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The Recruitment Industry: Another Covid-19 Casualty?

Those of you in hospitality and tourism will know the face people make when they ask you “how business is faring”.  It’s that slight grimace combined with a sucking in of air – the kind you do when you ask someone how their experience at the dentist went!

So we thought we should get it out there.

The recruitment industry was smashed. Most in the industry had come from the best months ever, the industry was humming, clients needed us and candidates were confident and upbeat. Many owner led businesses were in a great place and enjoying some rewards that come from being a business owner in an upturn (good on them too as it balances out some of the sleepless nights and the nights and weekends of work they’ve put in for years). Without us knowing it, we were in a beautiful summer slumber of helping people and enjoying being able to provide for our teams.

And then one day, a pesky virus decided to change it all.

Overnight, the industry was changed. Plans that had been made were pulled – offers that were out were retracted as companies reacted to the uncertainty in the market. Recruitment agencies quickly had to adapt and adjust to a new norm – business that might have been easy to come by was no longer, and contractors who were in ‘solid assignments’ stopped working. Already, some agencies have closed their doors. More will follow. International firms will leave the NZ market.

So, what does it all mean for recruitment agencies and the industry?

I’ve spoken with a number of recruitment leaders and they range from hugely pessimistic to hugely optimistic. Much of their candor depends on the strength of their balance sheet, their contractor book and the real relationships their consultants have. Never before has the quality of a recruiter been more crucial!

And while it is on the whole a terribly tough time for the industry, there are also some wonderful things to keep in mind:

1. We are first to go down and first to recover. Recruitment is a wonderful barometer of really what is happening out there, so ignore the media and speak with the best consultant you know! We can tell you that while many companies have found it exceptionally difficult in this Covid-19 era; there are a considerable number of organisations who have never had it so good. Many businesses are talking to us already of their plans once they are through the next few months and there is ambition and energy there, so we all should feel good about that.

2. It might just create a better working environment of the future. There are signs that this post Covid-19 era will encourage the government to consider flexible working, especially temp and contract working. The ability for companies to hire flexible staff is paramount for them getting back on their feet. Most businesses will struggle to commit to permanent staff while there is uncertainty. So, we are hopeful that with the proper measures in place – increased capability for temps and contractors will give people the opportunity for paid work sooner as well as giving companies the flexibility to scale.

3. It is even harder to find exceptional people. They were needles in haystacks before, and they still are now. Except it is harder for employers to access exceptional talent, because they are typically still in jobs and are now hesitant to leave due to market conditions. So now, more than ever, if you want the best talent – you really need the best recruiters advocating for you with people that aren’t actively looking for their next role (and luckily for us, that is what we are great at!)

4. You’ll need recruiters because of the overload of applications. There are thousands of people looking for jobs now compared to 4 months ago – the problem is for most employers is that they are not experts at hiring and they still have their day jobs, so will struggle to get through a volume of applications, which will apply if you put up a job ad. We had a frantic client call us yesterday as her job ad clicked over 500 applications and she was freaking out! Also, while it’s easy to get people applying on your job ad – they aren’t necessarily the people who you want to hire for the job, so you’ll need good recruiters who are able to manage the applications well.

5. Businesses win because of their people. Organisations thrive due to the people they have working in them. Until the robots take over, most businesses are people centric and therefore will have demand for talent. While at the moment, there has been a pause in hiring in some areas – it is also a moment in time that will pass. We have seen already an upturn in accounting & finance roles.

So how are we feeling about recruitment, the economy and the outlook? Well, it has been incredibly tough, there might be more to come, but we are very bullish about the future for the recruitment industry to really assist businesses to get back on their feet and help them succeed through talent.

If you are in a specialist area (HR, Sales, Finance, Marketing, IT etc) and would like to have a chat about how roles in your area have been affected, please get in touch so we can have a chat!

About the author

Angela Cameron - CA, CPA

Executive Director

A chartered accountant by qualification, she is a recruitment leader by nature.

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