2021 UK Recruitment Market Update

Recently released research reveals how the UK job market fairs for the year ahead, compared to other countries in Europe, the US and Canada, and offers insight into how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the way employers hire and train candidates for the future.

Recently released research predicts how the UK job market will fare in the year ahead compared to other countries in Europe, the US and Canada, and offers insight into how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the way employers hire and train candidates for the future.

Despite a challenging year, the research – conducted among 3,100 recruiters and HR professionals, plus 8,800 candidates from around the world – reveals the industry is still optimistic for the year ahead, with many UK businesses hoping to adapt further to accommodate the changing expectations and needs of employees.

Recruitment is often used as a crude diagnostic of the economic position of a sector or market, and hence many economists keep a keen eye on the recruitment market’s position.

The report, commissioned by one of the global leading job boards, includes valuable insights into the UK and global jobs market through new research conducted among both recruitment professionals and candidates. The key findings include:

Hiring Outlook for 2021

Overall, most recruiters in the UK are feeling optimistic about hiring in the year ahead, with 65 per cent planning to hire in 2021. A third (35 per cent) will be hiring to replace job vacancies, while 30 per cent will be expanding to fill new job requirements.

Despite this positive outlook, UK recruiters and talent acquisition professionals are the most likely to anticipate hiring freezes over the coming months (34 per cent). Compared with the United States, Canada, and other countries in Europe, the UK is the least optimistic about hiring in 2021. More than half of recruiters and decision makers in Canada, France, The Netherlands, and Sweden are expecting to hire this year to fill job vacancies, compared with only a third in the UK.

The outlook also varies by industry. The UK healthcare industry leads with 89 per cent of recruiters planning to hire in the year ahead. The majority of HR and recruitment professionals in the manufacturing (77 per cent), technology (69 per cent) and retail (69 per cent) are also expecting either to fill new positions or replace jobs lost during the pandemic.

The future also looks positive for the leisure and hospitality industry, with 59 per cent of companies expecting to fill new positions in the trade.

Confidence in Talent

Although fewer hires are predicted in the year ahead compared with other countries, confidence remains high for finding desirable candidates to fill open positions. In fact, almost all recruitment professionals (94 per cent) are positive they will be able to find the right talent for roles.

This shows a positive outlook, however the ability to find and identify suitable, high quality candidates quickly will still be one of the biggest challenges for recruiters and talent acquisition professionals in the year ahead.

One third of employers agree the skills gap has increased compared to one year ago, with the most prominent types of skills gaps being critical thinking (33 per cent), communication (26 per cent) and dedication (20 per cent).

Identifying quality candidate matches quickly (42 per cent), effectively screening and assessing candidates pre-interview (42 per cent) and effectively assessing candidates in interviews (46 per cent), are all concerns.  A third of recruiters (33 per cent) anticipate that filtering through an increased number of applications for roles and finding candidates with the required skills will also be major challenges in 2021.

Embracing Technology

Britain is leading the way when it comes to virtual onboarding; 74 per cent are already are using virtual technology for at least half of all candidate interviewing and new-hire onboarding.

Over 15 per cent of UK companies have gone fully virtual in their recruitment processes. This compares to less than 10 per cent in Europe.

Despite these advancements, some participants believe tech can prevent them from finding the perfect candidate fit for roles. In fact, a third of recruiters are concerned about virtual recruiting, while half of the participants believe this method makes it difficult to truly show candidates the company values and culture. Over 60 per cent also feel an online process makes it harder to ensure candidates align with these values.

This is echoed in the consumer research: over a third of UK candidates felt that virtual hiring makes it difficult for them to assess how a company’s values and culture aligned with their own.

Evolving to Support New Candidate Priorities

In a post-COVID-19 world, businesses will need to adapt to the demands of today’s candidates. Most recruiters (77 per cent) expect candidates to place increased importance on workplace safety when considering a new role.

The research shows that UK workers are struggling with job-related anxiety (35 per cent) and headaches from too much screen time (14 per cent). UK workers are more likely than those in any other country to suffer with depression (19 per cent). Over 40 per cent of British women and nearly 30 per cent of men experience job-related anxiety. It’s therefore more important than ever that businesses reassess their employee wellbeing policies.

Many British companies are already considering updating policies to support workers in the future. Nearly 40 per cent will update their health protocols, while one in ten businesses will update retirement plan options, paid volunteer days and paid family leave.

Almost half of businesses are now more open to remote working and flexible work schedules. One third are working towards reducing workplace footprint due to fewer employees working on-site. This aligns with the needs of UK employees: 42 per cent want their employer to offer a more flexible work environment, while one in ten employees wants their employer to reduce workplace footprint.

Although many are already making changes to accommodate the expectations of candidates in a post-COVID-19 world, almost a third (28 per cent) of recruiters are concerned about the new work/life balance expectations of workers. A third worry about how to determine candidate work-from-home productivity potential.

While nearly 40 per cent of recruiters and decision-makers credit the industry for adapting well in response to the pandemic, 29 per cent believe that the human resources, talent acquisition and recruiting industry still has a lot to learn to be successful in the future.

Diversity and Inclusion

The research revealed that according to recruiters, candidates in the UK feel most strongly about the importance of a company’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Despite a stronger emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, globally over half of respondents have not, and do not plan to, update their DEI strategies. This is in stark contrast to candidates’ desire for employers to offer diversity training (35 per cent), build a diverse workforce (34 per cent), create elements of an inclusive work environment and workspace (29 per cent), and encourage employee resource groups (20 per cent).

Adjacency’s View

Adjacency has certainly seen a positive uplift in new roles and placements over Q1 2021 and we are returning to pre-pandemic levels of billing across most operating sectors. We are seeing significant movement within the Financial Services, FMCG / Retail and Professional Services sectors. A large part of the past 12 months has been working with our clients to help them review their current hiring strategy and how that needs to evolve to ensure maximum effectiveness in the future. 

If you would like to review your hiring and employee branding strategy to help you secure the talent that will help you thrive post-pandemic, please contact us. [email protected] 01242 226971

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