Uncertain Growth

Adam Hawkins, Head of Search and Staffing UK, LinkedIn on Using data to uncover hiring

COVID-19 has thrown the global economy into decline, and with reports suggesting that businesses face a sustained period of turbulence, staffing and recruitment companies are firmly focused on adapting their businesses to get through the months ahead.

The recruitment industry has a history of incredible ingenuity and resilience, and it’s been reassuring to hear from those who have weathered similarly challenging storms. CEO of Reed, James Reed, recently underscored the importance of agility in making decisions and acting quickly in order to get through this testing time. Furthermore, SIA has shared some excellent learnings from a 2011 study which asked staffing companies about what saved their businesses in the last recession, which will be helpful to many. The need for decisive action was also echoed.

Over the past few weeks, at LinkedIn we’ve been analysing our platform data to understand how the pandemic is impacting the UK and European labour markets to help keep our customers informed. We’ve also been exploring the impact of the pandemic on specific industries.

The latest LinkedIn analysis finds that UK hiring growth has shown a 39% decline compared to a year ago. While nearly every industry has been impacted by the global pandemic, our data finds that one industry – healthcare – as you would expect is still showing signs of growth. Hiring in the sector, which is at the forefront of the immediate response to the health crisis, is currently up 14% year-on-year. That growth spans from immediate frontline roles in hospitals, through to medical device and pharmaceutical companies.

A second group of industries, including Software & IT, Nonprofit, Hardware & Networking, Retail and Finance, have seen steep declines in hiring, but are tracking above the national average. However, a number of industries have been particularly hard hit by the lockdown imposed to slow down the spread of the pandemic, and as such their hiring rates are well below the national average (-39%). These industries include Manufacturing, Construction, and Recreation & Travel.

Firms that are still able to recruit are seeing changes to their usual set-up. While the hiring process has been virtual for some time, COVID-19 has certainly made it the norm. Recruiters have moved quickly to adapt and create excellent candidate experiences virtually by embracing video conferencing technologies in particular.

This comes with its own challenges, especially as virtual interviews may feel slightly daunting or unfamiliar to some candidates. It is likely that they may feel greater anxiety around how to build rapport with recruiters virtually, and place undue stress on how they appear on camera, how to maintain eye contact with their interviewer or even which background to select.

Furthermore, it is nearly impossible for many people to find personal space at home at the moment and candidates may feel on edge about surprise interruptions from children or other family members. Strong interpersonal and communication skills have always been a hallmark of the industry, and thankfully recruiters are experienced at putting people at ease and drawing the best out of them.

Those that continue to see a slowdown in hiring are refocusing their efforts on new projects and initiatives. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen many turn to support the recruitment efforts of critical roles on the frontlines of the pandemic. To support the efforts of healthcare staffing firms, we’ve offered free access to LinkedIn Talent Insights for the next few months. We hope that the real-time data and insights will help those urgently recruiting for critical healthcare roles.

Others are focused on pipelining talent for the future. To keep candidates warm, they’re being transparent about the situation to make sure candidates know they have not been forgotten and are checking in with them regularly to keep them updated.

With these challenging times set to continue, adaptability will be essential in the months ahead. We’ll continue to see urgent hiring needs in specific industries, particularly as companies pivot their businesses and workforce strategy to respond to the recovery, and this is where recruiters will really serve. People are ultimately the most important asset of every organisation and central to their competitiveness. Recruiters will continue to play a critical role in advising, consulting and connecting businesses, helping them with their evolving employment needs, the talent landscape and associated talent pools.


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