In the Procurement & Supply Chain recruitment world, this is the question everyone has asked on a daily basis since lockdown began.

Unsurprisingly, the consensus from clients and every prospective job hunter in the market, is that it was and still is understandably sluggish.

So here is my view of the last few months, what is happening now and what may happen in the future.

Despite the potential for doom and gloom, there have been sections of the market which have not only managed to maintain a sound state, but have actually grown during these ‘unprecedented’ (I promise not to use that word again) times!

Nobody can say with any confidence what exactly will happen in the next 12 months. However, with years of recruitment experiences, exposure to rapid recessions, changes in global economies, supply chain strategies, coupled with our consulting group’s market knowledge and daily communications with procurement industry leaders, we can offer our ‘positive’ view – apologies but it’s in the genes, we are born optimists…

Uncertainty & New Opportunities

Unquestionably there have been challenges that many businesses have never faced before, leading to uncertainty of the highest scale and recruitment plans being ‘stalled’ or cancelled overnight. The remote working phase during early lockdown was an extremely difficult adjustment for many companies. Others, who have operated flexible working for some time adapted quicker and thrived.

For companies finding this remote transition difficult, even with trusted and capable people, the idea of a remote recruitment process without physically meeting a potential new employee was unthinkable! Even for those companies where remote working wasn’t a problem, hiring someone without a face to face, socially distanced get together, other than on a video call, was maybe a stretch too far.

Then there were clients that realised they had to find ways to onboard new employees remotely. They were not only prepared to offer someone they have never met a job, but actually offer them a career!

To do this they had to embrace the process and the virtual opportunities, involve stakeholders in ways that physical meetings would never normally allow. They had to get support and ‘buy in’ from the broader stakeholder network, get greater consensus and use innovative testing strategies, in such a way that allowed successful candidates to get to know the stakeholder network, well before they had ever stepped through the door on their first day at work.

‘Shoots’ of Improvement

With companies making redundancies and with the more to follow, this still leaves a difficult and frustrating market for anyone seeking new employment or a career move.

At the beginning of the easing of lockdown, there were tentative ‘shoots’ of improvement, supply chains were waking up and certain sectors (for many different reasons) were making plans, nothing consistent due to the fear of a 2nd wave, but small steps. Throughout July, greater optimism and an increased number of opportunities appeared, leading to more people securing new permanent roles.

It’s evident that we are getting used to the idea that the virus will not disappear quickly and we need to change our ways to cope and carry-on, so the creation of a new norm in recruitment is developing. Offices outside of the major cities are gradually opening, with shift based or staggered working, and part-time furloughing, this will become the ‘new normal’ for many organisations for the foreseeable future, which has given a form of temporary certainty and allowed some organisations in the right sectors the confidence to restart those ‘paused’ recruitment campaigns and start forward planning.

Early stages of Recovery

Although we appear to be at the early stages of a fuller recovery, there is obviously a long way to go and the potential for set-backs are always going to be a challenge that will need to be planned for. Procurement & Supply Chain teams are going to need to be agile and this will be critical to future success, for any business in every sector.

If any organisation hadn’t seen supply chain risk, negotiation skills and ‘best in sector’ procurement excellence as a priority, they do now. The world is a different place and there is no room for complacency.

Whilst there will be fewer numbers of people going away during the usual summer vacation periods, the school holidays will still be an opportunity for parents to take time out with their children. However, with September coming and children back into school and furlough schemes coming to an end, this will be a pivotal time in the recovery, planning how you manage your workforce, skills development and future mapping your options is critical.

Undoubtedly companies are still nervous about times ahead and perhaps apprehensive about hiring. Will companies switch their permanent recruitment to interim solutions? Flexibility in an uncertain time can be an effective solution for many, including outsourcing projects to protect the business with fees based on targeted deliverables. All options are on the table.

Future mapping for success

Many functional leaders now see the future, as a blend of upskilling teams, creating flexibility in remote working and building talent pipelines of ‘fit for purpose’ Interim or consulting resources that understand your business challenges. This will also deliver protection against the potential threat of IR35 and support the other challenge round the corner, Brexit. Not a year to forget in a hurry!

A few Predictions for the Future of Procurement & Supply Chain teams

  • Greater investment in remote and virtual screening techniques
  • Online ‘capability assessment’ to improve interview support for non-functional stakeholders
  • Outsourced or Augmented delivery Teams for fixed cost projects
  • Intelligent development of ‘Talent Pipelines’ of business ready Interim resource
  • Even greater emphasis on ‘getting it right’ in Permanent recruitment
  • Upskilling, training and greater emphasis on building teams that work at pace


If you would like to know more about Permanent, Interim recruitment solutions and the flexible future for Procurement & Supply chain functions, contact Adam Roughton, Partner – to arrange a convenient time for a call. Or sign up for more Insights below;

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