September 6, 2023
Hiring in 2023 is hard. Whether you’re working for a recruitment agency or in-house, the ongoing labour shortage is piling on the pressure as hiring for the festive season ramps up.
We spoke to recruitment professionals to ask them what they were experiencing in the market right now, how they’re preparing for the 2023 peak recruitment period and what advice they have for other professionals.
“In our sector, which is primarily focused on industrial work, particularly in food manufacturing and logistics, the current challenge revolves around finding motivated workers,” says Danni Bunnell, Director of Operations at Paragon Meed Recruitment.
“There seems to be a recurring issue where individuals attend induction, get paid for it, work for a few days, and then quit. The primary challenge lies in retaining candidates rather than just attracting them. Pay is important but it’s also about making them feel at home when they come to work so they don’t want to jump anywhere else.”
Speaking about peak recruitment, Danni said last year followed a different pattern and recruiters were waiting to see whether 2023 followed a similar trajectory.
She added: “Peak last year didn't really land. We had a three week spike at Black Friday but normally it builds up for longer. Everyone was waiting till the last minute to spend because they wanted to get the best deals for Christmas and people didn't have money in their pocket to spend. It will be very interesting to see what this year looks like.”
Jo Knowler, Head of Match Making at Up World, is seeing a mismatch between employer and candidate expectations.
She said: “Candidates haven't had the memo that 2022 salaries are not on offer anymore.
“Last year, salaries got really bumped because there was a candidate shortage but because of redundancies this year there are more candidates in the market.”
"Recruiters must ensure their branding is authentic and aligned with the actual work environment," explains Jo. She added that by tailoring messaging to highlight career development opportunities, sustainability initiatives, diversity efforts, and flexible work options, recruiters can effectively stand out amidst the clamour of peak hiring season.
She continued: “Given the competitive job market, successful recruiters are also differentiating themselves through direct approaches. Rather than advertising roles widely, we directly contact potential candidates.”
Kim Farrell, Director of YourWavelength, agreed employer branding was key to attracting the right candidates.
He said: “Successful recruiters prioritise authentic employer branding that genuinely reflects their company culture. To avoid falling into the trap of creating gimmicky branding, recruiters must ensure their branding is authentic and aligned with the actual work environment.
“You can highlight career development opportunities, environmental sustainability initiatives, diversity and inclusion efforts, and flexible work options. By tailoring the messaging to resonate with the target audience, recruiters can effectively stand out and attract candidates who align with the company's values and mission.”
Danni said that for her clients incentives such as workplace travel and free on-site meals can help boost retention.
She said: “It’s boots on the ground if I’m honest. We're very much about the people and tapping into how workers feel in that working environment. A lot of it is around like freebies - like free hot meals. Especially with the cost of living, having a meal at work also means that your bills at home aren't going to be as high. It’s about talking to the workers to see what they would find most valuable.”
All the recruiters agreed that while technology was invaluable, there will always be a need for humans in the process.
Jo said: “Technology like AI and ATS systems help streamline recruitment processes during high-demand periods. I listened to someone at House of Fraser do a talk about having to hire something like 30,000 temps after Covid and they did that purely by having a good ATS system that allowed them to do a lot of automation.
“They can be great but it depends on how well they're set up and used. Done well, automation can help candidates feel engaged and informed throughout the process.”
Kim added that a hybrid of AI, automation and human resource was the magic formula.
He said: “Technology plays a pivotal role in streamlining the recruitment process - especially during high-demand periods. Targeted social media advertising campaigns, automated interview scheduling, and the use of data analytics are all significant technological advancements.
“Using AI and automation, recruiters can manage high-volume hiring while keeping a personalised candidate experience. However, while technology makes it more efficient, maintaining a human touch is essential.”
Danni agreed, saying: “We do online registrations for our bigger customers, we have a chat bot candidates can use to apply for a vacancy. It will ask them pre-screen questions then give them the online registration link. That's where we call them and bring them in.
“We’re still very present in the actual environment that they're working in and check in every shift. Technology helps us be faster and more efficient but you definitely need that human touch.”
“I've been sourcing talent on social media,” explains Jo. “Other recruiters don't necessarily see the worth in it but people are missing a trick - especially with platforms like TikTok.
“I think with the current climate we're going to have to go back to old school. Networks are actually going to be the way forward for recruiters - it's going to be about knowing people.”
Jo highlighted the importance of consistent communication, personalised experiences, and demonstrating genuine interest in candidates' career aspirations.
She explained: “I've got everybody that’s going through the process on my WhatsApp at the moment. It's much more personal. If I haven't got time to talk to individuals I record one voice note and send it to three candidates for their first stage interviews.”
Kim agreed, adding: “Showing genuine interest in candidates' career aspirations and offering valuable feedback, even if they aren't selected, helps build those long-term relationships.”
Once employees are hired, it’s important to make sure they still feel valued and have their voices heard, said Danni.
She added: “We have social committees and employee forums to make sure worker voices are heard. We take suggestions and then feed back to the workers what we have done to address those suggestions.”
Kim said: "We agree the interview questions before we even start recruiting because otherwise what happens is you go to five or six interviews in one day, you're not taking proper notes, you're not asking everyone the same question. So you get confirmation bias - you might like the same music or sport team or whatever. You offer them the job and they're not right for the role but more like a clone of yourself. Which is bad for diversity.
“The best teams of people have shared values but different skill sets and backgrounds.”
Flexibility and shift patterns to fit around people’s lives can also promote diversity, says Danni. She said: “There's more flexibility now after Covid - offering term time work or different shift patterns. It's great to see that kind of inclusive hiring and be able to be that flexible.”
Jo added: “Diversity is a priority - it can be challenging to incorporate when facing tight time constraints. Automatically anonymising CVs can help remove unconscious bias.”
"There is a growing trend in using data analytics and metrics to optimise recruitment efforts. Recruiters are increasingly using data-driven insights to refine their strategies and decision-making processes,” explains Kim.
“By looking at time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, and quality of hire, recruiters gain insights into the effectiveness of their strategies.”
Danni added: “Employee engagement is the big thing and for us, it's that attrition piece and also giving efficiencies back to our customer. If we can keep retention high and keep feeding back to the clients what they need to do to keep that momentum going through peak that should then give them some benefits back.”
All of the recruiters agreed tech and AI is revolutionising recruitment, particularly during high-volume hiring periods. But they all emphasised the complementary relationship between technology and human interaction, which guarantees an engaging and efficient recruitment journey.
Jo said: “Automation and AI will continue to shape the recruitment industry. AI tools like ChatGPT can assist in writing job ads and interview questions. However, human involvement remains essential for adapting and refining the process, especially in understanding candidates' emotions and situations.
“A healthy balance between AI and human judgement is necessary for successful recruitment."
The challenges and opportunities of peak recruitment in 2023 means recruiters are looking for innovation, authenticity, and using data to understand the turbulent market.
Successful recruiters prioritise strategy, diversity, data, technology and personalisation - all without losing the “human touch”.
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