For those looking to recruit this summer, the end to Covid restrictions will not mark the end of all the major challenges posed by Covid-19. The pandemic has caused a rise in unemployment as well as forcing a large proportion of the UK workforce into the furlough scheme in replacement of work. But when the country returns to normal, these consequences will not simply be reversed; they have had their own knock-on effects.

Here, we consider what the future could look like for recruiters, and some of the ways in which you can overcome this new set of challenges.

Furlough, redundancy and unemployment

The pandemic caused a significant drop in revenue for the majority of companies and as a result many took advantage of the government’s furlough scheme for financial support. Less fortunate companies were forced to close or reduce their size significantly, meaning that employees faced redundancy in huge numbers.

This has had some pretty major effects on the UK workforce, that haven’t been experienced before. Furlough has been utilised where redundancy would have otherwise been the solution, which has meant that although unemployment has risen, it certainly hasn’t to the levels many had forecasted. According to the most recent figures (up to 30 April 2021), about 3.4 million were on furlough, down from a peak of 5.1m in January 2021. This has meant that people who might otherwise be on the lookout for new opportunities are instead not in the market for a new job. Come September, this might change, but in the meantime, many businesses are struggling to find potential recruits.

All in all, there are a lot of businesses recruiting from a small pool of candidates.

Digitised recruitment and training

While you may be thinking that a number of these challenges can be overcome by providing your own training to new employees, it’s important to consider the setbacks you might experience in this endeavour. There is still a significant number of restrictions in place to ensure that we do not see another rise in cases of Covid-19, including those based around social distancing. As a result, any kind of face to face communication between employers and employees must be kept to a minimum.

While you could get around this with the help of technology, for example, by carrying out the training of new recruits remotely using software like Zoom or Skype, consider the quality of training that could realistically be given in this way. What challenges could you come across, for example, how easy would it be to communicate complex problem solving, or explain complicated software? For many employers, the lack of ability to deliver adequate training poses a real challenge when it comes to recruitment.

Similarly, being restricted to online interviews and assessment centres only, gives you a much reduced opportunity to gauge the attributes of applicants. They are limited in what they can show you and you are limited in what you can ask for. It can also be more difficult to ascertain how genuine the impression that the candidate is presenting of themselves is.

Challenges faced by new employees

As well as the challenges that have evolved from the temporary and permanent ceasing of employment for many people during the pandemic,  a number of others have evolved from the threat of Covid-19 itself.  

As an employer, don’t be surprised by a rise in demand on your HR team as you introduce existing and new employees into your team. The return to normality carries its own set of challenges for many people. For example, those who have become accustomed to staying indoors with limited access to other people are likely to take time to adjust to hectic surroundings once more. The threat of Covid-19 is not yet completely over, and there are many who still fear its impact on their health, particularly as they start to enter heavily populated work environments again.

As well as helping your employees through these anxiety triggers, it is important that you step up your approach to cleanliness in the workplace in order to help them feel more at ease, as well as follow government guidelines when it comes to social distancing. Lastly, the traumatic experience of losing your job or part of your income has been felt by many in the past year. For those returning to work, the possibility of this happening again won’t be far from their minds, so be sure to exercise an open door policy when it comes to concerns of this nature.

Requests for flexible working

After more than a year of working from home, many new employees may begin to expect a level of flexible working to be offered as part of their employment with you. In fact, 20% of workers would like to continue working from home full-time, while the average preference is 2 out of 5 days in the office. There are many benefits to this new way of working for both employee and employer, but it takes time and investment to set up the necessary structures that would enable you to offer this option.

You may see a number of employees choosing to self-isolate should they feel unsafe in their working environment, while others will take the responsible route of self-isolation if they experience symptoms of Covid-19. Is your company set up for these eventualities? It is important to also be aware of your financial responsibilities as an employer in the face of Covid-19 related sick leave and compassionate leave, when taking on new recruits during this time.

Unpredictable business

Finally, planning a recruitment drive is a daunting prospect when it’s so hard to predict the route that your business is going to take back to normality. You don’t want to make a significant investment in a new staff body but see no return when it takes longer than predicated to reach normal levels of business. However, should your company recover faster than expected, you don’t want to be underprepared and miss out on opportunities through a shortage of staff.

What’s the answer?

We’ve given you an idea of what to expect and consider when planning out your route back to pre-pandemic prosperity, but how can you overcome some of these challenges? Luckily we have the answer; outsourcing to third party companies is the perfect fall-back during this unusual and unpredictable time. Not to mention the fact the top reason for outsourcing is cost reduction (70%) at a time when the vast majority of businesses are in financial recovery, outsourcing gives you access to the staff you need when you need it, without the commitment.

You can outsource a wide range of business operations, for example, Cymphony provide telephone answering, live chat operators and virtual personal assistants. You don’t need to worry about a skill shortage or sifting through endless applications from under qualified applicants, as you benefit from their body of ready- trained and experienced professionals. This also removes the challenge of digitised recruitment and training altogether! The range of new problems that will come with an in-house team, such as a thorough sterilisation process and increased demand on HR are eradicated when you’re benefitting from a remote staff body instead.

While outsourcing means relying on remote employees, the difficulties that come with this change of circumstances are taken care of by the provider, allowing you to benefit from a simple line of communication with a single representative. And finally, outsourcing is endlessly flexible, with temporary contracts that allow you to match the needs of your business no matter how it is performing. So, rather than trying to tackle all of these challenges at once, give yourself some breathing space by outsourcing while things return to normal, without missing out on the opportunity to begin watching your business grow again.

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