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Author: Julie Jarvis

Published date: 2020/05


The coronavirus outbreak has led to significant changes in working practices, with new measures introduced to safeguard employees. As with any upheaval, businesses have had to make some difficult decisions to ensure their future. One of which concerns recruitment, with many organisations opting to put all hiring plans on hold. 

While exercising financial caution is, of course, necessary, any decent leader will tell you that it’s imperative to continue connecting with and recruiting top talent during challenging times. This was demonstrated when the dotcom bubble burst back in 2001 and, despite news that companies across the world were shedding staff, research revealed that 73 per cent of affected firms were still hiring top talent and creating retention strategies to keep their best performers. 

Businesses that have put the brakes on recruitment expect they can pick up where they left off once lockdown has lifted. Some will bank on a boost in candidate applications as people seek to return to work. While this might well be the reality for some sectors, the same can’t be said for property & built environment. In fact, securing talent is set to be even more challenging than the pre-coronavirus days. 

The reason is the perennial issue of talent shortages. You only have to skim some of the headlines that dominated the sector over the last 12 months to see repeated messaging around the growing skills chasm. Many factors have driven the shortages, including Brexit uncertainty, immigration rules, a retiring workforce, IR35 and now COVID-19. 

Currently, there are around 18 roles for every property & built environment candidate. When you consider that this is a time when a lot of organisations have put hiring on hold, the situation when they start looking to rehire the staff they’ve let go as well as take on new personnel will be especially challenging. As such, companies are well-advised to do everything in their power to lock in talent now, during a time when furloughed staff could be exploring other options and those made redundant are keen to re-enter the workplace.

Of course, larger organisations with big budgets will find continued recruitment through a crisis more straightforward. However, even businesses where recruitment is well and truly off the table can at least examine retention strategies to ensure they can keep hold of the talent they have already. 

If we can learn anything from the financial crash of 2008, it’s that things will get better and markets will recover. While there’s no certainty with regards to the timeline of this recovery, businesses, particularly those in the property & built environment sector, should be prepared for the war on talent to grow even more intense in the coming years. 

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