What the recruitment world has learnt from 2020

2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging, tumultuous years since World War II. Covid-19 has impacted the world in ways which will have long-lasting effects in many areas of our lives – both personally and professionally. Given the devastation it has caused so many industries, recruitment was far from immune. During the first lockdown, the job market all but froze. In May, deep into lockdown when the impact was truly being felt, WaveTrackR data showed that applications dropped to 38% below the January-March average and jobs plummeted to 82% under the average for the same period. Recruitment experienced the Big Pause and agencies and providers did all they could to make their businesses leaner and ride out the storm. 

After the first lockdown, the economy began to open up and jobs slowly, tentatively started rising. At the same time, redundancies increased across the UK and applications began to build momentum until we reached the incredible figure of 148% above the average of the pre-Covid 2020 months. As the year draws to a close both applications and jobs appear to be stabilising somewhat, even with the seasonal trend for a year-end slowdown. Businesses across the UK are now looking to 2021 and planning, re-evaluating, taking stock. The upside to a year like 2020 is that you can learn more about your business, your team and your abilities when there’s a crisis. So what has 2020 taught us about recruitment and how to grow in 2021?     

The right tech can transform your business

One of the few industries that actually boomed this year as a result of the pandemic was IT & Internet. As the world went remote overnight, the demand for digital technologies accelerated. That demand will undoubtedly continue into the future and businesses need to keep up to stay ahead. In recruitment, tech that streamlines the entire process – from job ad composition, to job posting, to applications and candidate management, to hire – and helps you to save both time and money is vital. The value of analytical data that can recommend when, where and what to post as well as compare job board performance has become evidently clear. Being able to assess your recruitment strategy with real, quantifiable data is truly transformative.     

Relationship building is key

The closer you are to your candidates and clients and the more you understand the industry they work in and you recruit for, the more successful you will be both in winning clients and sourcing top talent. Investing time in your clients and candidates will undoubtedly pay dividends. Clients and candidates alike have appreciated recruiters taking the time to stay in touch – a chat with no agenda during an incredibly challenging time is something that will be remembered long after this crisis is over. Staying close to top talent so that when hiring began once more you had a pool from which to connect the right candidate with the right opportunity proved vital. Talking to clients about their needs and their predictions for their industry will have allowed you to forecast, plan and prepare. If this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that building and maintaining relationships, retaining that human touch, is vital.      

There will always be a need for talent

Even in the darkest days of lockdown, talent was needed in sectors struggling to keep up with Covid-related demand. Warehousing, supermarket retail, logistics, courier companies, IT & internet and healthcare all embarked on recruitment drives. Where many larger companies in other industries weren’t hiring, some smaller ones were. Start-ups and small businesses are driving demand for talent and the green shoots of recovery should bring opportunities for recruiters. It will be those recruiters who have stayed close to their candidates and have a strong internal talent pool that will be reaping the rewards when opportunities begin to open up again.     

Flexible working is here to stay

We heralded the growing momentum of flexible working policies in both our WaveTrackR Annual Report published at the beginning of the year and in our Talent Matters event in February. Little did we know that an imminent global pandemic would hugely accelerate this shift. And the shift isn’t just in where people work but how they structure their day. Many companies – including those who may have previously been averse to flexible working – are allowing their workers to structure their hours around what works for them. There’s also growing momentum for a focus on output and productivity rather than hours worked. This should open up possibilities to a far greater pool of talent who might not have been able to work a 9-5 day in an office. 

Transferrable skills can be a goldmine

With candidates in severely affected industries experiencing stagnation in the jobs market, many are thinking of a career shift. 2020 was the year of the career pivot, where candidates – aided by recruiters – looked to industries that had a high number of vacancies. Retraining was one option but time-consuming and costly so soft and transferrable skills became key. For example, if a candidate works in a people-facing hospitality or travel role, they could be well placed to work in an essential retail store or in the caring sector.  What is important is to find roles that fit a candidate’s core values and soft skills and help them to sell those. For a client, a candidate with a fresh perspective on their industry and with a raft of core, transferable skills can be incredibly attractive. 

Efficiency in all areas maximises profitability

During the quiet time of lockdown, many businesses turned their attention to shedding costs they didn’t need and becoming leaner – cancelling subscriptions they no longer used, reviewing and comparing their tech, reassessing job board spend and investing in tech that saved them time and money in order to maximise their recruitment budget. As a result, many will be entering 2021 leaner, healthier, more efficient, with the ability to maximise their profitability.    

Job board advertising should be about quality over quantity

Cast your mind back to the hazy days of the beginning of the year when jobs were plentiful but candidates low. Posting your jobs to multiple job boards made sense then in order to get your job ad seen by as many candidates as possible. Now, when there is an influx of candidates, jobs are slow and budgets are low, recruiters are slimming down the number of job boards they use and using tech to pinpoint the right job boards for their jobs. A crisis is often a catalyst for change. Now is the time to explore options when it comes to job board advertising, perhaps creating an ecosystem with job boards you can rely on to produce results, topped up with injections of performance-based advertising when needed.  

Diversity & Inclusion is vital

 2020 wasn’t only memorable as being the year a pandemic swept the globe but as the year the fight against racism was taken up a notch. The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, not just because it is clearly the right thing to do but also because it increases the profitability of businesses. Diverse employees and leadership mean diverse thought, ideas and solutions. Now is the time to look at your policies and embed D&I into your recruitment strategy

2020 has been a year of upheaval, of sadness, of tremendous challenges, but it has also been a catalyst for change for the good. When people had to stay apart, the world came together and our industry was no exception. There have been fantastic initiatives set up by those working in recruitment and related industries to help recruitment businesses through these incredibly challenging times. And we have learnt valuable lessons about how to improve our businesses and the industry as a whole. A crisis often ignites innovation and new business and 2021 could be the start of a wave of hiring drives. Just make sure you’re ready. 

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