As we write this, we are mid-way through January, and the festivities of December seem a world away.  December was a busy and productive month for us here at Ignite as we pushed to get deals over the line before the Christmas break.

In previous years, activity slowed during the sleepy period between Christmas and New year. However, 2021 was a little different. Applications through our website and candidate conversations remained high; many seemed to be relishing the new year and the opportunities it could bring.

On a broader scale, the recruitment landscape data from December echoed the months before it, with some slight nuances.

Here are the highlights peppered with a few of our thoughts.

Vacancies & hiring activity.

Vacancies.

The number of reported vacancies grew throughout December once again. However, despite remaining above the average, the rate softened once again. December numbers exhibited the slowest increase since April.

Private vs. Public sector.

Vacancies were strongest within the private sector, with the fastest growth appearing for permanent roles within the private sector. Conversely, the softest rate of growth was for temporary roles within the public sector.

Vacancies by sector.

As in November, permanent IT and Computing hires were most in demand throughout December.  Unsurprisingly, considering the current climate, permanent health, nursing, and caring roles were second-highest in demand.

Hiring Activity.

Recruiter feedback data from the report tells us that the current period of expansion has grown again in December, the 11th month in a row. This lift in hiring activity was softer than that of November but remains substantial.  There is still a huge demand for workers, with businesses across every sector keen to fill vacancies.

Permanent staff appointments grew across the UK, with the North of England being the region registering the fastest upturn.

Our thoughts.

Here at Ignite we do echo these findings. However, we will add that it has been our experience that we are having more client conversations about securing contractors. The recruitment and onboarding of contractors allow our clients to achieve more of an immediate solution to their hiring needs. Contractors rarely have long notice periods; they are used to moving quickly and if they are seeking opportunity, they are quick to hit the ground running. All these factors are conducive to swift hires with immediate outcomes.

We have also found that contractors are more resilient to the economic landscape. Operating somewhat nomadically, contractors are more at home amid a fluid and fluctuating economy. It has been our experience that approaching candidates whilst trying to fill permanent vacancies has been met with some reluctance to chase new roles amid a period of economic uncertainty.

Staff Availability.

Yet again, the availability of candidates to fill these vacancies does not meet demand.  Despite this being the case for the 11th successive month in a row, the number of permanent candidates was reported to have fallen at a slower rate. The shortfall is still significant, but the pattern is more positive at least.  Numbers suggest that the rate of deterioration eased for the 4th consecutive month, with December having the weakest fall since April.

Much like the months before it, the candidate shortage has been explained by the pessimistic triad of Brexit, immigration reforms, and of course, the uncertainty created by the Covid pandemic.

Demand for skills.

Earlier in the report, we noted that it was Tech and IT professionals that were most in demand throughout the UK. Regarding the specific skills and job roles that clients were looking for, recruiters reported that these were the categorisations in the shortest supply.

  • Business Intelligence
  • C#
  • Data professionals
  • Developers
  • Social Media Marketeers
  • Software engineers.

Here at Ignite, we would concur, especially regarding Data Professionals. We have long experienced that it is data roles that get unprecedented interest from candidates, both in terms of actual job applications and requests for advice on how to get started in a career in data science or data analytics.

Now though, we are experiencing a hike in clients who are looking to harness the power of data to propel their organisations.

Pay and salary.

If you were in the market for a new opportunity during December, your bravery would have been well rewarded.  Permanent pay scales continue to accelerate at a significant pace.

Starting salaries rose for the 10th consecutive month. In fact, this salary hike was the 3rd fastest on record since October 1997.

The overarching belief is that salaries are still being used to attract candidates as companies all compete over the diminished pool of talent. This was true throughout the UK. All 4 areas of investigation reported higher than average salaries for new hires.

Official data from The Office of National Statistics confirms this assertion.  Employee earnings were shown to have increased by nearly 5% year on year in the 3 months to October 2021.  This was most noticeable within those working in the private sector, whose pay rose +5.4% compared to a year ago. In contrast, the growth of public sector earnings remained unchanged at just under 3%.

Salary alone. Is it enough?

When it comes to securing talent, of course, salary is important. However, if one thing is clear from our discussions with candidates, it is that salary alone is not enough to attract candidates. More and more, candidates are requiring more. Flexible scheduling and hybrid working are now expected as norms of a role.

Additionally, candidates are focussing on the importance of the brand identity and what a client stands for. Candidates are thinking about diversity and sustainability more and more. We have found this to be increasingly true when resourcing for more junior roles. It is becoming apparent that Millenial candidates are considering more than just salary alone.

Opportunities for learning and development are critical too. Candidates are thinking long-term, and wanting assurance that there is room for professional growth and mentorship within their role and organisations.

Conclusion.

Looking forward to 2022, the expert commentary suggests that the economic issues created by the pandemic will outlive the threat of the pandemic itself. Candidate availability is dipping across every sector, whilst throughout the UK, the demand for staff continues to grow.

To stay ahead of the competition for talent, businesses need to look at their process and what they can offer new and existing hires. Does the hiring process need to be flexible to reflect the urgency of the need to hire, for example?  Typically the recruitment process of permanent hires is slow and laboured. Do businesses need to move away from these traditional models to ensure that vacancies are filled efficiently?

The recruitment industry is well placed to advise business leaders on how they can streamline their processes and offer an attractive package to ensure candidate interest.  Here at Ignite, we can support clients on how they can best shape a future workforce.

If you are seeking to expand your tech team, we can help. Get in touch to find out how we work, and how we can guide you toward digital success in 2022.

About the author: As a founder of Ignite Digital Talent, I lead our brilliant team to ensure we deliver time and time again for our clients. I also stay closely networked with industry influencers to ensure we are well placed to understand the issues and challenges our clients face.

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