Commercial recruitment specialist Michael McAllister discusses the key trends he has noticed within the FM Sector.
Interim Recruitment Trends
Since the turn of the year, Interim Commercial recruitment has been considerably lower in comparison to 2019. Whilst over recent months this can be attributed to COVID-19 the real reason goes further back than COVID-19’s effect on the sector. It is something we at Boden Group noticed towards the beginning of the year. With specialist vacancies since Jan often not being filled by an interim member of staff, which in previous years would have been the solution. Instead, businesses opted for a Fixed Term Contract or tried to manage this in-house.
But the primary reason is the (attempted) implementation of IR35 into the private sector. Whilst many clients were aware IR35 was going to come into effect this year, our team also held various seminars to ensure our clients were fully aware of the effects to their respective businesses. In many cases, companies only ramped up their often aggressive approach to dealing with it at the turn of the year. Of course, in the end, the Government did a last-minute U-turn on IR35. Which meant the fallout of current contractors working via Boden Group within FM Commercial, did not drop off as rapidly as first anticipated and outlined by our clients. Many organisations reacted similarly to the Government U-turn and reversed their own decisions to have a blanket ban on all contractors within their business. Which I would add was surprisingly a decision many of our clients took an approach on and were going to ban all contractors in their business, until IR35 was deferred.
As I reflect on Q2 & Q3, I noticed a slight increase in interim vacancies within the market but on the whole, this was not to the level sustainable for many contractors to stay in the Interim market. Which meant many of the interim candidates I have worked with over the few years might have changed their parameters to welcome permanent opportunities. Those who stayed interim I believe will be seeing an influx of vacancies in their inboxes since the beginning of September. This is due to increased activity in the market and something we have all noted at Boden Group whereby temp numbers are rising dramatically since the turn of September, which is when many companies fazed their returns to the office.
Permanent Recruitment Trends
Permanent Commercial recruitment took a slow start to 2020, with not a huge amount of vacancies in the market throughout Q1. This only furthered to slow during the COVID-19 outbreak in March, which was as expected. I held various discussions with clients at FM service providers during the Lockdown, and a similar trend was evident. Noting that the only vacancies which they were able to progress were those on public sector contracts. Whether this was healthcare or defence, etc., this trend is not exclusive to Commercial, with a lot of my colleagues commenting on this also.
We managed to place several PFI Commercial Managers in this period on some high profile contracts after noticing this trend. This trend is not surprising as the private sector; in most cases, has been hit the hardest. The Government has very publicly backed ‘Build Back Better’ over the recent months, to try to kick-start the economy by spending more. But, healthcare contracts have been busier than ever due to COVID demands. Meaning FM contractors working in this sector have needed commercial professionals now more than ever.
Similarly, I would note that not many Commercial professionals across our client base were put on furlough during the Lockdown. Which I believe is due to Lockdown requiring some intense interpretation of contracts and negotiating on the back of this. Many clients even commenting, saying that they were busier than ever during Lockdown – even those on private contracts. Which is not always the easiest with kids working at home next to you on your Zoom calls!
Throughout Lockdown I arranged many speculative interviews with clients and candidates. Some ended up in offers, some still to this day with no budget sign off on the roles. But on the whole, since September, vacancies are at a high not seen since 2019. October is also Commercial’s best billing permanent month for over 18 months! Which is very encouraging news for the sector.
I believe over the coming months, we will see a continuation of the increased activity that September and October have shown us. With vacancies increasing across both Interim & Permanent well into the new year and strong pipelines of Commercial vacancies forecasted in January with further budgets being released – subject to no further lockdowns.