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Key trends in HR & Recruitment 2021


Nigel Wright addressed the Tees Valley CIPD in April. The topic of our presentation was ‘Trends in HR and Recruitment.’ During this session, we discussed the following themes:

  • Current recruitment trends
  • Candidate availability
  • The future of work
  • Flexible working
  • Reward and benefits

Current recruitment trends

Over half of UK businesses are currently recruiting. The success of the vaccine roll out and easing of lockdown restrictions are key factors behind this hiring momentum. During the next 12 months, 70% of organisations will recruit new employees, with automotive and food manufacturing, as well as education, life sciences, technology, and travel & leisure, continuing to be the busiest sectors.

Middle management and, to some extent, executive-level opportunities are increasing. Automation has impacted the administration job market, with opportunities for receptionists and PAs in decline. While the furlough scheme succeeded in limiting the number of redundancies, as employees return to work, resignations have risen, as people seek new challenges elsewhere.

Eighty percent of businesses now have a fully remote recruitment process. This includes Nigel Wright and most of our clients. Some organisations, however, still interview candidates face-to-face. This tends to occur within traditional sectors such as manufacturing and education, where employees are more likely to be required on site.

*There were over 50 attendees at the event and a snap poll revealed that 97% of the companies represented were planning to recruit within the next 6 months

Candidate availability

Candidates are still nervous about job security and a reluctance to change jobs is evident. Consequently, 77% of employers have experienced skill shortages during the last year due to a lack of suitable applicants. Organisations have used temporary solutions to help them through peaks in demand, as well as recruiting people with specialist skills for specific projects.

We have noticed a high volume of applications for ‘low skilled’ vacancies. Applications for management roles are comparatively low, with around 10 applicants per job. There has also been a decline in the number of candidates available for interim positions, as many are already employed. Furthermore, new IR35 legislation has meant that many contractors have sought permanent employment.

Candidate engagement and the candidate experience are important in this climate. Businesses that are recruiting must ensure a clear and attractive proposition is communicated to the market. There are multiple opportunities available for candidates. And counter-offers are common, as employers struggle to retain their best people.

Talent attraction professionals are working proactively to engage with candidates who may not be actively seeking new roles. We support candidates throughout the recruitment process, as well as the offer stage and notice period. This helps alleviate any uncertainty on their behalf and ensures a successful conclusion.

*Almost two-thirds of attendees indicated that candidates had been hard to find over the last 6 months. This was especially the case for niche/specialist roles

The future of work and flexible working

COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated changes taking place in the world of work. Flexible and agile working were emerging trends before the pandemic. And some companies (particularly those in the professional services sector) had already begun closing offices, as part of a longer-term plan to move to a 100% home-based working model.

Given the success of home working during the last year, more companies are now re-evaluating working arrangements vis-a-vis the cost and environmental benefits of having a remote workforce. Homeworking, however, doesn’t suit everyone. It's interesting to note that we have been approached by candidates seeking office-based roles, in light of their employer choosing to permanently close sites.

Two-thirds of employees now state they want hybrid working arrangements. Significantly, the location of offices will become less relevant. When recruiting niche or specialist skillsets, home-based roles will make it easier to attract a broader pool of talent. Generally, future talent attraction and retention will involve offering attractive flexible working opportunities.

Reward and benefits

Salary is still the main reason people choose to change jobs, though the ‘full package’ is important rather than pay alone. Flexible working, of course, is becoming a key bargaining tool, with many candidates preferring this to additional pay. Mid-level salaries are rising, but mainly for specialist skillsets. Around 50% of companies have increased salaries this year. The average increase is 1.2%

We have seen companies levelling up salaries between lower and higher-paid employees. Some organisations are also increasing salaries above average market rates to retain talent. This is especially the case within the tech market, where North East based developers are joining London firms while staying in the region and working from home. Developers can earn up to 20% more pay working for London based employers.

Bonuses have been significantly affected over the last 12 months and many people have not received any bonus payment. Companies are looking to make changes to expensive pension schemes to save costs. Moving forward, other cost-saving measures could include closing offices and removing car allowance benefits for home-based employees. Investing in home office equipment, however, may offset any savings.

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