How employers are responding to Covid-19

Content RS FI article

Some firms are beginning to make recruitment plans for the next 18 months.  Others are still waiting to see how the market moves, but either way, businesses shouldn’t let a lack of technology get in the way of continuing recruitment.

First Intuition is a leading provider of accountancy education in the UK, working with hundreds of employers to develop talent for the future. They surveyed 160 firms of all sizes  across the UK that traditionally recruit qualified finance professionals to find out how they were adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Planned recruitment

When they asked firms if they planned to change the number of planned recruits for 2020 the answers were mixed. 25% of all respondents believed that they would see lower  recruitment numbers than originally planned, with 30% remaining unsure, and only a very small minority planning increases.

This information adds to the already growing body of data that shows increasing numbers of graduates are concerned about their job prospects. For those that are able and willing to recruit, there should be a strong pool of talent available for training intakes in 2020.

Changes in recruitment processes

Whilst 21% of respondents stated that they have already completed their recruitment for the year, of the remaining 79%, only 3% had the existing technology already in their recruitment process for no changes to be required.

Most concerning is that almost half (48%) have paused recruitment altogether, either due to social distancing restrictions (16%) or uncertainty over requirements (32%).

(You can read the ACCA Careers' guide to recruiting during lockdown restrictions here)

Recruitment plans for 2021

Predictably employers surveyed were uncertain about their recruitment plans for next year. 46% were unsure whether plans would be changed from pre-COVID-19 planning, whilst 34% felt that they would not need to change plans at present.

However, of those that did expect that plans would need to change (20% stated this) the overwhelming expectation (over 60%) was for a reduction in recruitment numbers in 2021.

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Workloads and retention

In the immediate term, the pandemic has meant an almost equal split in businesses experiencing increases in workload and those with decreases. 44.28% report increases in staff workloads and 43.57% report decreases.

When asked to select what changes had been made to accommodate these changes in workload: 55% had furloughed junior trainees, 23% had furloughed more senior trainees, and 31% had furloughed qualified staff.

There are real concerns about how busy the second half of 2020 will be (31% deferring non- urgent client work to later in 2020) so many employers are mandating that staff take holiday in a specific time period (31%) and some are allowing staff to carry holiday over to 2021 (23%).

There is also a huge volume of redeployment (42%), both due to workloads and staff on furlough. This should be beneficial for organisations in the medium term as they will have staff that are more multi-skilled post-COVID than before the pandemic.

Firms will need to address the twin challenges of furloughed staff returning to the business (if they do return) and managing burn-out among staff who have been swamped during the lockdown.

(Read the ACCA Careers guides to retaining graduates and experienced staff.)

Next steps

Employers surveyed broadly fell into two camps: those who were holding tight and “waiting and seeing” what the economy would do before making plans, and those already re-planning their recruitment and re-deploying staff. As lockdown lifts, more will move into the second camp and the picture for this year and next will begin to solidify.

You can read the full FI report and more detailed advice on how to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

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