We live in changing times and none of us know what the combined implications of Covid, on top of Brexit, will bring to the job market over the next year. In addition to the high number of redundancies in retail and hospitality there are likely to be more in other sectors after furloughs finish, but still a lack of skilled individuals in competitive markets such as digital, science and technology. The ongoing trend of EU nationals continuing to leave the UK and go back to their home countries looks like it may also continue.
As I’m consulting with both private and public sector organisations, as well as juggling my voluntary work with sixth formers in local schools, I can see both how companies approach hiring people and how we advise young people on careers. There is a big divide in the different work expectations of students compared to employers, which has been impacted even more by the pandemic. The other backdrop is that many clients have either made their recruitment teams redundant or have them on long term furlough. Clients who are hiring are receiving record levels of applications because of the number of people on the job market, which they are really struggling to manage. In addition before Brexit hit many of my UK based clients employed up to 70% of their teams from across Europe, particularly in careers where they look for education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
So, while I don’t have a magic bullet these are some of the discussions I’m having with my clients at the moment:
- Back to basics with candidate care: I lose count of the number of companies who I see wanting to implement the latest technology tool in recruitment so they appear ahead of the curve but, when I hear about how they treat applicants, they are not even covering the basics. Some of the biggest household names have a very poor track record over the last year in replying to the large number of applications they receive. In a year where there are so many people struggling financially because they are out of work, if a candidate is taking the time to prepare and send an application to a company then the least they should expect is an automated response to say if they are unsuccessful. Most of the time applicants feel they are just shooting applications into space with no one hearing them. Even more importantly companies should get back to candidates after an interview quickly with helpful feedback. I’ve personally spoken to very senior executives who have waited weeks and have heard nothing back from big brands who are very otherwise protective of their brand image. If companies can’t get these basics right then, in my opinion, they shouldn’t be spending money buying flashy recruitment technology to show off or producing videos about what a great employer they are. Most basic applicant tracking systems can reply to applicants with a click from a recruiter so why is this not happening for all candidates? Beware – these candidates are your customers and they will lead with their feet when they are next back in a buying position for your products, to work for you or recommend their friends.
- “Reductions in force” for recruitment teams: while many companies haven’t been hiring over the last few months I think it is short sighted to permanently dissolve talent acquisition teams. These teams were set up to market you as a great employer to work for by taking control of your attraction and candidate engagement activity, so this leaves you with a business risk in meeting your people strategy when you start hiring again. In addition, with recruitment teams driving diversity and inclusion with how you engage and assess candidates it is more important than ever that this continues to be a priority in a changing world of work. You may find that you have to source and onboard new recruiters in a very short time period when you do start recruitment activity again, and they will not be experienced experts in hiring for your brand. Alternatively you may have to pay high costs to outsource recruitment activity. While I have the utmost respect for generalist HR teams, they are not recruitment specialists and there is a risk to your business in meeting headcount requirements if you are expecting them to take on hiring strategy in addition to the amount of change that is currently on the cards.
- Education outreach: we all know education has been challenging in the last year and the media is speaking about a “lost generation” of students. While I don’t believe this as all the young people I know are hugely tenacious and creative, I think now is a great opportunity for organisations to forge closer relationships with schools and universities. Employers could advise students on the skills required and jobs available in the STEM economy and in return have an engaged pipeline of future hires. I find there is a lack of knowledge and information, particularly in schools, that these areas are key drivers of the British economy and workforce. There is often surprise on many students’ faces when I tell them that the subjects they are choosing won’t necessarily land them a job and they are highly likely to be stuck in a low skilled role on finishing their education. With many young people leaving education with no jobs to go to at the moment, or working in sectors such as retail or hospitality where they have been made redundant or furloughed, we owe this age group as much support as we can as employers.
I feel hopeful and positive about the next year and wish you all the best with managing your business transformation.