2021 Market Update: Are you prepared for the recovery?

Posted March 31st, 2021

When we examined the effects of the pandemic on recruitment in our pair of eBooks, 'UK Recruitment in the Covid-19 Era' and 'US Recruitment in the Covid-19 era', back in September 2020, the unemployment and economic situations on both sides of the pond looked pretty bleak.

Globally, things have changed significantly since then. While we still find ourselves in challenging times, there is a cautious sense of optimism emerging that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. 

In the UK, GDP is projected to recover rapidly towards pre-COVID levels over 2021, according to Bank Of England governor Andrew Bailey. 

In the US, the president of the Chicago Federal Reserve bank, Charles Evans, told the CFA Society of Chicago that unemployment should fall to around 5% by the end of 2021. While economists polled by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal predict US GDP growing by 4.9% this spring and 7% over the summer.

Unemployment levels are falling

The latest unemployment figures in the UK and the US suggest that as lockdown restrictions begin to ease and parts of the economy start to open, businesses are beginning to hire again.

At the time of writing, the current UK unemployment rate sits at 5%, with 68,000 more people in payrolled employment in February 2021 than in the previous month. In the US, the current unemployment figure sits at 6.2%, with 379,000 more people registered in payrolled employment in February than January. This marks a significant drop from the 14.9% unemployment rate recorded at the onset of the pandemic in April 2020. 

With unemployment levels falling and sectors of the economy gradually reopening, business owners and employees alike are beginning to envisage what the post-pandemic work landscape will look like. The future of remote work and the employable skills required in this new landscape are two hot topics of conversation among business leaders.

Is remote work here to stay?

Aside from job losses, the global shift to remote work was arguably the biggest change companies and staff had to adapt to in 2020. In many cases, this shift was mandatory. While remote and flexible working options were increasing before the pandemic, Covid accelerated their growth at an unprecedented rate.

A global survey by Gartner found that 88% of business organisations worldwide mandated or encouraged all their employees to work from home in 2020. While a survey from Enterprise Technology Research estimates that the percentage of global workers working remotely will double by the end of 2021.

The opinions on whether remote work will become the norm in a post-pandemic world differ from business to business.

Leaders of large financial institutions such as Barclays, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co have spoken about the challenges of remote work and their plans for staff to return to the office post-pandemic. 

In contrast, the leaders of tech giants Twitter and Facebook have had a more favourable reaction to the prospect of post-pandemic remote work. 

In May 2020, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter's employees would be able to work from home "forever", while Mark Zuckerberg said in the same month that he expects at least 50% of Facebook’s staff to work remotely full-time in the next 5-10 years.

While opinions on the topic may differ, it’s safe to assume that remote work is here to stay, whether that's companies letting their staff work fully remotely or in a hybrid capacity.

The workforce needs reskilling

With the pandemic effectively shutting down swathes of the economy, large chunks of the workforce face the prospect of reskilling or switching careers.

Analysis from McKinsey & Co suggests that a staggering 90% of the UK workforce lack the full suite of skills they will require in 2030 to perform their jobs well. The same analysis suggests that 25.5 million members of the UK workforce will need to regularly upskill to stay up to date with technological and business developments as their professional roles evolve.

In the US, the same skills gap is being felt, particularly with Covid accelerating the push towards digital and virtual workplaces. Wireless company Verizon has reported reskilling 20,000 employees, so they are equipped with sufficient skills to apply for positions within the organisation. While companies such as Walmart, JPMorgan Chase & Co and AT&T have all recently created skilling programs to retain employees whose jobs are under threat from AI.

How have these trends affected the recruitment industry?

With so many workforce members reskilling and looking for new roles, recruiters and hiring managers are adapting to the new challenges the recruitment industry faces.

In a survey of senior HR managers, recruiters and hiring experts, time tracking company Toggl found 39% of employers reported that filtering a high volume of under-qualified candidates was their biggest recruitment pain point of 2020. While 55% of employers saw a higher-than-usual number of job applications per job posted in 2020. The same survey found that the top three hiring priorities for companies in 2021 are speeding up hiring processes, improving candidate experience, and reducing hiring bias.

What can you do to get ahead of these challenges?

Tackling these priorities as we start to recover from a global pandemic is even more challenging. You’re probably also trying to manage a huge increase in incoming candidate data, potentially with a reduced team. To meet these challenges, there are several key areas you should focus on:

  • Re-evaluate your business processes
  • Review your tech stack, including utilisation by your recruiters
  • Build your candidate database, using automation tools to clean data
  • Find the right candidates faster with AI-based search and match technology
  • Improve candidate and client engagement to enhance candidate experience
  • Look at using technology to reduce the impact of unconscious bias in hiring

To learn more about what you can do to make sure your business is ready for the recovery, download our guide to US recruitment in the Covid-19 era and our guide to UK recruitment in the COVID-19 era.

Tags: DaXtra Blog