2021’s recruitment trends.

If there’s one thing last year taught us all, it’s that we can’t foretell the future. But while it might be rash to predict 2021 will be better, we can take a look at what trends might well affect the recruitment industry over the next 12 months…  

Some are obvious shifts in attitudes and working practices. Some are the result of recent research. While others are gleaned from contacts and influencers across the marketplace. Wherever they’ve come from, here’s our list of trends to watch for in 2021

Home working and flexibility

It almost goes without saying that the way people work has changed enormously over the last 12 months, so much so that the default for many employees is now working from home. We can expect this to continue for some time yet, and will probably become more of a permanent feature – many businesses large and small are considering a mix of being office-based and home-working, offering much more flexibility. In fact, a recent IBM survey found two-thirds of remote workers wanted to continue doing so, and just over half would prefer it as their main way of working.

Diversity, equality and inclusion

Last summer’s events and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement are just two examples that have highlighted the importance of us all taking responsibility for diversity and inclusion and are a reminder of the work that still must be done. Those in recruitment and HR will be expected to make it a big part of everything they do, especially as the workforce becomes dominated by Generation Z and their motivations. As a start, take a look at our recent blog about writing inclusive job descriptions.

The rise of the temporary worker

Businesses don’t like unpredictability – and 2020 was one of the most unpredictable years on record. That’s why a recent Gartner survey found that one in three companies are looking to hire more contingent workers to give them more workforce flexibility and reduce ongoing costs. For example, the shift to more online shopping has caused a surge in demand for supply chain, warehouse and distribution centre staff – and as competition for workers intensifies, employers are responding with better wages and perks, as well as promoting full-time opportunities. So, if you’re a permanent-only agency, 2021 might be a good time to consider expanding…

Upskilling existing talent

After the ups and downs of 2020, expect hiring budgets to be redirected away from hiring and into training and development. With a greater emphasis on remote working and online activities from meetings to shopping, digital skills are in greater demand than ever, and those businesses that have weathered the economic turbulence well during 2020, will be looking at reskilling their staff accordingly.


We started last year with the prospect of changes to the IR35 tax rules looming – and they were simply delayed by a year to be introduced this coming April. As we outlined previously, they’ll have a big impact on recruiters – but rather than go into the detail here, we’ve produced a separate more detailed guide on IR35 and recruitment agencies.


Clients, not talent, are top priority

For the last two or three years, we’ve reported on recruitment agencies’ top priority for the coming year being the shortage of talent and how to find it. In 2020 though, everything turned on its head as unemployment took hold; which means the biggest challenge for 2021 is now maintaining existing client relationships and winning new business in a shifting recruitment landscape.


Growing automation

The trend towards automation of certain roles within the process of talent acquisition continues – recent figures show that 72% of employers expect that to happen within the next 10 years, while HR managers still spend on average 14 hours a week on tasks that could easily be automated. As many as 50% of firms already use AI to source and screen candidates, and we wrote a specific article on the topic a little while ago – check out our recruitment by robot article.


The importance of employer branding
Finally, one of the increasing trends of the last couple of years has become more important than ever – especially if you’re looking at strengthening your client relationships. The effect of employers building a robust brand on candidates is already well-known – over 75% of job seekers check out an employer’s brand and reputation before they apply – and it can be the key to whether they join your client or a competitor. With that in mind, you could offer to help your clients improve their branding, or perhaps produce a webinar/guide on how to showcase their brand, culture and workplace benefits on social media (for help with that, take a look at our social media for recruiter’s guide).

At Back Office we’re always keeping our clients up to date with the latest developments and trends in recruitment – as well as offering specialist support with admin, payroll and invoice funding. To find out more, talk to one of our team on 01260 280 290 or just drop us an email

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