The Legacy of COVID-19 Could Be Improved Hiring Processes

  • January 7, 2021

There’s a certain sense of relief now 2020 is over. Though we are under no illusions that it signifies the end of turbulent times, it does feel as though it might be the beginning of a more hopeful and stable future.

In moving forward, it’s important to reflect on the events of the last year and in this blog in particular we want to look how the recruitment industry has changed in 2020 and what the long-term impact of these changes could be going forward.

Recruitment needs have changed for many

In the second quarter of last year, almost 9 million UK workers were furloughed under the Gov’s job retention scheme, followed by mass redundancies and an unprecedented fall in live vacancies.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) reported that permanent vacancies dropped at the sharpest rate on record in April. But, there were some industries or subsectors that bucked the trend and even experienced growth.

The Government were forced to arrange Charter flights of Romanian workers to be drafted in to support UK farmers cope with a shortage of fruit pickers and increased demand from supermarkets.

Speaking of supermarkets, they have clearly bucked the trend, as has the care industry and logistics and delivery roles have picked up the slack in the labour market, providing much-needed employment opportunities for those laid off in the hospitality and retail markets. The IT and technology sector has also experienced an increase in demand for mainly interim workers to support businesses through all the challenges involved in quickly transitioning to remote operations.

Recruiters now have a serious part to play in this post-COVID-19 world. Unemployment rates were forecast to drop to the 6.6% mark at the end of the year, and with the continuation of the job retention scheme masking the true potential unemployment rate, the situation may continue to get worse into 2021.

The recruitment process changed drastically

Even though there was a dramatic decrease in demand for labour, the organisations who continued to recruit through the crisis faced logistical challenges. Social distancing meant face-to-face recruitment processes like interviews, and onboarding processes like training academies and induction procedures all needed to be turned upside down and carried out remotely.

For many employers, it took a lot of getting their head around the fact they were going to have to take on a new, expensive hire without ever setting eyes on them “in real life”. That concept of real-life changed significantly, and employers learned they didn’t need to be close to each other to feel part of the team or get the measure of a person.

There are current employees and employers who have now been working together for months and have never been in the same building let alone the same room. Now these barriers have been breached, none of this seems frightening or unusual. In fact, many employers are wondering what the big deal ever was.

Remote working is the new normal for many

There’s a sense now as we have found our new normal that the nature of employment and the recruitment process has changed forever. With only a quarter of office-workers surveyed with any intention to ever return full-time to the office, as we recover from the pandemic it’s dawning on us that we will emerge in a very different world to the one that existed pre 2020. And we’re ok with that.

With various vaccine programmes now underway in the UK, it’s only a matter of time now before things do begin to return to normal, but normal doesn’t mean “the way it once was”. The recruitment industry will be pivotal in not only mobilising the UK workforce again, but also in offering a much-needed hand in helping clients to adjust to the new nature of recruiting. We need to fast become experts in remote recruitment practices, from the adoption of new technologies such as video interviewing and virtual onboarding, to being champions of flexible and remote workforces.

Businesses who were too slow or resistant to change really will reach the end of the line in the face of this forced evolution of business processes. The world will not wait while organisations play catch up with digital transformation, shifts in company culture and relaxation of old-fashioned principles and practices.

It’s time to embrace change

The legacy of COVID-19 seems to be an understanding that physical distance is no barrier to relationships. It’s our expectation that even as the need for social distancing decreases, remote working will continue to increase. In the same way, we expect remote recruiting will become the new normal and if we can recruit from anywhere, and work from anywhere, as a result, we will find ourselves working in a truly globalised labour market.

We think most people are glad to see the back of 2020. It’s been a tough year for most, for all sorts of reasons, but as from all disasters, necessity breeds innovation. The world has changed more rapidly in the past year than any of us will ever have experienced before. And the future is interesting, to say the least. We’re excited to help our clients and candidates navigate the changes 2021 have in store. Whatever your recruitment needs, keep in touch.

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