As I write this, we are still holding our breaths, waiting to find out whether the dreaded second wave is going to hit, if those businesses that have returned to the office are going to be sent back home, or if those industries so absolutely devastated by COVID-19 are going to be pushed back another three months for recovery. Right now, we just don’t know. But there is going to be a recovery and the businesses that don’t lose sight of their long-term strategy in a time of survival will be best placed to capitalise on that recovery.
We’ve seen some devastating figures for the recruitment sector over the last 4 months, from a 60% decrease in vacancies across all industries, to the steepest decline in revenues since the 2008/2009 financial crisis. Understandably, recruitment businesses have cut hard and fast to help mitigate those losses and ride out the storm. From our position in the sector, and as a back-office professional myself, it’s been particularly distressing to see the vast number of non-sales professionals losing their jobs during this time. Whilst it makes perfect sense to streamline and sacrifice the non-fee generative roles first, losing sight of how these unsung heroes will be integral to the recovery post COVID-19 can be detrimental to your business.
Growth is only possible from a position of stability, and your operations and finance functions are absolutely essential for this. Having experienced professionals in these positions during any challenging time can be the difference between surviving and not. As you look to streamline your business, operations and finance will be there reviewing processes, cutting costs, increasing efficiencies and getting that all important cash into the bank, as well as helping business owners to define their long-term strategies for recovery. If as a business owner, you are shouldering all of these tasks yourself and pulling yourself away from what you do best, the investment here will pay itself off ten times over.
Lots of us will be looking to recover our headcount quickly, but with a vast sea of candidates out there, a well thought-out hiring strategy from HR/Internal Recruitment is going to be crucial. For many, now is the time we have redefined our businesses and what we want from the future, so understanding what that will look like in terms of hires, will help you make the right decisions and reduce the cost of mishires during a time that you need to be as lean as possible. We’re also making hires in a new world of digital recruitment. Having someone own these processes, and create successful onboarding initiatives will ensure those much needed billers are settled in and contributing as quickly as possible.
In an unprecedented cultural change for the sector, many businesses are considering increasing working from home, some even doing away with offices completely in favour of fully remote workers. This change will impact not only the type of people you hire; opening up much wider pools, but potentially change the nature of the graduate led growth many recruitment businesses rely on. Changing your training academies and learning and development strategies to get new hires up and running and continue to develop your internal talent is going to be essential and your trainers are going to have more work than ever on their hands! And what about your furloughed employees? We all know the groggy haze from returning off a two-week holiday, but some of these employees will have been away for 4-5 months! Getting these people retrained and reengaged should make an impact to the bottom line fairly swiftly.
And what about your route to market? With many recruitment businesses choosing to make mass furloughs and redundancies, many relationships will be up for grabs as the market starts to recover. Marketing strategies are essential for you to keep in touch with your existing clients and candidates, but also open up new relationships as many other businesses fall behind. For businesses working on skeleton staff, marketing can reach many more people in a shorter period of time and help to support the work being done by the consultants on the sales floor. Brand recognition, lead generating and providing value-adding, supportive content to clients and candidates during this time can all help to increase success across the board.
When I planned out the content for 2020, we had never heard of the ‘C’ word… I thought this would be the year of Brexit and IR35 (yep, you remember those right?). Well it turns out they are still happening and are still likely to raise many many challenges for our businesses (YAY…). And whilst the time-scales are different, you still need to prepare yourself. Compliance and contractor management will become the hot topic again for any contractor driven recruiters or businesses working internationally. This is an essential function to have in place particularly when looking to streamline your processes and get people back to work as quickly as possible.
What about the new normal? Well, we’re yet to see what the new normal is, maybe you’ll have an office, maybe you won’t, but remember, sales support is here to do exactly that; support sales. At the moment, the markets are likely to be quiet, allowing your sales team to use their spare time on picking up all those admin tasks they love so much. But if you want people to capitalise on the recovering market, you need to get them back to firing on all sales cylinders as quickly as possible. The more time they can spend picking up on competitors' relationships, the bigger share of the market you are going to come out with!
On the up side, with lots of industries stabilising and adapting to the new normal, there are plenty of greenshoots emerging and we’re pleased to be seeing 4x as many non-sales vacancies for the recruitment sector than in Q2! So as our businesses get over what has probably been the worst quarter in their histories, and look to re-energise for recovery, don’t forget those unsung back-office heroes who are gagging to be at your side helping you through it!