant, and unfriendly? Or is it open, collaborative, and welcoming?
Did you know that salary is not the primary reason people select one opportunity over another, but is instead only one factor considered among several others.
As long as the salary is realistic, for most candidates it is often trumped by how the employer is perceived, what career development opportunities exist, and ultimately, how much potential for progress there is.
Organisations that can predict the expectations of the commercial marketplace, and shift ahead of them, are always going to be more successful than those which merely react – and this is just as true when dealing with the candidate marketplace.
The businesses that can take best advantage of the opportunities that are currently developing will reap the rewards for years to come.
The question is, will your organisation be one of them?