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  • Writer's pictureRobert White

Today's Labour Market and the Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the labour market and recruitment efforts in the UK, with rising rates of unemployment and drastically changing working conditions opening up new recruitment fields and closing down others. During the lockdown that began on March 23, more than 20% of businesses have ceased operations, and up to 60% of businesses have experienced significantly reduced revenues, according to the Office for National Statistics. The result: rising unemployment and an overwhelmingly vast pool of highly qualified, non-traditional applicants for the vacancies that still exist.

Business Disruptions Are Reshaping the Technology Labour Market

The technology industry, despite enjoying years of job demand and salary growth, has not been an exception to the changing recruitment landscape. Research by the job-board CV-Library suggests that during the spring of 2020, the percentage of IT and technology job vacancies dropped by more than half, skyrocketing the ratio of applications to vacancies to nearly 1:4. Disruption is the new normal when it comes to pandemic and post-pandemic labour market and business operations. Within the tech industry and IT sector, for example, event cancellations for businesses across multiple industries mean fewer business development opportunities for tech support organisations, while reduced capacity for travel is cutting down on client interactions.

At the same time, certain sectors of the industry are enjoying explosive growth, as evidenced by the 34% increase in start-up investments and the £50.2 million in investment enjoyed by the AI and cybersecurity sectors described by UKTN. As more and more organisations transition to remote working, industries that support online collaboration, online security, and online infrastructure are likely to see the highest demand in terms of vacancies and new opportunities.

Work Environments and Job Responsibilities are Shifting

As the tech industry is shifting, work environments and individual roles are also rapidly adapting to manage the needs of employers. As organisations struggle with remote working, reduced opportunities for travel and in-person collaboration, disrupted supply chains, and a host of other challenges, they are also reimagining employees as flexible, multi-skilled resources.

New recruitment and management strategies are being developed on the fly as up-to-date reports and data on the state of the pandemic become available. Smart employers are finding new ways to deploy their people to meet the demands of the changing work environment and are enjoying greater resilience as a result.

The upshot of these changes is that, for companies wanting to recruit, this is an era of unprecedented opportunities and challenges. To make the most of the changing recruitment landscape, you need to understand the factors impacting the labour market and form robust, creative recruitment strategies.

Universal Redundancies in Labour Market Mean a Diverse Applicant Pool

Official figures suggest that close to 3 million people were made unemployed by the COVID-19 crisis. With vacancy levels lower than during any previous recession, many young people and recent graduates are and will continue to struggle to find employment. Still, other individuals have re-entered the job market as a result of dissatisfaction with their current employer’s handling of the crisis.

Due to the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which has hit elite sectors such as higher education and the arts as severely as sectors that traditionally suffer during a recession, such as retail and construction, the applicant pool for vacancies now includes high numbers of highly qualified, experienced professionals from a range of sectors.

In consequence, recruiters in the UK today face the unique challenge of finding the perfect candidate for fluid and rapidly adapting roles from a diverse and overwhelmingly large pool of applicants.

Adaptive HR is Crucial to Attracting Quality Candidates

With the IT and technology industries set to enjoy new growth, attracting quality candidates from the labour market should be a top priority for organisations in these sectors. An adaptive and responsive HR team is crucial to this process because candidates want to know that their new employer will be responsive to their needs during the ongoing crisis.

Research published in People Management suggests that a majority of employers are already adopting new policies that limit travel, permit and support remote working, offer self-isolation sick pay, and account for the likelihood of school closures.

Having flexible, employee-centred policies in place and successfully communicating these policies in recruitment advertising will help ensure your organisation attracts the strongest and most desirable candidates. Even more importantly, acting decisively and with compassion towards your workforce now will have long-lasting positive repercussions in the long term. Employers who act proactively to positively manage and lead their employees may well become the industry leaders of the new decade.

Candidates Value Robust Contingency Planning

In a similar vein, the COVID-19 crisis has opened employees’ and employers’ eyes to the disastrous consequences of inadequate contingency planning. Many employees have lived through the experience of seeing employers flounder uncertainly about remote working infrastructures and policies, sick leave, childcare policies, and even basic provision of goods and services to customers. The result has been a widespread loss of revenue and business and a corresponding loss of job security.

The labour market’s top candidates in this new working environment, therefore, want to know that their employer has planned effectively for whatever the future might bring. This might include contingency plans for infrastructure, delivery of goods and services, and working conditions and environments, flexible policies and benefits for employees, and growth strategies that account for industry changes. If you communicate your plans for future success and job security to candidates, you can attract the cream of the crop.

Hire Adaptable, Multi-Skilled Candidates

So, you’ve attracted a pool of amazing candidates—what next? Research suggests that companies wanting the highest levels of resilience should seek out candidates who are flexible and who boast a diverse, digitally focused skill set. The best candidates will be those who understand and are committed to your company ethos, who can leverage technical and interpersonal skills in support of your company mission, and who intend to stick with you for the long haul. Now is the time to invest in employees who will invest in you.

The COVID-19 recruitment environment is not easy to navigate. To ensure an effective, successful strategy that meets the challenges of pandemic recruitment, you need professional recruitment experts with extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of your industry. To learn more about how a Redimeer recruitment specialist can help you craft a robust HR solution for your business, get in touch with us today.

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