The Impact of COVID-19 on Recruitment

COVID-19 is an international disaster, a worldwide pandemic, that no country, business or individual seems to have escaped unaffected. With every aspect of our daily lives impacted by the unknown, we face a time of unprecedented challenges.

Recruitment has always been a demanding and highly regulated sector. Now, the rapidly changing landscape means that recruitment agencies, like many other SME’s, are having to continuously adapt to constant changes in guidance, regulation and the law. So lets take a look at some of the challenges that we, as recruiters, face.

Social distancing – it goes without saying that this particular aspect of the COVID pandemic has affected us all. There is no business in the UK (and beyond) that has not had to make significant changes to the way it operates. For recruiters, the impact strikes at the very core of the way we do business. No face to face candidate registrations, difficulties with obtaining references, obstacles to the traditional interview process, homeworking, the list goes on and on. So how are we managing the situation?

As a business we recognise the importance of taking an agile approach. We manage proactively and try to ensure that we have a Plan B and Plan C in the pipeline wherever possible. Some patterns have started to emerge over recent months (e.g sector contraction and sector expansion) and these of course impact our business. Our aim is to assess the challenges and recognise where the opportunities might lie, which often requires a change of focus. For example:

Sector Flux – it has become apparent that one major impact COVID has had on the job market is the change in resource demand for certain sectors. Retail and hospitality have come under extreme pressure with many employees furloughed or made redundant. With the time frame to recovery of these sectors unclear, many candidates are now looking for alternatives and a significant number of those are looking for positions that allow (at least partial) home working. Interestingly, the move to homeworking appears to have had a positive impact on some sectors, IT consultancies for example, who are now experiencing an influx of requests from business trying to realign their IT strategies with remote working.

The Client Relationship – many agencies are noting a change in priorities expressed by their clients. With so much of the future unknown, the approach to recruitment has become much more fluid as businesses try to remain in control of resources. Long term hires at this time present as a perceived risk, so many SME’s are turning to short term fixes to maintain internal resourcing. However, as time goes on we may see the eventuality of a skills gap as a result of redundancies and redeployment.

Recruitment Agencies are ideally placed to assist clients to rethink the ‘what, when, where, why and how’ of taking on new staff. Recruiters will be pivotal in leading the way on new employment strategies (such as video interviewing), and this will underpin the expansion of the workforce.

The New Normal – we, like every other business in the UK, are trying to get to grips with how this is all going to play out. One thing we can all be sure of, is the fact that we all need to get used to a new ‘normal’. Recruitment has changed and will probably continue to do so. We have seen a rise in requests for temporary employees, demand in certain sectors is down whilst in others it is increasing and more and more requests from clients for additional support, particularly around HR/employment law.

Onward and upward – our transition from recruitment agency to recruitment consultancy has been a tricky one to negotiate at times. Taking such a major step in an ever changing landscape was something of a challenge. Like all SME’s we are having to adapt to new ways of doing business but have successfully integrated new methodology into our mainstream business strategy. Our use of technologies has increased with no negative impact on the business and our client centric approach is now supported by these initiates. Our ongoing association with the TEAM network continues to provide us with the support and resources we need to stay in line with legislation and best practice. No matter what lies ahead, we will continue to respond to challenges proactively for the benefit of clients, candidates and the 1st Stop team.

Rae Legallienne

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