Britain is back to work. But how has the UK job market changed?
The most restrictive lockdown measures end this month. Shops and bars have already started welcoming customers back inside. International travel may soon become easier to access, too.
But has lockdown had a lasting impact on the UK jobs market?
Job Market Impact
You would be forgiven for thinking that the end of lockdown would create a frenzy of activity among jobseekers. In fact, the opposite appears to be true.
This Monday (May 31), despite being a Bank Holiday in Britain, the eBoss Jobfeed system recorded more than one million unfilled vacancies for the very first time.
Truth be told, this is a fairly arbitrary milestone. But its timing is significant. The increase in vacancies at the end of the lockdown suggests that businesses are eager to return to normal as quickly as possible. Companies are hiring again.
However, the worker numbers are simply not there.
It has even led some ardent campaigners to re-evaluate their stance on Brexit in order to address the shortage of migrant staff.
But the level of under-engagement in the jobs market suggests something more. It suggests a workforce that is not necessarily as eager to return to the status quo as perhaps many anticipated. What could this mean for the recruitment industry in the near term?
Cultural changes and how we work
One of the biggest changes has been in shared attitudes towards work and free time. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that most people don’t want to “go back to work as normal”. One study learned that just 29 per cent of public sector workers wished to return to on-site hours.
In fact, we were unable to find a single source which finds even one half of people eager to return to where they left off in 2020.
The past 18 months have been a perfect storm in the UK job market. Brexit, and lockdowns, have created a squeeze on talent supply that may dwarf previous years’ skills gaps by an order of magnitude. These events have caused recruiters to re-evaluate their ways of working to a significant degree.
Recruitment Strategies for a new world
It is not only workers who are reassessing their roles in a post-pandemic world. Recruiters, HR and talent executives are looking again at what it means to be effective in their given roles. From improving the candidate experience to learning new strategies for selling, here is how recruitment may change in the short-term:
Connect with Talent
One thing that the pandemic has taught us is how to re-evaluate what is important in life. “Building back better” was the mantra during the crisis and, now, people are eager to put that into action.
Gone are the one-size-fits all solutions. We are all acutely aware of the growing influence that automation has in our day-to-day lives. Nobody wants to feel like just another number on a spreadsheet. And this is doubly true when we are building our careers and looking for jobs. It is a lesson to learn and adopt in your recruiting approaches – wherever you stand in the jobs market.
Because even recruiters who are using sophisticated next-generation automations are aware that they need to connect with the person behind the resume. In fact, these recruiters usually understand that better than most: they are using automations to create time to achieve precisely that.
Be accurate in your listings
One of the greatest pain points for applicants is the perceived bait-and-switch model of hiring that would characterise much of the pre-pandemic jobs market. While thankfully absent from the top end of the recruiting market, low-paid positions were prone to this type of marketing.
What do we mean? The over-promise of job listings. Often, roles would be advertised as potentially full time positions yet in reality would quickly become part-time or zero-hours positions.
What is interesting about the re-shaping of the jobs market is how this once perceived drawback may now be a benefit. Many workers have re-evaluated their work-life balance. Some will actively choose a three-hour day, or a four-day week. There are fewer drawbacks to advertising these types of roles at face value. You may even discover that you receive more applications by doing so.
So, if you are a recruiter who has been tempted to embellish an opportunity in an attempt to make a faster sale – cut it out!
In years gone by, some recruiters did very well opening up a tap on their sustainable talent pipeline and were literally pouring people into roles. With a shortage of EU workers and others slow to return after COVID, those reliable pipelines may now have dried up.
Rather than sit by the faucet and wait for the next drip of skills to fall into your hands, now may be the right time to invest in a more diverse strategy.
Consider how you are attracting talent. Could you be spending more time on social media, marketing directly to the demographics you wish to attract?
Could you build a client base in an entirely new sector or industry? A subscription to a business development service could be just what you are looking for to connect with new customers.
What might a Great reset of recruitment look like?
But it is not all one-way traffic. The future will likely be a compromise between what we have learned about healthy work-life balance in lockdown, and the availability of roles and skills in the open jobs market.
Prior to last year, many people genuinely did not realise that it is both viable and in fact easy to work from home. Now, around sixty per cent of home workers report working the same or longer hours.
When faced with a shortage of applications, recruiters should be open to the idea that it is not that people are unwilling to work. Instead, many people have realised that it is possible to work a flexible role. Rather than not working at all, this group is keen to trade the costs and stresses of the daily commute for the peace of mind of remote work. If recruiters can smooth the negotiations between candidate and employer and resolve this dialogue, they will find a new value offering for their own business.