Market update – our view of recruitment across the East

After a difficult year, recruitment in our region looks to be bouncing back and as confidence in the market grows, we’re optimistic that 2021 will be a great year. Here’s our round-up of everything you need to know.

It’s safe to say that 2020 was a tough year for everyone, and business is no exception – COVID-19 plunged all of us into some degree of uncertainty. And although the furlough scheme and other grants have gone some way to mitigate this, it’s likely we’ll be seeing its effect on the eastern region’s wide cross-section of businesses for some time to come. Despite that, we’re happy to say that our clients have been dealing with this admirably. How? By prioritising the welfare of their teams and changing their ways of working.

We’ve also noticed confidence returning in the economy as the vaccine programme continues at pace, and the rules around Brexit become clearer. Here at Pure, we believe this confidence means the 2021 job market will see lots more activity and opportunities – something which can only be a benefit.

A promising January

Before the pandemic, we had record levels of employment in our region. Many of our clients were telling us that attracting and keeping talent was one of their biggest challenges. As the economy begins to recover, we believe this will come to the fore once again. In fact, it’s already happening – we registered more new roles in January 2021 than we did in the same month last year, or the year before.

Our region in detail

We’re seeing good activity in the job market across Norfolk. The food-and-drink sector, in particular, has stayed buoyant, alongside a strong digital sector in Norwich.

Suffolk’s leisure and hospitality businesses have of course been badly affected by lockdowns. But the financial services and distribution sectors are proving resilient. Over the border in Essex, we’ve seen the care, distribution and construction sectors doing well.

Cambridge has always fared well in past recessions and this looks set to continue. Last summer, many of the tech and life sciences companies were recruiting directly using their own in-house talent teams. But since the end of the year, there has been a real increase in vacancies across their various specialisms.

Industry and sector specifics

There are still a broad range of opportunities available across executive and board appointments. One of the reasons for this is succession planning – while always a top priority, the challenges of the past year are pushing this higher up the agenda as people choose to retire early or look for different work-life balances. Corporate mergers and restructuring are also creating opportunities.

In uncertain times businesses often prioritise accountancy and finance roles, something which has proved the case over the past year. We’ve also seen more demand for audit roles – an area with a limited supply of skilled candidates – as businesses adapt to greater regulatory requirements and standards.

Demand for skilled IT workers has continued pretty much unabated despite the pandemic. The shift from on-site work to ‘work from anywhere’ has helped this – employers have had to quickly become much more flexible, and technology plays a huge part in this. Alongside this many businesses have been looking to invest in their digital presence, boosting demand for digital and marketing expertise. Inevitably this has meant a fall in the office market as demand for candidates with more niche skills increases.

The many changes brought about by the pandemic and the lockdowns we’ve all been dealing with have meant that HR professionals have been incredibly busy during the past months. While this seems to have reduced the number of people moving to different roles in this sector, we’re now seeing an increase in new positions – although it’s too early to tell if this is something that’s set to continue. 

And finally, we’re starting to see more demand for skilled temps and interim workers. This is a great sign that firms are returning to growth and looking to start (or restart) major projects.

A light at the end of the tunnel

It’s great to see our region proving resilient in this third lockdown, and that many organisations are starting to push ahead with plans for growth. Here at Pure, we’re pleased to say we have all our team back working their full hours. And our advisors in the region are reporting high levels of activity, which naturally leads to more recruitment. So, we’re expecting the number of vacancies to steadily increase over the coming year, especially as candidates get more confident about moving to new jobs.

All in all, it’s safe to say that we’re starting to feel really optimistic about what 2021 will bring us.

Join the Best Employer Eastern Region 2021 community

We’re proud to launch Best Employers 2021. The programme brings together companies from across the East of England to encourage economic growth through better employee engagement. Beginning as an employee survey, Best Employers has now become a community. It’s designed to help leaders develop their organisations’ cultures, engagement levels and workplace environments.

Becoming part of the community will help your business come up with fresh ideas to develop a culture in which your people can thrive, which will stimulate growth and innovation. You’ll also be able to share ideas and learn from other organisations and hear from international and regional speakers.

If this sounds like something your organisation could benefit from, you can register online for the 2021 programme. And you can find out more about it on the Best Employers’ website.

 Ian Walters profile picture

Written by

Ian Walters

A founding member of Pure, Ian has worked in specialist recruitment since 1990. He started out at a national recruitment firm growing their accountancy recruitment business and then their public sector executive recruitment brand. As well as running Pure, he’s advised on CFO and FD roles, partner appointments for mid-tier and regional firms, and CEO/MD roles for privately owned firms.

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