Five resourcing trends for 2021 that affect clients and candidates

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March 2021

Written by Adam Richardson (adam.richardson@arresourcing.com), Managing Director and Owner of AR Resourcing. Adam has over 20 years’ experience recruiting procurement and commercial professionals across the built environment industries.

As hope grows that we are emerging from the worst of the pandemic we have pinpointed five trends that clients and candidates should be aware of. While optimism in areas other than infrastructure remains cautious, our conversations with clients and candidates are becoming increasingly upbeat and forward-thinking as the vaccination programme progresses smoothly and its positive impacts are being borne out by the data. 

So what trends do we expect in the construction, infrastructure, oil & gas, consulting  and house building industries in the months and years ahead? And what are their implications for employers and employees.

1. The re-emergence of long term resourcing plans: infrastructure apart (where resourcing plans have been largely unaffected), in recent months leadership teams have generally been too busy putting out fires from the pandemic and Brexit to devote attention to long term resourcing plans. But even if they’d had the time the chronic and constantly shifting levels of uncertainty would have made the exercise largely pointless. With a tentative roadmap back to normality, companies are again starting to plan for growth. Much like the route out of lockdown, resourcing plans are generally being “phased” with targets rather than timeframes triggering new hires. 

2. Candidates (unrealistically) expecting significant salary increases in a depressed market: a few of the salary reports we’ve seen in the last couple of months suggest above average salary increases for procurement and commercial professionals across all industries. While in sectors like IT or online retail procurement professionals may have increased in value, in our specialist industries salaries have remained flat… this is nonetheless better than during previous economic contractions when the industry has experienced salary decreases. Nonetheless, candidates will find expectations of a 10-15% base salary increase (irrespective of whether they are currently employed) puts them far beyond what most clients will pay.  

The multi-year investment cycles of infrastructure frameworks and increased government spending have shielded the sector from the redundancies and restructures experienced elsewhere and made recruiting in the sector particularly challenging. Consequently not only are candidates expecting salary increases but clients’ expectations both in relation to the number of candidates available and their salary requirements don’t generally recognise the shortage of candidates in this market. 

The good news is that, as mentioned above, resourcing plans are getting back onto boardroom agendas and increasing numbers of new opportunities will go live in the months ahead. However, candidates need to be realistic that in the short term at least the market will be client-led (i.e. plenty of candidates vying for each role) and this will affect some salaries. Candidates looking for a new role should speak with two or three trusted recruiters to get a sense of their true market value in the current climate, while companies should be benchmarking roles to avoid paying over the odds.

3. More senior roles: as post-pandemic confidence grows, the market for senior hires will start to pick up again. Candidates have been reluctant to “risk” a move in the current economic conditions. Similarly, employers have been reticent to commit to expensive hires given a restricted candidate pool and the focus on operational challenges. 

That said some employers who have recruited senior roles in recent months have found outstanding candidates at very competitive salaries and as the market becomes more active in the coming months, the willingness of candidates to seriously entertain the idea of a move is likely to increase quite rapidly.

4. Mismatched working from home expectations: candidates need to be realistic that work from home policies – one of the few positives of the pandemic for some people – are likely to be reversed as restrictions ease. The shift to remote working was forced and although many employers plan to embrace more flexible working practices than they offered 18 months ago, the priority for companies will be productivity. 

As restrictions on movement continue, problems with remote working have become increasingly noticeable: reduced on the job osmosis means individuals aren’t progressing as normal, organisational cultures are eroding, collaboration isn’t achieving the optimal outcomes it normally would, control and trust are becoming increasingly tested, technological issues continue to reduce productivity, burnout is increasing for some etc. And of course some jobs cannot be done as well completely from home. However, the infrastructure to enable home working is now in place and there is no doubt that across the industry there will be more opportunities for flexible working.

Employees and employers will need to compromise but in the current market employers will be in the driving seat.

5. A need for a greater focus on mentoring, morale, motivation and management: as alluded to above some organisations and teams are experiencing continued decreases in productivity the longer the pandemic drags on. 

Individuals have been under unprecedented stress for the last twelve months as a result of the blurring of home and work lives, social isolation, home schooling and often increased workload combined with endless firefighting. Many have also never been under so little scrutiny.

Companies have also struggled, finding it hard to assess performance, keep employees engaged with the organisation’s vision, provide meaningful career development or offer motivational recognition. 

At an organisational level communication is critical to maintaining morale and motivation. If employees understand the company’s roadmap they can choose to buy into it (or not) – without knowledge of a plan however they are far more likely to act in their own interests. 

Companies also need to consider how to help employees adapt “back” to whatever becomes the new normal – for example, as companies look to bring employees onsite and into offices this may create issues with the structure individuals have created for themselves during the last twelve months. While productivity is paramount, consulting with staff to understand where compromises can be found and clearly explaining decisions will go a long way to keeping individuals engaged.

Of course line managers also have a key role to play working at a one-to-one level firstly to understand which colleagues particularly need encouragement and support to keep productivity high until they are back in the office; and secondly to identify employees who are feeling stressed or nervous at the prospect of returning to the office and understanding what can be done to support them.

If you would like further details about any of the trends or would like to speak with us about how we can support you then please email me: adam.richardson@arresourcing.com or call 0330 174 6801.

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