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Read how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the demand for specific skills as well as recruitment trends and the hiring process.

The COVID Cohort - how has the pandemic impacted skills development and recruitment trends?

COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, a widespread effect on all aspects of life and business. At our recent ICAEW Global Employer Conference, we heard from industry experts in the recruitment space who gave their view on the effects of the pandemic on skills development and recruitment, specifically looking at recruitment trends, the development of skills throughout the pandemic along with the wellbeing of students. Speaking on this topic were DeLynn Senna and Kris Harris from Robert Half Recruitment, Natalie Hannan from Moore Kingston Smith and Nicholas Tay from Genting Malaysia.

Rising salaries due to candidates shortages

From a global perspective, Robert Half’s Executive Director, DeLynn Senna, stated that previously many were expecting there to be a growth within the recruitment market and, within the first quarter of 2021, she believed there had been a huge shift, with recruitment becoming a candidate-driven market. Robert Half works with companies across the globe and has noticed it has become a consistent trend that hiring has become progressively harder due to talent shortages. As a result, to combat this issue, they noticed many businesses re-evaluating the compensation they’re offering. Salaries offered are being increased by 20-40% to attract and retain the relevant top talent.

Flexible working arrangements

Senna also explained that their research showed around 90% of organisations would be looking to put in place a flexible working system. By doing this, it will allow organisations access to a larger talent pool as they can begin hiring outside of their geographical location, also allowing candidates a broader range of opportunities.A similar change has been noted when looking at recruitment within the UK as Robert Half’s Associate Director, Kris Harris gave his view. He believes that the way in which people attract and hire talent has changed compared to 18 months ago, which has been aided by the adoption of video interviews. Agreeing with DeLynn Senna, he noticed many organisations recruiting nationally stating that 30% of new recruitment has taken place from a wider geographical location rather than a standard commuting Distance.

Skills recruiters are looking for post COVID-19

In relation to skills development, both Kris Harris and Natalie Hannan, Talent Manager at Moore Kingston Smith, agreed that there has been a shift in the skills companies are now prioritising. There has been an increase in desired soft skills with many now looking for individuals who are adaptive following the uncertainty of the pandemic, autonomous, customer focused, flexible and have a good understanding of technology given the rapid advancements throughout the pandemic.

Sharon Spice advised that the pandemic has enabled students to develop skills they wouldn’t have. Recent research undertaken by ICAEW looking at working practices during the COVID-19 pandemic showed students felt they have enhanced their digital literacy skills as many don’t feel comfortable working via video all the time due to working from home constraints such as background imagery and noise. Other skills developed while working from home were problem solving, communication and social dynamics.

Virtual interviews in response to Covid-19

Natalie Hanna joined her organisation during lockdown and therefore can understand first-hand the recruitment and hiring processes that many experienced. She advised that Moore Kingston Smith attempted to update their hiring process to replicate the new ways ofworking, such as online assessment centres and video interviews. By harnessing technology in this manner, they hope to build confidence and familiarity with new recruits and the future ways of working as early as possible.

We then heard from Nicholas Tay, an ACA student from Malaysia currently working in the hospitality sector as a Finance Management Trainee. He explained that within his region, there has been a major increase in video interviews along with a lot of contract hires as companies try to mitigate liabilities but also meet business needs.

Nicholas Tay also advised that there had been an increase in video interviews rather than conventional physical interviews to limit the exposure to the pandemic, and these have proved to be very effective. Within the hospitality industry, the needs of businesses have become extremely volatile following the pandemic and as such there is an increase in contract hire compared to the number of permanent hire contracts being offered. This is also predicted to involve any future students in training as companies look to mitigate as many liabilities as possible. This trend is happening across Southeast Asia within the hospitality industry more than any other.

The hiring process

The advice offered by our panel was to watch compensation trends closely when recruiting as they change weekly and can be volatile. Companies should also move fast when hiring and negotiate both financial and non-financial offers effectively. Once the candidate has been secured, employees should build touch points to keep up to date and maintain contact.

The panel also advised that with the new ways of working being predominantly from home employees require more support as it is now harder to create a division between work and home life.

Employers should also look to make recruitment more comfortable to ensure they attract and hire the correct talent. To attract the right talent companies should tell their story through the recruitment process and display clearly what makes them stand out. Employers should also be using assessment centres for both candidates and employers to assess if the opportunity is right for them.