Remember the optimism we all felt starting this year? With Covid restrictions behind us and the economy recovering steadily, many in recruitment were looking forward to getting back to normality. Less than two months later, as Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, the sense of deja-vu that comes from lurching from crisis to crisis was palpable!
In spite of feeling we’re stuck in a state of ‘permacrisis’, and with the spectre of recession and spiralling inflation looming, 2022 turned out to be a fruitful and busy year for many recruiters. So let’s have a look at some of the big things that shaped this year in Recruitment and what some of these might mean for 2022.
What shaped Recruitment in 2022
Remote working and flexibility continued to be some of the biggest trends shaping recruitment in 2022. Even in these post-covid-restriction times, it will come as no surprise to most people that 85% of people would still prefer to stay remote for at least part of the week and it seems like remote/hybrid working is here to stay (we’ll see how that turns out considering the current energy crisis!)
It will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that one of the biggest problems facing many recruiters, particularly in-house, is the severe talent shortages in many industries. Closing the skills gap was difficult enough before 2022, but has now got significantly more challenging thanks to Brexit, the pandemic, and other economic changes. Meanwhile, whoever happens to be having a turn as Prime Minister that month is busy making it more difficult to find or train ready talent to replace the ageing population who have enough savings to take their well-deserved retirement.
By this point, most of you will have heard all about quiet quitting – which is exactly why it’s made this list. Quiet quitting has been the buzzword-de-jour in employment circles this year with almost as many column inches as the cost of living crisis. If you have been lucky enough to avoid the 9000 Forbes articles or the endless LinkedIn posts pontificating on whether it’s a good or bad thing, Quiet Quitting is when employees put only the bare minimum effort into their roles.
Sometimes characterised as a backlash by employees for how quickly companies were to let staff go during the pandemic, or a noble sacrifice to stop exploitation by evil corporate overloads, or a Marxist plot to bring down capitalism (depending on where you’ve been getting your news.) Whatever the reasons driving an increase in Quiet Quitting, it has shone a much-needed light on issues such as employee burnout and mental wellness, which as we leave behind a particularly monumental few years is particularly important.
How can recruiters help with quiet quitting? Well, by working with HR to examine company culture and spot potential red flags which are causing employee burnout as well as looking at how to better demonstrate the culture through the recruitment processes to set realistic expectations. Recruiters can also work on job descriptions within the organisation, ensuring they reflect reality both to set expectations from new starters as to their exact responsibilities and also highlight to the business where their own expectations are unrealistic.
Benefits, Culture & Employee Branding
With talent shortages and the struggle to retain staff against a worsening economic backdrop, it’s hardly surprising that pay, benefits and culture are near the top of a lot of TA people’s minds.
Ensuring you can attract and retain good staff with tightening budgets means that companies are having to get creative with their benefits packages. With another 100 UK companies signing up for a 4-day working week at full pay this month, it’s clear that flexible working will play a key role in many company retention policies.
This change towards benefits and culture-led retention over the good-old ‘throw another few thousand at them to stay’ approach will also feed directly into recruiters’ employer branding activities, so a joined-up approach between HR, Recruitment and Marketing will be critical for success.
With the government’s hokey-Kokey over the last 12 months, many businesses have been operating without significant clarity on what the future holds. Whether that was uncertainty around future energy help while the outgoing Boris Johnson was swanning around the world, uncertainty around the planned scrapping and subsequent u-turns on IR35 and NI, or when Liz Truss nearly crashed the pound – all of these things made it incredibly hard for companies to be proactive.
The end of each year is usually spent planning for the following year, but in uncertain times, knowing what you might have to spend on recruitment isn’t easy for businesses.
What went well in 2022?
That’s enough doom and gloom – let’s take a look at some of the more positive things in recruitment in 2022. Firstly, while there is a lot of caution out there at the moment, most of the recruiters and TAs we talk to are still recruiting, many are still incredibly busy and have pipelines into 2023.
Contrast this to the start of the pandemic in Feb/March 2020 or (if you are old like me) the 2008 crash and things haven’t slowed as much as you might expect. In fact, 90% of companies expected to recruit in 2022, that’s up significantly from the 66% who were looking to hire in 2021.
Even the political and economic uncertainty that’s hung over most of 2022 hasn’t stopped companies still wanting to and – more importantly – actively trying to grow.
What will shape Recruitment in 2023?
Although it is early to say anything specific, we can already see that the energy crisis likely means quite a few changes in the world of recruitment.
The cost-of-living crisis, rising energy costs and inflation is undeniably a serious threat. It holds a risk for 65% of businesses and has an emphasis on issues emerging in the recruitment and retention side of work.
Recruitment will become more and more challenging as candidates will need to ask for higher salaries in order to make a good living and keep up with the rising costs of all areas of life.
But the situation is complex. While employees will look for better-paying opportunities, companies will have less budget for new hires as the numbers on bills jump higher. There will be give and take on both sides, and as we mentioned earlier, employers will look for other areas to retain and attract staff when salaries are squeezed.
So, right now, the best step for employers would be prevention. Making sure that current workers get as much attention and help as possible and having honest conversations about all spectrums of living from mental to financial well-being. Recruitment will need to get their best marketing heads on to work out how to do more with less.
Everyone in Recruitment fears the ‘R’ word… and as the UK leaves 2022 behind in a ‘technical recession’ which could last for the entirety of the next 12 months, it’s likely this will impact recruitment to some degree.
The upcoming recession for 2023 is mostly caused by the surprising slowdown in GDP and the continuous fall of market stocks. Feels like we’ve only just gotten out of the last one and are already heading back into another. This is an “only time can tell” situation – which appears to be our answer to a lot of things lately.
While the OBR has said that the most recent Autumn Statement by current chancellor Jeremy Hunt will likely mean the recession won’t be as deep as feared, its length is still likely to cause problems. There is also the unknown of what happens if the global outlook worsens to consider – with major economies like the US and China also affected, a big shock is somewhat out of the UK’s control.
The exact impact of the recession is hard to predict – things seem to be holding up well recruitment-wise currently. A recession usually starts with hiring freezes which are closely followed by cost-cutting but so far, we haven’t seen a wide-scale implementation of either.
Is this the calm before the storm? If the UK can weather the worst of it, we may hopefully only see a slight downturn in recruitment rather than the dramatic cliff-edge scenario we have seen in recent years.
How to prepare for 2023
Flexibility will be an important asset both for recruiters, employers, and candidates over the next 12 months. The ability to adapt to the changing market conditions will prove useful.
A recession means moving to a more proactive approach. Your internal recruiters and talent acquisition should be working as a strategic function (if they are not, maybe you should talk to us!). A strategic team has the ability to ensure that your business hits the ground running when it’s time to grow.
Get your TA teams mapping the market for relevant talent and nurturing key relationships – take this time to address your critical shortages. Overhaul your employee branding and recruitment marketing strategies to meet the needs of the changing talent landscape. Look at your processes and assessments, are they fit for purpose when there might be a lot of people being funnelled through them when there are a lot more candidates actively looking?
The absolute worst thing you could do during a downturn is to let your recruitment team go entirely and have to start the whole process again with new people just at the time you are ready to grow.
While this review of the year might not have been the most optimistic thing we’ve ever written – there are a lot of unknowns, what-ifs and suppositions. Really, only time can tell what the next 12 months will look like for every single one of us. The good news is that the world has gone through many of these cycles before – the U.S. alone has had about 47 recessions – and the economy has always got back up on its feet. We might be looking ahead at some tough times, but keep agile, keep flexible, and we’ll find a way through.