Whilst many other recruitment agencies closed their doors on the market during the lockdown, FRAME remained in the thick of it, maintaining what we do best, talking to our partner practices, offering support and trying to solve the individual problems that people were facing.
It has been a strange few months and we wanted to share the ins and the outs of how this has affected recruitment in Architecture, Interior Design and Visualisation.
Until the 23rd March, the industry maintained business as usual despite the growing concerns about COVID-19. Lockdown changed everything. We saw 78% of live vacancies put on hold at the end of March and April, due to projects being put on hold in the market and hiring new staff was simply not a priority.
Job hunting significantly dropped off as soon as the lockdown was announced – we received 43% fewer job applications from the 24th – 31st March compared to normal.
Just like the rest of the world, no one knew how long this situation would last and what the short or long term implications might be. The UK moved indoors, home working was quickly established, job hunts dwindled and we all sat in wait of what the next few weeks would bring.
When furlough was announced by the UK government, practices were quick to utilise the scheme along with other money-saving tactics such as pay cuts, reduced hours and directors taking on a more hands-on responsibility of the day to day running of the practice.
Candidate activity continued to fall, with employees enjoying this new found freedom of being at home, still being paid and watching closely how long the lockdown would last.
We were briefed on a limited number of vacancies, all of which were for permanent opportunities.
An uptick in new jobs gradually entered the market, practices working in Residential, Healthcare and Mixed-Use made up 75% of these new vacancies.
After a few weeks of being at home, with little to do for many, homeschooling for some and the start of some anxiety of future career prospects, we began to see the candidate market grow with interest for new jobs. Website visits increased for these job seekers and more tentative enquiries about the options in the market were received by our consultants.
June has been a significant month in recruitment due to the increase in inbound calls received from redundant candidates as well as those who are deeply concerned about their futures and the stability of their practice whilst still being on furlough.
Practices were coming to us with more jobs too, and we saw an increase in the need for contractors. This has motivated permanent staff who are now out of work to start seriously considering making the move to contracting to ensure they have more options open to them in the market.
The market has become highly competitive for job seekers, with an increase of 73% more applications per job than any normal month. This has created more flexibility in the salaries and opportunities that experienced professionals have been willing to consider. Accepting pay cuts of 15-20% for new roles are becoming increasingly common as well as applying for jobs below their previous level.
Practices are having to be more pragmatic with the remuneration they can offer too, the competition for projects has meant cutting quotes by up to 20%. Practices are under pressure to remain an attractive option to their clients and seek any competitive advantage they can in this current market. Practices will look to reduce operating costs, including employment.
Practices are regaining their power. The flexibility they have needed to make in the past few years is reversing quickly – the quality of the candidates in the market means that clients can dictate their needs with a prescriptive tick sheet of wants and they can get it all, for less money than they would have at the start of 2020
What will July bring?
RIBA recently announced that 1 in 10 London based architect practices think that COVID-19 could send their firms under as well as 70% expecting profit to head south in the coming year. This will have an impact on the confidence in the market and practices will be seriously looking into their current overheads.
Changes in furlough come into play in August - practices will need to pay ER NICs and pension contributions for the hours their employees are on furlough. September and October will see furlough support from the government scaled back even further and require a further contribution to salaries.
This is likely to be forcing a critical look at the skills and resources practices have in their businesses. ‘Do we have the right people in the right jobs?’ ‘Do we want to take responsibility for these costs?’ We could see an increase in redundancies in the upcoming months due to the reduction in support from the government.