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UK firms optimistic about COVID-19 business recovery prospects

What impact is COVID-19 having on business confidence? Companies need to prioritise their recovery strategies in response to the pandemic if they are to survive the fall-out. A recent survey by global recruitment company Robert Half recently asked 1,500 executives from SME’s and larger organisations to understand how they are responding to this ongoing period of unprecedented economic change and the responses are positively welcomed.

Just over half of all c-suite survey respondents (58%), indicated that the pandemic has actually had a neutral-to-positive impact on business confidence, while 42% feel adversely impacted – evidence of the varying effect the crisis has had on different sectors. Amongst the five countries included in Robert Half’s survey, Brazil reported the greatest degree of negative impact, followed by UK and Belgium. In France and Germany, by contrast, the majority of survey respondents indicated that the business impact of the pandemic was largely neutral, overall.

Almost all executives surveyed (92%), said they are pushing forward with various opportunities post-lockdown, with digital transformation the top priority for 41% of businesses. A significant proportion of firms have also redesigned job roles (29%) and adopted new business models (28%) in response to COVID-19’s impact.

While the pandemic has not been without its challenges – with executives highlighting the difficult business climate (26%) and tight budgets (16%) as the greatest barriers to innovation at present – businesses have remained resilient and agile in response to the COVID-19 ‘new reality’.

Companies remain positive on recruitment

Despite the UK government's furlough scheme coming to an end next month, many companies remain positive about recruitment for the remainder of the year. Three quarters (75%) of companies surveyed had hired and/or onboarded new staff remotely during lockdown, with the majority of respondents (88%) expecting to employ further full-time or temporary/contract workers between now and December.

Hiring strategies have had to develop rapidly during lockdown, with the introduction of remote interviews, increased use of temporary and contract workers and shortening of the hiring process amongst some of the key changes brought in.

The overwhelming majority of businesses (86%) also stated that they would be more open to hiring from outside their market and having new employees work remotely going forward, highlighting the continued importance of remote work from a hiring and staff retention perspective.

Post-lockdown recovery priorities

For Chief Investment Officers and Chief Financial Officers, the post-lockdown recovery focus will be on cost reduction, automation of processes and investing in new technologies, with many CIOs also prioritising IT security for the rest of this year.

General Managers, meanwhile, are spotlighting growth opportunities, productivity improvements and talent management over coming months.

Mark Harris, Managing Director, The Business Company comments:

“For recovery to succeed, questions need asking about every component of a business, and that starts with a thorough marketplace analysis. Prepare to sit down, with (or without) your management team and create a picture of the market that you were in before Covid-19, and exactly what that market looks like now.

Everyone is finding it very difficult to analyse the market and predict what the Post-Covid world is going to look like, but we’ve got to put a marker in the ground somewhere and do it with confidence.. Now is the time for action by assessing where your business is presently, and where you would like it to be in 3 months’ time, in 12 months’ time.  The road to recovery doesn’t need to be long and winding if the right measures are put in place now.”

Many companies will be engaging experienced objective advisers to support them during this process to ensure a level of objectivity and structure. The Business Company, has over a decade of experience in this field, and we are keen to support our economy across The Marches/ West Midlands. We are offering a free ½ day initial analysis to support businesses from all sectors who would welcome support.

Robert Half commissioned research amongst 1,502 respondents using an online data collection methodology during July 2020.This was comprised of 300 interviews in Belgium, 300 in Brazil, 301 in France, 300 in Germany, and 301 in the United Kingdom. Respondents included General Managers, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Information Officers with hiring responsibilities across small (50-249 employees), medium (250-499) and large (500+ employees) from private, publicly listed and public sector businesses across the five countries.