COVID-19 Catches Recruiters Off Guard

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Deagreez

The labor market, and by extension the recruitment industry, has rarely experienced such a sudden tsunami of change as it has through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tech giant Microsoft, for example, reported a 46% drop in hirings in April, and listed three jobs on LinkedIn.  And that is but one example.

Amid massive job losses worldwide, some industries have boomed and are desperate for new talent.

People are repurposing their skills all over the world to adapt, with industries such as healthcare and logistics picking up some of the slack created by the losses in other industries.

Incumbents get slammed

For recruiters, it is a challenging period. A look at some examples around the globe shows a variety of responses by recruiters.

On a financial level, the crisis has hit several of the industries' biggest names hard. 

Last week, Hays informed the market that while trading in the period from January 1 to March 13 was in line with expectations, with like for like fees down only 5%, it was expecting a “very material” deceleration in client and candidate activity.

Europe, it said, was the worst affected market with permanent recruitment, which delivers 42% of the company's fees, heavily impacted.

The company also announced a GBP 200 million share placement to raise capital during the crisis.

HR remains unprepared

Underneath these headlines, the rest of the industry is struggling to adapt. In the U.S., a research study released by Doodle found that HR professionals in that country are unprepared and ill-equipped to adapt their recruitment processes in the current crisis.

The Doodle research found that there has been a 47% increase in the number of virtual meetings scheduled for the first quarter of 2020 compared with the last quarter of 2019.

But when HR professionals were asked to rate their level of preparedness to implement fully virtual recruitment and onboarding programs, 17% admitted they were not prepared at all and 31% rated themselves as “only slightly” prepared.

Renato Profico, Doodle’s CEO, said that despite the rise in remote working “HR teams are still heavily reliant on face to face interactions when it comes to recruiting and onboarding employees.”

“While that may have been reasonable and even viable before the coronavirus outbreak, it’s far from that now. A lack of digitization will severely impede their ability to fill essential roles, creating a ripple effect of consequences,” Profico added.

Innovation is the winner

Amid the confusion, however, there has been some innovation and change.

While Hays is struggling, another U.K. based recruitment firm Smart Solutions has reported a surge in using its virtual workforce management portal as companies in some sectors move to add headcount fast.

Some of the innovations around the world are also available for free.

In the Middle East, artificial intelligence driven recruitment platform FifthEdge has launched what it calls its ‘Coronavirus Recovery Initiative’ to aid the recovery in the engineering and construction sectors which it serves.

Candidates and employers can access the platform for free, and the platform’s algorithms match and connect people with jobs through an ‘always live’ talent pool.

Other jobs platforms are also offering free listing services during the crisis. Initiatives span Kenya (BrighterMonday), and Canada (Tundra), while Governments in Australia and China have created jobs portals, often in collaboration with private recruiters. Some recruiters are offering “spotters fees” for people who introduce candidates in sought after industries.

In China, the Ministry of Education has launched a project called 24365, which means 24 hours a day 365 days a year, which comprises five major commercial recruitment sites and has listed over 2 million jobs since launch in late February.

China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has launched a similar site, with a goal of posting over 10 million jobs from now until the end of June.

Tech giant Alipay, as part of this initiative, ran an online job fair in late March which featured around 60,000 employers. This was an example of the move to “contactless” hiring during the crisis, which saw recruiters upgrade their video interview functions to also support group interviews.

Global consultancy Accenture created a free enterprise-to-business platform called People + Work Connect which brings together companies that will furlough or fire people during the crisis at no cost. The global platform allows these people to be available for other organisations.

“By providing real-time visibility into which companies need people and where, People + Work Connect is designed to reduce the economic and social impacts of the virus and help us work together to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” said Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s director of human resources and leadership.

Reinventing recruitment

As with many industries, the post-COVID outlook for recruitment remains uncertain and will be determined by the length of the crisis and the depth of the economic slowdown.

Like the renewed momentum for remote working in the general workforce, the digitization of recruitment is only likely to be accelerated by the crisis.

Some of the change builds on the pre-COVID world, but recruitment in the post-COVID world is likely to look very different from what we have seen in the past.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Deagreez