Research conducted by Bullhorn, the cloud computing company that helps staffing and recruiting organisations transform their businesses, has found that recruiting professionals are optimistic about COVID-19’s future economic impact. According to Bullhorn’s Global Recruitment Insights and Data (GRID) COVID-19 Impact Survey, only two percent predict a sustained depression that extends past 2021, and more than half (56 percent) expect the economy to improve by the end of the year.
Almost a third (30 percent) of staffing and recruiting professionals report that their businesses are doing better or as well as they were this time last year. Healthcare and IT staffing agencies were the most likely to observe stable performance and the least likely to suffer dramatic losses.
Bullhorn released its annual GRID repository of staffing industry research in January 2020, following more than a decade of annual trends reports. While the research was accurate at the time of release, the rapid macroeconomic developments precipitated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, and their resulting impact on the staffing and recruitment industry, necessitated this updated survey, which was fielded in North America and the UK in May and June of 2020.
Internal employee retention
Globally, more than two fifths (42 percent) say they have not reduced their internal workforce. The smallest businesses (1-10 salespeople and recruiters combined) were twice as likely (54 percent) to retain their entire team than the largest companies (28 percent). By comparison, the vast majority (82 percent) of UK businesses have laid off at least some of their workforce. While in North America, 46 percent of businesses have laid off or furloughed employees.
The vast majority (81 percent) of recruiters said that reduction in job requests had been the biggest customer-related challenge since the beginning of COVID-19. Over half (55 percent) cited increased difficulty in winning new customers, while a fifth (21 percent) reported that clients were unable to make payments. The top challenge faced when acquiring new customers was hiring freezes (72 percent) followed by lack of budget (10 percent).
Priorities for 2020
When asked what staffing professionals’ most important business priorities for the remainder of 2020 were, most focused on providing excellent client and candidate services. Over two fifths (44 percent) said improving the management of client relationships was a primary focus and more than a third said improving candidate experience (36 percent) was a priority. With regards to internal processes, more than a third said they’re focused on optimising remote work (34 percent) and controlling spend (34 percent). Only a fifth (22 percent) said that they are reassessing their business model.
The rise of remote recruiting
Nearly two thirds (64 percent) expect remote jobs to be more common post-COVID-19 and more than half (57 percent) expect contactless recruiting to become more prevalent. Agencies are responding to the new landscape by investing in and utilising recruitment technology. Video conferencing saw a near-universal (91 percent) adoption uptick. Other tools included VoIP (25 percent) and SMS (24 percent), reflecting a new emphasis on flexible modes of communication.
More than a quarter of agencies (27 percent) have ramped up their use of analytics since the rise of COVID-19, presumably to understand their performance better and make smart decisions about where to invest future resources. Respondents also reported an increase in the use of automation and AI (16 percent). With a thinner margin for error than in the past, automating time-consuming manual tasks and freeing up time and resources has never been more critical.
Gordon Burnes, chief marketing officer at Bullhorn, says: “The recruiting industry has always been brave and resilient. The impact of COVID-19 has been profound, but as always, optimism and opportunity abound amidst challenges. While respondents expect permanent changes to the industry, such as the rise of remote jobs, staffing and recruiting is still fundamentally about people, and the top priorities for agencies—improving client and candidate engagement—demonstrate that the path to success is through relationships.”
At its recent Bullhorn EngageX conference, which attracted more than 3,700 registrants, Bullhorn asked attendees to share their views on whether staffing industry performance would be up, down, or flat for Q3 2020, to assess how quickly recruitment professionals anticipate the start of a rebound. Of the respondents who voted in the poll, more than 70 percent projected performance to rise in the next quarter and just 8 percent expect a decline.