In this article, Peter Brophy examines a number of critical factors affecting hiring in the current climate including:
- Professional recruitment activity has been severely disrupted by C19.
- Capacity in the recruitment sector is drastically reduced.
- Top performers can perceive job moves as risky.
- People think recruiting has become easier but making great hires can be harder than ever.
- What are your options when hiring for a key role?
- Recruitment models will take time to adapt.
One of Edbury Daley’s most popular and most read articles over the past couple of years was on the subject of the various different Recruitment Models that are used by large organisations. It discussed how recruitment actually worked in reality, and was written to help our clients and candidates get some insight into the sector, so they could improve their own hiring or job search strategies.
Similar to many other professions, these recruitment models were evolving as recruiters embraced new trends in social media and increasingly adopted the use of AI and Digital solutions. However the recruitment market has been severely disrupted by C19 in ways that were never anticipated. At the height of the pandemic the recruitment industry reported drops of up to 80% in permanent recruitment and 50% in temporary markets.
All bets were off and Internal Recruitment and Talent teams were suddenly faced with headcount freezes and hiring blocks on all but critical roles.
This has several affected capacity in both internal recruitment teams and external suppliers.
The market has bounced back to a degree since then but is still some way short of pre-pandemic levels. In many sectors it’s recovering slowly as this report from KPMG and the REC shows.
We don’t actually know yet what the ‘new normal’ will be but we do know that many of the potential changes and pre-existing trends to adopting new technology or ways of working have been amplified, so some of these changes have accelerated.
In tandem with the crash in recruitment volumes many organisations and external recruiters had to furlough a significant proportion of their people. Many face the real prospect of redundancy before the year is over. As the UK furlough scheme comes to an end, anecdotal evidence indicates that many will take advantage of the Chancellors new Job Support Scheme meaning many recruiters will be working reduced hours or not at all. This has big implications for recruitment and the way it works.
Another major impact is that with increasing redundancies there are unfortunately more people looking for jobs, just at a time when there are fewer recruiters to deal with the impact of this e.g. huge advert responses often made up of largely unsuitable candidates.
So It should get easier to find good, available people right?
As we all know many organisations furloughed staff and as we reach the end of the scheme we are seeing a wave of redundancies particularly in the hospitality and entertainment sectors.
That should mean if you are hiring you will get plenty of good candidates right?
Well, actually not necessarily, no!
There are some big issues to challenge this assumption.
Recruitment actually gets a lot harder in a recession, not easier as recruitment models and behaviours change, particularly if you really need to find the best candidates, not just anyone to fill a seat, and that is the case in professional recruitment where head count is limited and leaders need the right person to fit the team, achieve targets engage customers, suppliers or stakeholders.
If your business is up against it in terms of pressure to deliver, then it may seem counterintuitive but recruiting directly for the ‘first’ people who apply could be the most expensive mistake you make.
The big challenges to overcome when recruiting right now
This ultimately is related to quality versus quantity and the impact on internal recruiters / HR.
Yes the volume of available candidates has increased and many people have lost jobs through no fault of their own, particularly in the badly affected sectors.
However most organisations are looking closely at their headcount costs as they try to remain profitable against often unpredictable demand. We know that many are using this as an opportunity to lose the poorer performers, often the ‘bottom’ 5 or 10% of their workforce or those in ‘non-core’ departments.
It is rarely admitted but few organisations will allow their better performers to go or lose their best people unless absolutely necessary for business survival. Think of your own business and how much you need your best people right now.
Equally important is the psychology of those remaining who feel relatively ‘safe’. Would you risk a move right now if your job appears ‘safe and you are performing well? There is also the old ‘last in first out’ adage and many feel moving to a new employer is a risk unless it is in a strongly performing business or sector.
The reality is that most top performers in any profession or sector are sitting tight and making sure they are safe right now and do not want to take the risk of joining a new ‘unknown’ company unless they face redundancy themselves
Therefore the reality right now is that typically the volume of applicants to any given job is often higher, but critically the quality or relevance of those candidates may actually go down.
Another critical factor to consider is that due to the economy many people are desperate for a job so they will apply for anything, so are they really after your job or just any? Will they take the first job they are offered and then resign as soon as a good job in their sector or preferred environment comes back? That risk is actually very high so when you think of the total cost per hire, the time wasted in the process, the problem of finding replacements etc it makes sense to tread cautiously.
So think carefully – yes you’ll get lots of applicants and potentially fill a role quickly but are the vast majority of the newly available and relatively inexpensive candidates really the people you want to hire?
