01 Feb 2022

How the recruitment landscape has changed

In a series of blogs on recruitment and skills, Julian Smith, Executive Director, Memcom Recruitment, highlights some current trends.

Having spent the last 20 years (and a little more to tell the truth) recruiting candidates for charities and membership bodies, I thought I’d seen it all. I’d worked through the so-called ‘Great Recession’ of 2008 when suddenly my favourite clients were calling me in to provide outplacement services for the very people they’d hired through me 6-9 months before, and then the following recruitment boom where I had to remind hiring managers that simply ‘having a pulse’ wasn’t a desirable criterion in a person specification.

And then, without warning, came Covid-19. Recruitment stopped overnight, because office workers packed up and went home. Human resource teams fought to keep temps for as long as they could and furlough payments guaranteed income for as long as possible, but our order book disappeared, our temps were no longer in demand and even the emails fell silent. Like everyone else, we had to make the toughest decisions regarding furlough, and then redundancies when even this ran out.

But – resilient as human beings are - people took to working from home, and during the months that followed, slowly but surely recruitment activities started to pick up. Short-term contracts became more popular as existing staff in certain areas were experiencing burn out, or finances were too precarious to offer something with a little more permanency. Some of those temps on furlough were able to work again, thanks to equipment dispatched to home addresses and online onboarding, but the majority of roles offered seemed to be more basic, more reactive, supporting busy teams at breaking point.

We got through those months, which somehow drifted into almost two years. Now there are signs we might soon be out of the Covid woods, and organisations are cautiously thinking about the future.

Our conference theme for this year, Back on Track?, reflects this optimism twinned with a note of caution – and the entire Memcom network seems to be talking about what’s coming next. But what part does recruitment strategy play in this – and how easy is it to recruit?

Normally there’s a bounce-back following a recession, as companies stop tightening their belts and free up the recruitment budgets, but Covid wasn’t a typical recession, and there hasn’t been a straightforward recovery in the employment market.

In an earlier blog I talked about the Great Resignation, one of the various names given to the sudden onslaught of mass resignations from employees in organisations which hadn’t seen any staff churn in almost eighteen months – so I won’t give it any more airtime here – but it’s fair to say the recruitment market has changed considerably, thanks to the pandemic, and although there are plenty of jobs out there, there don’t seem to be quite so many eager candidates as there were during pre-pandemic times.

As a result, we’re now living in a market where demand for talent outstrips supply. The candidate is king, and employers are having to offer flexible working benefits, the right salary, jobs with progression and stability. Contracts are no longer favoured, because candidates aren’t desperate for jobs, and prize stability over extra income.

Similarly, working in an office is far less attractive than it once was because of the time and money it takes to commute. What’s more, the majority of today’s candidates are still somebody else’s employees, so to tempt them away from their current employer requires a bigger, shinier and altogether more attractive offer – with bonuses and stability replacing bells and whistles.

For how long the candidate will remain king (or queen) is anybody’s guess, but if you don’t manage to recruit first time around, don’t readvertise using the same channels at the same salary levels. A failed recruitment campaign is no longer down to advertising at the wrong time of the year, it’s an indication that you need to rethink one or more of the following: salary, title, role, advert, flexibility, person specification, channels, and dare I say it, company profile.

This is where I come in, with my 20+ years’ recruitment expertise, my knowledge of the market and insight into candidate behaviours. After all, if you’re a member of Memcom, you get to pick my brains for free – and receive a 20% discount on our recruitment services should you wish us to problem-solve for you, and recruit your next generation of leaders... Get in touch – [email protected]