7th December 2020

6 things 2020 has taught us about recruitment

Recruitment

2020 will be known as one of the most disruptive years in history. Professionally and personally, everyone has dealt with a lot – and it’s been particularly challenging for those in the recruitment sector.

But there’s strength in adversity, and we can take several positives from the difficulties and upheavals of this year. Here’s 6 things we’ve learned about recruitment from the 2020 pandemic, which will help your business enter 2021 with a stronger focus for the future:

1. Recruitment is a virtual industry

When the world went into lockdown, businesses in a significant number of sectors were forced to adopt a remote working strategy overnight. Luckily the recruitment industry was able to pivot relatively quickly, conducting online candidate searches and interviews to keep the job market moving.

Even when the world returns to ‘normal’, virtual techniques will remain part of the recruitment mix. Remote processes are quicker, greener and more cost-effective than travelling to meet clients and candidates face to face.

And the technology-driven element of recruitment may develop further; the New York Times predicts that digital automation will soon enable recruiters to screen candidates without physically having to get involved in the early stages of the process.

2. There’s always an opportunity

It’s easy to view 2020 as a year of professional doom and gloom, with millions of people put onto furlough schemes and unemployment figures rising. However, some industries have been able to turn lemons into lemonade, and there’s an opportunity for recruiters to benefit from the green shoots of recovery.

According to McKinsey, microbusinesses in sectors like finance, IT and management services are on the rise, because they can be easily started up and run from home. There are other areas bouncing back as well. The Freelance Informer notes that the construction and trade sectors have proven pretty resilient, benefiting from initiatives such as the suspension of stamp duty.

Recruitment agencies can connect with these boomerang businesses as they begin to hire again, helping them to find the people they need to scale. After all, there will always be a need for good talent – which is why you need high quality candidates on your books.

3. Flexible working is the future

It’s not just where people work that has changed dramatically in 2020; how people structure their day now looks radically different. Companies that have previously resisted flexible working are allowing employees to set hours that work with their personal circumstances, to get the best out of people without forcing them to choose between work and home.

In a recent interview, the founders of virtual consultancy The Hoxby Collective coined the term ‘workstyle’; an approach where people put their life first and tailor work around it. This acknowledgement that an alternative approach can be just as effective as 9-5 is enabling recruitment agencies to find roles for highly qualified candidates that would have never made the final cut in 2019, because they weren’t able to commit to standard office hours.

4. Transferrable skills can open doors

We’ve touched upon the fact that talented people will always need jobs. 2020 has given many of these people an opportunity to explore new career avenues, in light of either job stagnation or redundancies following challenges in their sector.

Recruiters have an opportunity to encourage people to explore new career paths in 2021, with full support from the government. In April this year, The Lifetime Skills Guarantee was announced, outlining initiatives such as college course funding for adults without A-levels, flexible higher education loans, and £8 million investment in digital skills. All of which will improve the quality of candidates seeking employment.

There has also been a significant increase in the number of people exploring self-employment this year, with sites like The Freelance Informer supporting this start-up economy. Recruiters may have a chance to tap into this skills base too, if clients have upcoming set projects or fixed-term contract roles that require a particular set of abilities.

5. Expertise counts for everything

Employer initiatives such as pay freezes and internal restructuring have helped to minimise unemployment where possible in 2020 – but this hasn’t make life easy for recruiters. However, there’s still an opportunity to play the long game.

Rather than chasing new opportunities, agencies should encourage clients to lean on them for advice, and show them that expertise counts for everything.

If you can help companies make the most of their current workforce in the short-term, it creates great trust in your abilities, which will hopefully translate into new business leads when the market begins to truly recover.

6. Running an efficient business makes a big difference

With client requirements remaining unpredictable and many businesses scaling back their recruitment plans, the number of open positions may have fallen below normal for recruitment agencies at present. But there are still ways to maximise your profitability.

The best thing your recruitment agency can do to remain competitive is focus on internal costs. Enhancing processes around candidate management, essential paperwork and filing invoices will help you to run a tighter operation – devoting time to valuable tasks, rather than day-to-day admin.

ETZ’s recruitment technology is already helping agencies to reduce running costs by up to 85%, by digitising operations and speeding up transactions. In a year where we’ve learned that the future is unpredictable, optimising these internal processes is a critical step in ensuring your recruitment business can cope with the biggest challenges imaginable.

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