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Author: Mark Evans

Published date: 2020/10

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A glance at your LinkedIn timeline will confirm that 2020 has been a difficult year for many. Those of us old enough to remember the last recession (and the one before that) will have an idea of what the eventual road to recovery will look like, how we’ll get there and how long it will take. 

However, while some industries will continue to face significant challenges, others are growing faster than recruitment can keep up. Despite news headlines about mass unemployment, the building services sector is facing a severe candidate shortage. 

In particular, the data centre field has continued its upward growth trajectory over the last eight months as the pandemic forced an even greater increase in remote working and industry-wide digital transformation. In turn, the demand for good quality building services professionals has increased exponentially, with salaries rising to 25 per cent above pre-COVID market rates as employers scramble to secure talent. 

Currently, PRS is registering more than 120 roles each week, specifically Critical Shift positions as more data centres open their doors, with clients ready to clear their diaries for the opportunity to connect with the right candidates. 

The challenge for us has been finding people with the right skills at the rate our clients need them. Talent availability in this area has dropped considerably compared to the same period in 2019. Where we’ve seen the biggest difference is in the lack of passive candidates, as workers appear understandably reluctant to leave one job for another during such uncertain times. 

Of course, skills shortages in this area have been around for some time, further exacerbated by an ageing workforce. Long-term solutions like BESA’s Academy and the government’s Kickstart Scheme have been launched to help alleviate this, with businesses also investing in ongoing training and development to ensure they retain talent. However, before the value of such initiatives can be realised, the PRS team is working overtime to help clients secure the right people, helping them adapt their approach and processes along the way. 

Back in 2008, relationships were key to surviving what was an incredibly tough recession, and they are proving even more crucial now. Based on what I’ve learned from previous market disruptions, the solution to skills shortages lies in establishing mutually beneficial partnerships that inspire open and honest communication and build trust. While close engagement with customers to gain an understanding of the challenges they face may sound obvious, the art of consultancy seems to have, unfortunately, been lost over the years. 

As talent specialists, it’s up to us to educate clients that, while there is talent out there, it might look different to what they anticipated. In reality, expectations of ‘super candidate’ availability in this sector need to be readdressed, the required skills examined, and transferable qualities taken into consideration if clients want positions filled quickly. This isn’t just a COVID-related requirement; skills gaps take a long time to close, and employers should be prepared to be agile and open in their approach to recruitment for many years to come. 

For PRS to continue identifying and securing the best people, maintaining strong relationships with candidates is vital. Any talent acquisition specialist will tell you that the candidate is the customer of the future. In fact, some of my strongest client relationships are from placements made many years ago, further demonstrating the essential role that traditional consultancy plays in today’s digital world.

PRS Great Expectations 2021

As we look towards 2021, our free Great Expectations eBook examines some of the tough questions candidates will be asking employers about how they handled the pandemic.

Download your copy today.