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Having worked in the recruitment industry for over 15 years now I have witnessed many changes in market, working practices, trends and conditions. However, despite having to change and adapt over the years, the last couple of months with the impact of the coronavirus have been a huge disruption and on a scale I have never experienced before.
Having continued to operate and recruit for our clients during the coronavirus lockdown, there are lessons I have learned in this time and I believe that recent experience will influence how we recruit and work once we return to some level of normality.
Initially, mobilising our consultants to work from home and have laptop access that many hadn’t utilised before was both strange and, at first, quite a negative experience. I, like many, felt I was constantly ‘on’ and working for longer periods at the laptop. This was a culture shock as usually working days are broken up with meetings; whether it be registering candidates, client meetings and team meetings.
Now the Work from home experience is becoming the norm, we are noticing that we are working in different ways, splitting time up during the day and trying to have breaks away from the computer, whether to exercise, home school (arrgh) or just to make a coffee and take a mental break. You can read some of our work from home tips if you need them.
The upside to this is working more ‘agile’ and dipping into a project whether it is candidate calls, getting ahead of payroll on a Sunday, or going to a quiet place to work on an admin task – I believe we have all got better at picking our tasks and working effectively.
Once we return to some normality I believe we will embrace these good practices we have picked up and change our working hours, increase our time working from home and working more agile at different times and days of the week to provide more balance and to be more effective
Probably the biggest change to how we work has been the adoption of video conferencing whilst working from home. Not only has this method been promoted from a ‘last resort’ to a ‘standard’ way of working, but we have seen clients utilise the technology to continue the recruitment process.
Pre Coronavirus crisis, we were constantly stressing that the candidate market was fast paced and one of the biggest challenges was co-ordinating different hiring contacts to schedule interviews in a climate where great candidates had plenty of options for new opportunities.
The lockdown has forced us into using video calls more regularly but the tech has proved it’s worth and I believe it will become a staple in speeding up and easing the difficulties of arranging meetings and interviews for long into the future.
One of the positives from 2020 has been the universal admiration and respect for key workers. Not just those in the NHS, but the selfless individuals in the care sector and the many professions that keep our country running in logistics, energy, manufacturing and other public services.
Although I tend to personally recruit within niches of manufacturing and engineering now, I have worked within Industrial recruitment for most of my career in recruitment and the team I lead at Search cover all Engineering, Industrial and Driving jobs. I believe these roles will be viewed as a higher priority moving forward which is encouraging as Engineering, Industrial and Driving are all areas with large skill shortages that realistically will not improve with the expected implementation of strict criteria for workers wanting to enter the UK.
Hopefully the recognition of what a crucial role ‘key workers’ play in our economy will influence Government policy and the recruitment of available candidates within these areas will be prioritised within the market.
Despite being in lockdown, my team has been extremely busy recruiting for urgent roles with immediate start dates. Not only have we been supplying NHS Trusts but also key manufacturing and logistics businesses that have seen an increase in demand due to the coronavirus.
Naturally, we have found that the past few months have been an incredibly stressful time for many candidates. We have had countless conversations with people who have been displaced due to the crisis. Those who have registered of late have not qualified for the Government Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) and have been keen to work to support their families but also nervous about leaving the house and starting a new role.
Fortunately, I can report that our clients have handled this scenario with incredible professionalism to ensure safe working practices. Increased PPE, 2 metre working areas, reduced numbers on shifts, staggered break times, renting additional premises and longer working days have been strategies to try and keep staff safe whilst still creating an output of key food and other items to the economy.
One positive has been that despite the confusion and concern amongst people looking for new roles or temp jobs, the quality of candidates we have registered and put out to work over the past few months has been remarkable and led to lots of positive feedback from companies and some respite for candidates that were keen to return to work immediately.
After a number of years of an extremely candidate led market it appears that the roles will reverse and businesses that have an immediate need to add to their teams will no doubt see an increase in the quality of applicants currently available.
I have spent the majority of this week so far speaking to candidates that have plenty to offer and find themselves available for work. As heart breaking as it is to hear the many stories of people that have had their careers halted by this epidemic, the challenge of placing great candidates into great opportunities is what has kept me in our industry to date and I look forward to continuing this mission as businesses continue to grow or start to re-open over the coming months.
Although the future is uncertain and will no doubt look very different as we progress through 2020, it will be business as usual at Search and as we have done during this crisis, we will continue to support clients and candidates through the changing market and beyond.
If you would like to find out more about how James and his team can help you with your recruitment needs, then we would love to hear from you. Get in touch today.
James heads up Search’s Transport, Industrial and Engineering specialisms across West and South Yorkshire. With over 15 years in the recruitment industry, he is well-respected and well-known in the Yorkshire transport and logistics arena.