4 out of 5 businesses have seen new opportunities arise because of the pandemic.

RE’s Your Business, Your People Survey 2020 was completed by 101 businesses active in 20 sectors in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. It reveals business is more buoyant than we might think.

From education to the economy, the news has been ‘doom and gloom’. According to the Office for National Statistics, employment levels suffered the largest quarterly decline (60%) since the financial crisis in 2009.

However, the response to RE’s survey shows Britain’s businesses resurfacing post-Covid, regrouping and in over a quarter of businesses, actively recruiting for new opportunities. Some sectors are bouncing back faster than others– construction orders are doubled from June.

It is a mixed economic landscape – 47% of businesses have already made or are considering spending cuts. But 10% stated Covid-19 has had no impact on business.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

45% of businesses looking to diversify into new markets

Be agile. Be alert. Adapt

During Covid, agility became the name of the game. If your business was flexible enough to pivot into a new area of production or service, you stood a better chance of survival. 45% of those surveyed have pivoted. Gin distilleries made hand sanitiser. Food companies and pubs started home delivery or takeaway services.

1 in 4 businesses reported that the pandemic has had a positive impact – it forced a sea change in short-and-long term strategy.

In our survey, only 17% of all respondents stated they have introduced a hiring freeze. 27% of businesses surveyed reported a positive impact on their business during Covid-19 and also 27.2% accelerated recruitment to keep pace with demand.

At the start of 2020, the job market was candidate-led. Candidates could pick and choose between positions, offers and counteroffers. Now it’s flipped back to a client-led market again – employers have access to the cream of a bumper crop of potential candidates.

A word about the F word

Furlough. The introduction of the government furlough scheme in March was supported by over 90% of respondents to the survey.  It was business-critical for most small to midscale employers.

10% had furloughed over half of their staff. And the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) projects that 15% of furloughed workers – 1.4 million people – will not be able to return to their previous jobs.

Furlough gave businesses the opportunity to redefine roles. Regrettably for those affected, it highlighted where organisations could benefit from becoming leaner.

RE On-site Director Chris Rooum also identifies another trend developing in the job market: “Employers are now changing job descriptions to reflect the reality that employees are absorbing new roles as the workforce shrinks. They’re now wearing a number of different hats – which is more efficient and saves money. In the future, we will be looking to recruit candidates who are multi-skilled across several areas, rather than experts in one.”

30% of businesses surveyed did not put any staff on furlough. Some found other methods to weather the storm, such as reducing hours, job shares or offering career breaks.

27% were actually experiencing growth in their sectors and were staffing up.

27.2% of those surveyed accelerated recruitment to keep up with demand.

Staffing up, not letting go – recruitment post-Covid

Companies who want to add value to their workforce but need to make savings should consider candidates from different industries rather than looking to recruit ‘like-for-like’ experience.

Mass redundancies across manufacturing, engineering, aerospace, automotive and oil and gas sectors have meant that there are highly – skilled and experienced individuals available with great portfolios of experience and transferable skills.

Recruitment agencies such as RE are well-positioned to source great talent from other industry sectors that they serve. 

“Diverse leadership teams and diverse workforces are proven to bring the best returns on investment.” Matthew Syed, Rebel Ideas author

Right now, as businesses pivot and reposition, engaging the right people with fresh ideas to take your business forward is critical. If we all think alike, we will never think differently.

75% of respondents felt they find better candidates by using a recruitment partner

63% of the businesses in the survey currently use a recruitment agency partner.  Improved access to a better quality of candidate was the chief factor cited.

Time spent in recruiting the right person for the new role adds real value – if you recruit a candidate who is a good cultural fit and who will stay for 3 to 4 years rather than 6 months, the costs associated with an agency hire are offset.

Survey indicates green shoots of wider market recovery

Lockdown forced change – but it brought benefits that we could not have predicted back in March.

57% of survey respondents have changed their hiring processes and everyone is using new virtual tools to recruit, interview and onboard. It is time to take advice on what to keep and what to change, before those new processes are set in stone.  

It’s time for candidates to pivot too. Businesses pivoted, so must people. Think laterally about where your next opportunity lies – whether as a client and as a candidate.

Fresh ideas from unexpected quarters will make the difference between survive or thrive.

Read the white paper with the full results of RE’s Your Business Your People survey here.

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