Following disruption throughout 2020, 2021 emerged as one of the busiest years I have seen in my twenty years at Robert Half, and there are no signs of hiring slowing down as we move into 2022.
In 2021, we saw a huge amount of movement in the market. Businesses were hiring to backfill vacant roles and build teams to take advantage of prevailing market conditions. However, skilled workers are in short supply, leaving 1.2 million open roles across the UK that proved difficult to fill.
But employees were also looking to make a change. When we experience traumatic events – which the pandemic was, and continues to be, for many people across the UK – we tend to take stock. Throughout 2020 and 2021, candidates were reassessing their priorities, and many decided to make a move when it came to their careers, prompting an unexpected phenomenon – The Great Resignation.
Although the sudden burst of activity from employees may subside as businesses get to grips with how to manage teams remotely and adapt to the new ‘normal’, the demand from businesses will remain well into next year.
While the threat of further new variants brings uncertainty, businesses are becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Many businesses have shown that they can successfully adapt to a remote or hybrid working environment – and few are keen to delay their plans for recovery and growth as the markets bounce back.
Booming technology investment offers new opportunities
From start-ups to established companies, investment in technology is booming.
According to research published recently by Tech Nation, Dealroom and LocalGlobe, start-up tech firms in the UK received $18 billion of investment during the first half of 2021 – three times value of investments for the same period in 2020. In addition, experts are forecasting a big year for IPOs and Private Equity investments, which is great news for the companies and the economy but will also drive recruitment.
Throughout 2021, we saw an increase in hiring for senior roles within tech companies as they look to strengthen their offering and seize opportunities – essentially using their new investments to take their organisation to the next level. The same drive is also behind a trend for multiple hires, often needed for quick scale-ups.
Technology and automation updates require skilled workers
At the same time, business leaders are increasing their own investments in technology. The pace of new technological developments means that organisations are constantly having to update their systems and bring in the new skills required to run and maintain them – that isn’t going to go away any time soon.
For some sectors, the pandemic has seen a huge shift in consumer behaviour, which is forcing many businesses to update and evolve their web offerings. There is, and will continue to be, significant demand for dev-ops talent as a result, as it gives businesses the skills they need to compete in their field and allows them to deliver a higher quality experience to their customers.
Regulation is a key driver for hiring
Two years of uncertainty have not stopped the government from moving forward with their plans to strengthen regulation.
In the past, we might have expected regulations to fall in favour of a free market, but it seems the UK Government has intentions to force the arm of some companies, particularly when it comes to the environment, technology and financial services.
Over the next few years, we’re expecting new rules for environmental disclosure, the end of LIBOR and in digital currencies, as well as initiatives to ensure that businesses can operate successfully across the UK and EU markets. Earlier this year, the government also announced plans for digital regulation, described as “a new, ground-breaking approach to the way we govern tech.”
All this will keep companies busy, and many of them will look to strengthen teams responsible for preparing for and implementing the new rules. Given the current appetite for new regulation, it seems likely that demand will continue to increase throughout 2022.
The Great Resignation becomes The Great Attraction
Originally coined in the US, ‘The Great Resignation’ has become a common term to describe the unprecedented behaviour of employees around the world, including the UK. Employees have been leaving their roles in large numbers having reassessed their priorities during the pandemic. Reasons have varied from salaries and career progression to a desire for a better work/life balance or more inclusive environment.
As employers become better at managing teams remotely and build on their retention strategies, the plethora of resignations will slow. As candidates are being more demanding in their expectations for a new workplace, ‘The Great Resignation’ needs to become ‘The Great Attraction’. Business leaders need to think carefully about their offering to employees to ensure that their organisation is one where people want to work – and we’re here to help.
Our consultants speak to candidates day-in and day-out, and have the latest insights on what they are looking for. Our team is always more than happy to have a conversation about the trends they are seeing in the market – just reach out to one of our consultants on LinkedIn or contact us.
Businesses will need to think about more than money
Salaries will continue to increase as long as demand outstrips supply but pay is no longer the most important thing to many candidates. The overall package is now crucial (find out more in our 2022 Salary Guide). Throughout 2021, candidates were often choosing between multiple offers, and it was not always the salary that won out – many were willing to sacrifice the highest pay in favour of better benefits, flexible working or company culture.
This trend will certainly continue into 2022, and that means businesses need to think about their wider offering and how it can be strengthened to appeal to candidate demand. Cultural elements will be key – so it is important to think about the support you provide to your employees. This could include anything from offering Employee Network Groups to drive inclusivity, to boosting mental health provisions or demonstrating a genuine commitment to protecting wellbeing.
A year of cautious optimism
It’s fair to say that 2021 was another challenging year, but as we look to the future the emerging trends are overwhelmingly positive. Businesses are positioning themselves to be able to seize the opportunities offered by new technology, and more importantly, they are taking their employees with them.
We’re moving into a period where businesses are becoming more ‘human’, and even at this early stage it is clear that this new approach will benefit the workforce, and ultimately increase productivity and boost the bottom line.
Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK
Matt has worked for Robert Half for more than 20 years; he began his career as a recruitment consultant for Robert Half Finance and Accounting in 1999. Matt quickly excelled as a top consultant and earned a number of prestigious awards including being recognised four times as Robert Half’s worldwide number one consultant. With extensive experience in financial recruitment in the UK, Matt is a familiar industry figure and a valuable spokesperson on current trends affecting the market.