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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

REC NI - Taking stock of the Future of Recruitment in Northern Ireland

Government and campaigns

Tom Hadley avatar

Written by Tom Hadley Director of Policy and Campaigns

Industry leaders in Northern Ireland are optimistic about the mid and longer-term outlook but recognise the need for urgency in pre-empting the immediate legacies of the Covid-19 crisis. This is the core message from this month’s member webinar which included the participation of other leading business organisations CBI Northern Ireland and EEFNI

What are the likely Covid-19 legacies? 

The embedding of new ways of working, reviewing risk management procedures and accelerating technology investment were flagged as some of the post-lockdown legacies by recruitment industry leaders. These are common themes across the wider business community in NI. Speaking on the webinar, Michelle McGinley, Employment Lawyer at EEF Northern Ireland argued that “future-proofing the business, upskilling the workforce and engaging with remote working are priorities for employers across most sectors”. For REC members in NI, the focus has been on maintaining regular contact with clients during the lockdown period, even in sectors where all hiring has been on hold. This will serve recruiters in good stead when demand does return.

What factors will shape the future of recruitment in NI? 

Beyond the economic landscape, the main factors flagged by NI recruiters are ongoing staff shortages in sectors where demand is returning, and the level of service offered to clients and candidates. On this last point, the opportunity is there to provide more strategic advice to clients on issues such as inclusion and longer-term workforce planning. This means ensuring that recruitment professionals are equipped with the expertise, confidence and communication to seize these new opportunities. Picking up on this Donna Parker, Managing Director of Network NI at Staffline Recruitment Limited and Chair of REC Northern Ireland underlined the pivotal role of recruiters in “facilitating career transitions, driving innovation and embedding inclusive hiring practices”. A good example of this ‘added value’ is recruitment businesses in NI providing advice to their clients on how best to manage to return to work process.

Skills, productivity & good recruitment remain big priorities 

Although some employers are maintaining hiring freezes, REC members in NI flagged more positive signs of demand returning, particularly in sectors like IT. There have been significant changes in hiring procedures – including a big swing towards video interviewing - that we will continue to monitor through our Good Recruitment Collective (GRC). Our aim is to demonstrate the link between good recruitment and enhanced productivity and to engage as many employers as possible in the GRC to promote good practice and the benefits of working with REC members. Looking ahead, some priorities for the business community and the NI economy are the same as they were pre-Covid. This was a point made by Angela McGowan, Director of CBI Northern Ireland: “Strong economic growth means addressing the ongoing problem of low productivity in NI which in turn requires a renewed focus on investment in skills and education”. The REC’s aim is to continue positioning our industry’s voice at the forefront of these key debates.

Employers.  job-seekers and policy makers are looking for help in navigating the post-lockdown employment landscape. Although the latest coming together of REC members in Northern Ireland was ‘virtual’, the role that recruitment professionals are playing in rebooting to NI jobs market is very real.  We will continue to showcase this contribution in the weeks and months ahead.