Don’t you owe it to yourself and your business to think a bit more strategically and carefully about how you recruit right now?
The impact on internal recruitment / HR
Often internal recruitment teams are one of the first hit by cost-cutting and are typically very vulnerable in a recession. In the financial crisis of 2008 many were severely cut and it took a year or two before they bounced back. We have seen many being badly affected already in this Covid crisis. In fact, RPO and Outsourced Recruitment arrangements seem particularly badly affected as they are often linked to a flexible demand based resourcing model.
HR often have to deal with recruitment as well, but the function has been swamped by a number of conflicting priorities at the same time such as working from home, health and safety, mental health, furloughing staff and redundancies along with restructuring etc. These issues are ongoing for them and unlikely to disappear any time soon, so this impacts on their capacity across the board.
So are you surprised that resourcing or recruitment may not top of mind for your HR colleagues right now? Or that it is one of many priorities they are struggling to juggle?
What are my options if I’m hiring for a key role?
So if your Recruitment and HR functions are constrained by limited capacity and you have a business critical hire what are your options?
Sorting through your own advert response will be time consuming, particularly in the current market with job seekers adopting a “nothing ventured nothing gained” mentality which is only exacerbated by the ability to apply to an advert in a handful of clicks.
Spending money on recruitment fees is a sensitive subject for many organisations who are scrutinising costs more than ever, but it can be money well spent if a credible, specialist recruiter is able to bring strong candidates into the process swiftly. Particularly if their knowledge and network enables them to identify risk averse candidates who wouldn’t apply to job adverts, but could be interested in quality opportunities if engaged in the correct way.
Also bear in mind that with the recruitment sector facing its own commercial challenges, there has never been a better time to negotiate reductions in fees and maximise your value from the process.
The value of a good, specialist recruiter is emphasised when the job market displays extreme criteria, whether that be acute skills shortages, too many candidates or overcoming issues like job security fears, yet many people don’t realise that side of what they offer.
What does this mean if you are looking for a role?
Organisation’s HR people or in house recruiters are typically either feeling overworked or dealing with many priorities and are swamped. In some organisations the recruitment team will be much reduced or gone altogether.
Specialist in house team recruiters often suffer the worst headcount reductions as the business focuses on its core roles, so specialist knowledge in the team is often lost (such as procurement, sales and other commercially focused roles) and the generalist recruiters are retained to focus on core operational roles.
Many recruitment agencies (particularly broad generalist ones) face similar challenges as they focus on core areas and with reduced fees often focus only on those (clients and candidates) likely to make them a fee.
What does that mean for the candidate experience? Well typically the impact is a negative one with much slower response times, often a lack of feedback, or just poor communication generally leading to a feeling of wasted time and effort.
In some sectors there has been a deluge of applicants and when compounded by there being fewer recruiters it has inevitably meant that candidate experience has significantly declined.
We know that many people are not hearing back from adverts or applications and are rarely getting feedback. Many candidates tell us they fear their CV has gone into a big black hole and of being lost amongst many applicants, particularly when they have applied online or via social media sites or even company websites.
The companies are subject to increased volume of applicants often sometimes, irrelevant or of low quality or from those just desperate for any job at any salary…..
Internal managers may need to recruit a replacement but may struggle to get budget or headcount sign off or find that HR are too busy with other things or the internal recruitment team or RPO is focusing on core roles or simply can’t give each role the specific attention it needs.
What this means for candidates is that it can be a bit of a lottery unless you have a direct contact in the business or you have someone specifically interested in what happens to your CV and is talking to people at the right level so your application does get considered.
Consider your chances of being noticed – is it best applying via a portal or job site or sending a speculative CV? Or is it better being represented by a specialist agency where the outcome really matters to them? They are often more likely to be talking to someone in a senior position who needs to hire.
Of course this article has covered a wide range of issues affecting the market today. If any of these resonate with you we maybe able to help so if you are hiring in our specialist areas of procurement technology, spend management, finance and payments tech’, analytics, procurement or supply chain then please do get in touch.
We are also happy to help if you need general guidance on how to recruit outside our specialist areas. You can contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org
Want more information? Why not read our follow up article – What are the challenges of recruiting in the current environment and how are companies overcoming them?
Peter Brophy is a CIPD qualified HR professional with significant experience of leading in-house Talent Attraction teams particularly in the Consulting sector before he joined Edbury Daley.
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