2020 will go down in history as a year to remember and it has felt like a long slog at times. But we are almost at the end of this tumultuous year and so it feels right to take some time to review, reflect and reset ready for a fresh start in January.
If you were to pick an expression that was most used and best describes the year “unprecedented times” would probably be top of the list. During these times that have been quite so exceptional what have we learnt and has it all been bad?
Review of recruitment in 2020
In January 2020 we started the year with a bang, an exceptional trading month and the job market was very buoyant.
In fact, just this week our industry body REC have reported that despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, the recruitment industry contributed £42.3bn in 2019 which was a rise of 8% and accounts for 2.1% of UK Gross Value Added. This contribution is higher than any other sectors including recreation, entertainment as well as the insurance and pension funding industry.
However, as the shutters came down on people hiring in March, our industry was hit hard by the pandemic and income fell by over a fifth by the summer. Like us, 81% of recruitment agencies are micro businesses of under 10 employees so those that have suffered are people like you and me with teams that they care deeply about and the threat to our livelihoods was palpable.
One common trait of recruiters however is resilience; how else could we possibly deal with the daily ups and downs of dealing with humans and the fickle nature of people at times. We must always dig deep during the troughs and 2020 has tested this to the limits. Only the strongest will survive, and the chances of success begin simply with making a decision on whether you want to.
As it stands in December 2020, the job market has bounced back considerably but nationally it is reported that it is not yet back to the pre-Covid era. Is that the same for us at Elite?
I am delighted to say that since July our job vacancy flow has been consistent and as strong as it was before March 2020, thanks to a huge amount of work and development. We committed to a new lead and business development strategy that has seen us create new, meaningful relationships which has led us to having higher levels of placements than we did in the same period in 2019.
We have expanded in our existing markets, not just in terms of disciplines of staff that we recruit but also geographically. We are hiring from Gretna down to Redruth with lots in between and thanks to the tidal wave of development in virtual meetings we can do this very successfully. Our second highest user of our services in 2020 is based in Surrey whilst we are in Somerset.
Reflect – what have we learned?
Relationships are what counts
When I had no jobs to recruit for, I took to the phones anyway to check in on my clients and talk to them about their experiences and this strengthened many relationships I already had. I even took this chance to form new ones which I am so very grateful for and it is proof that whilst emails and messages are convenient, the very best way to communicate effectively is to chat. We now think twice about sending another email and instead pick up the phone and our results have improved by doing this.
When times were tough in the business, the relationships I had with my family and friends made all the difference to how I felt and got me through. It is important to remember that people matter most, above all else and we should take more time to nurture our friendships.
Stick to what you know and do it best
When national lockdown was implemented in March, we decamped home, but it became clear very quickly that companies were freezing their hiring plans given the untold uncertainty. Firstly, we tried to turn our hand to offering temps into sectors we had never worked in i.e supermarkets, food manufacturers etc but these efforts fell flat. It was apparent that there were companies already in these markets who could supply quickly and to be honest, we were totally clutching at straws.
We did however have our own, established specialisms so we got stuck in to finding more clients within these areas where we can prove how we add value immediately. The 80/20 rule applies – if 80% of your income comes from 20% of your client base, figure out what the commonality is with the 20% and expand upon that for growth; don’t reinvent the wheel.
This tactic has seen us becoming even stronger within our specialist markets and achieving growth on 2019 which we plan to further in 2021.
Evolve or die
I think across many industries we have seen this year that to continue to trade effectively, the ability to pivot and adapt is vital. We all had to quickly adapt to working from home, becoming zoom and Teams experts and learn how to manage from afar. From chaos, the greatest change often comes, and this has definitely been the case in 2020.
As a business, we have mastered the art of home working and successfully maintaining our close team feel and put in place new processes to create many new relationships in our sectors. We have seen growth in our key specialisms through offering new services and listening to what our clients needed from us. We are tailoring our offering to include payment plan options, retained services and interview coaching, moving away from the one size fits all contingent recruitment offering.
I am not saying this wouldn’t have happened for us eventually, but 2020 has certainly created a spirit of creativity within me. I think the changes we are making will set our business up for growth in 2021.
Together everyone achieves more
When the furlough scheme was announced, at that point in time most clients and companies within our markets froze all recruitment and as well as potential income seeming thin on the ground, placements we had already made started being put back or cancelled. With that in mind, I had the difficult but sensible decision to make around furloughing my team and for the first time since 2015 it went back to just being me on the tools and as many of you know, my mum as the keeper of the purse strings. I felt an enormous sense of loss at them not being apart of the everyday but equally a very strong sense of purpose. I knew one thing, I had to have them all back in their positions as quickly as possible and it was this sole intention that kept me going when it got really tough. I realised at that time that our business is more than me, it’s the amazing team we have, and I am sincerely grateful for that realisation. Fast forward to July and we were able to offer all of our team back their jobs and we have gone on to thrive as a unit. When they announced the second lockdown, admittedly business was much more “as usual” but using the furlough scheme was not an option – we stuck together and continued to achieve more!
Fortune favours the brave
One major thing I have learned this year is that putting yourself out of your comfort zone brings the best results. I had so much fear around reaching out to people in lockdown genuinely worrying that people did not want to hear from me, only to be overwhelmed by the positive response from clients. The strategy we developed has enabled us to connect and create so many positive new client relationships and had it not been for the pandemic we may never have discovered this technique. This newly found confidence has been instilled in the team who can witness first hand the results and they are also now benefiting from pushing their own boundaries.
You can control what you allow in
As a business owner I naturally need to know what is happening in the world in order to make appropriate decisions at the right time, but I definitely do not feel it is healthy to open the floodgates to information and opinion. Early on in lockdown, the BBC news app was most used on my phone, but I soon realised that information overload was not helping my mindset. I recently listened to a podcast with the great Deepak Chopra and he said that much of the news in the media is opinion and once you accept this knowledge you can seek to purely download the facts you need in your day to day existence. Over the weekend I was lucky enough to bring our first kitten home and as a family we were so excited and taken with him that I hadn’t even seen the latest Covid briefing! My happy mood was completely unaffected as I simply hadn’t let it in at that time.
I am not saying you should live in ignorance but simply have control over what you let in and when and how you digest the information.
With everything in mind now is the time to take a break, reset and set some new objectives for 2021. Regardless of what is happening in the world, I am approaching the new year with positivity and have key areas of focus for us.
Due to our success this year our first apprentice has now completed her course and is now undertaking a new role as Veterinary Resourcer and will be commencing a new recruitment specific apprenticeship in January. We are going to be hiring our next apprentice in January to come and support the rest of the team as this has proven to be an exceptional way for us to grow new talent.
Each of our consultants have developed in their roles and we will be making exciting announcements in the new year about some changes to the structure of the existing team.
We will continue to evolve our lead generation and marketing processes and start to roll out new service offerings which will enable us to be at the forefront of modern recruitment and provide flexibility to our clients when they need it most.
Whilst the year has been challenging in so many ways, we are very grateful to have a wonderful team and clients that continue to support us no matter what.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a restful Christmas and may the New Year bring you health and prosperity.
If you are feeling sad at the latest developments, why not check out this blog https://www.elitestaffingsolutions.co.uk/corona-fatigue-top-tips-to-keep-you-and-your-team-positive/ …. If you want to find out more about working with us in 2021, please get in touch with the team.