UK employers are optimistic about hiring in 2022, despite the Omicron variant

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Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases in the run-up to Christmas, the majority of businesses are feeling optimistic about 2022, according to our latest research.

We surveyed 251 hiring managers and decision-makers to understand the sentiment of the market and what this means for hiring plans next year, and the results look promising*.

In fact, over three-quarters of employers (72%) felt optimistic about hiring in 2022 and are confident about a strong economic recovery. This sentiment was especially evident amongst larger companies with between 250 – 999 employees and London-based businesses.

Business (and recruitment) returning to pre-pandemic levels

This is promising news for a recruitment sector that in recent months has been bracing itself for the potential impact of the ‘Great Resignation’. As Omicron cases continue to surge, there have been recent reports that business leaders fear that staff shortages and a lack of suitable applicants to fill key positions will affect their economic return (1).

Despite this, 82% of our respondents said that they felt confident that the current labour shortages would improve in 2022, with 49% of people saying that they were very likely or likely to hire more people next year than in 2021.

Interestingly a higher percentage of people who were based in London were more likely to hire more staff (76%), compared to those from outside of London (36%). These results show that companies are confident that they will be focussing on hiring again next year after pauses in 2020 due to the pandemic.

In terms of economic recovery, 67% of people said that their business revenue had recovered this year to be equivalent to or more than pre-pandemic levels. People in London were more likely to say that their revenue had exceeded pre-pandemic levels (36% compared to 16% who were based outside of London).

These statistics are not surprising when we look at the number of new vacancies on Reed.co.uk for November 2021, which increased by 18% month-on-month. For the first time in our history, Reed.co.uk had over 300,000 jobs available on the site in November – and we don’t expect a slowdown anytime soon as we anticipate a surge in vacancies on Massive Monday (10 January).

This echoes the December Employment in the UK report published by the Office of National Statistics which estimates that the UK employment rate is at 75.5% despite the end of furlough (2). Now is a good time for job seekers who are thinking of changing careers as data shows that this boom will continue well into the new year.

What does this mean for employers?

With no clear indication of whether more restrictions will be introduced, there is still a level of uncertainty in the market. However, the experience learned over the past two years has shown that UK businesses can be incredibly resilient in the face of adversity, and our research further demonstrates this optimism for those within the hiring sector.

Candidate experience matters

More vacancies will mean that job seekers will be stretched for choice in the new year. However, businesses are in a stronger position to onboard and train staff remotely than before the pandemic and our November Job Market Review showed that more businesses are focusing on improving their offerings. Lessons learnt from the past two years can be applied moving forwards and businesses should invest time into improving their candidate experience to give jobseekers a positive experience while remaining competitive.

Prepare for longer-term working from home practices

We still don’t know how long we will be expected to work from home. Employers will need to make sure that they are equipped to recruit and onboard new starters remotely in 2022. The recruitment market is extremely competitive right now and companies will also need to adapt their hiring strategies to become attractive to employees who will be working from home for the unforeseeable future.

Invest in upskilling and training

The labour shortage has meant that employers are struggling to fill vital roles. To tackle this labour shortage, employers will need to identify the technical skills needed for their roles and assess whether they can train and upskill employees with transferable skills for key positions. Resources and the ability to provide training, plus willingness for candidates to learn will need to be taken into consideration when making hiring decisions.

 

*Online survey conducted by Atomik Research among 251 respondents from the UK – all Hiring Decision Makers who were Senior Managers and above within their companies. The research fieldwork took place on 1st – 2nd December 2021. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides by the MRS code.

 

  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/omicron-business-isolation-worker-shortage-b1975335.html
  2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/employmentintheuk/december2021
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