UK businesses still hiring despite imminent furlough withdrawal

Over three quarters of businesses are still looking to recruit, according to a survey by Keep Britain Working.

Businesses’ responses indicate that they are preparing for an increase in demand as children return to schools and employees return to offices. This is despite anticipated job losses once the government’s furlough scheme ends.

53% of respondents said that they were “still hiring, but less” when asked how their recruitment activity had changed from prior to COVID-19. A further 23% indicated that they were recruiting more than before the pandemic, with only one-fifth saying they had enacted a recruitment freeze.

The findings form part of a survey into how UK businesses are ‘getting back to work’, encompassing business strategy, recruitment decision making and general confidence.

Businesses ready to recruit

Of the 76% of businesses who are recruiting, almost three-fifths attributed this to an increase in demand, supporting recent economic figures which showed that the economy was starting to rebound following lockdown. One-third of respondents said that a need for new skills was driving their recruitment activity.

Many of the companies not currently recruiting believe this will only be a short-term measure, with almost half stating that they were in ‘wait and see’ mode and expected to hire again soon.

This waiting game is related to overall business confidence, with just under half of firms citing a lack of demand as their biggest challenge. Despite this, more firms said they were performing the ‘same as’ or ‘better’ than before the pandemic (64%) than ‘worse’ (36%).

Candidates and skills sought by businesses

When asked about the types of roles for which they are recruiting, 36% of those surveyed said HR and people management positions, while both business resilience and strategic planning employees were being sought by 17% of respondents.

This highlights businesses’ continued challenge when planning for the next few months, as well as signalling that managing staffing issues, whether that be redundancies or employee wellbeing, will continue to be a big focus.

Firms are recognising that talented employees across the worst-affected sectors are now looking for work. 62% of those surveyed said they would consider hiring a candidate who lacked the precise skills or experience required for the role – if it could be made up through training.

With a previous Keep Britain Working survey finding that 31% of jobseekers were looking for positions in sectors with better job security, there is likely to be a realignment in the types of work preferred.

The predicted increase in jobseekers from redundancies will place even more pressure on hiring managers to find the best candidates among a greater number of applicants. This, combined with current economic pressures, led 60% of respondents to suggest they are ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to change their route to hire.

With business demand beginning to increase as more coronavirus restrictions are relaxed, more businesses will look to start recruiting again. This will support those made redundant when the furlough scheme and other government support ends.

Our specialist recruitment consultants have excellent knowledge of the best candidates available in their sectors. If you’re looking to hire, contact your local REED office now.

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