UK Recruitment: Digital Transformation and Brexit

The UK recruitment industry is facing a number of significant challenges. To better understand what they are, and assess how recruiters can overcome them, Bullhorn turned to the Global Recruitment Insights and Data (GRID), which is based on a survey of more than 2,000 recruitment professionals globally. In it, we identified a number of trends, such as how these professionals were handling the skills shortages, which I addressed in my last post. Here, I discuss how recruiters are coping with the digital transformation and the uncertainty of macropolitical and economic challenges, such as from Brexit.

Technology. Notwithstanding the skills shortage and all of its accompanying hiring challenges, the overall mood among UK recruiters is positive for the year ahead. In terms of revenue growth, more than a quarter of recruiters expect to see an increase of 25% or more, while just 3% of respondents said they expect to see revenue decrease. Moreover, 61% predict growth in their temporary placement contracts and 58% are planning to invest in more technology.

Only 9% expect to grow their businesses through mergers and acquisitions – instead, the vast majority (80%) of respondents are focusing on organic growth, prioritizing opportunities with new and existing clients. To achieve such growth, recruiters will need to improve the efficiency of their operations and the value of their services.

How? Technology investment was cited as a critical factor: 86% of recruiters believe that firms must harness digital transformation and integrate technology into all areas of their businesses in order to remain competitive.

PREMIUM CONTENT: UK Professional Recruitment Trends

Around two-thirds (67%) of respondents consider themselves to have at least some understanding of machine learning and AI, which is a good start, but needs to be improved. Automation is already prevalent within the industry, helping to take care of manual – yet critical – processes that eat into recruiters’ time. By creating administrative efficiencies, recruiters can enhance their productivity in more strategic areas like business development. The gradual adoption of machine learning and AI will only take this to the next level.

Macropolitical and economic challenges. There is no doubt that the uncertainty around macroeconomic and political issues is causing some sleepless nights. Bullhorn’s research revealed that 58% of recruiters in the UK are concerned about Brexit and the pressure it could bring to bear on the industry in 2019.

Amid the uncertainty, 34% of recruiters said that Brexit will make it harder for them to achieve their business goals, as the costs of doing business could increase if the economy dips and the pound weakens. What’s more, these difficulties are compounded by concerns such as cybersecurity and data protection regulations like GDPR (a worry for 32% of respondents), as well as the tightening of labor laws restricting the employment of overseas workers (cited by 30%).

These concerns are valid: many recruitment firms are still getting to grips with data protection requirements and how to adjust their operations to meet security standards. And, undoubtedly, the potential end to the free movement of labor between the UK and the EU could have a costly impact on companies that hire talent from overseas.

That said, 19% are steadfast in their belief that Brexit will not impact their businesses’ ability to achieve future revenue and growth goals – and it’s often amid the mire of uncertainty that the most forward thinking of organizations can capitalize on hidden opportunities.

It’s encouraging to note that while there is significant doubt over the economy and future growth, the UK recruitment industry remains positive in its outlook. Nonetheless, preparation is key to weathering the storm – or spot of bad weather – that lies ahead. To achieve growth, recruiters need to keep their heads up; grab the opportunities that exist to enhance their services, adopt new technologies proactively, and embrace diversity.

Peter Linas

Peter Linas
Peter Linas is international managing director at Bullhorn.

Peter Linas

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