I think it’s safe to say that 2020 most certainly caught us off guard and has brought with it some unprecedented challenges that none of us expected. Every industry and sector has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, and I suspect not a single business has managed to stick to any plan they had established in the early part of the year.
All of our plans had to change and become fluid enough to enable business to continue. We had to adapt to working from home, missing out on the personal interaction of our colleagues. With that came long hours of work, questioning ourselves constantly – ‘Can I turn my laptop off now?’, ‘What time can I have lunch?’, ‘Can I go out for my daily one-hour exercise now?’
We just had to keep doing the do bit. The only difference is, the do had to change.
Mental health became an even bigger concern for many, as the isolation caused by lockdown, plus the added pressure to continue developing business, meant many felt alone and unsupported. This is where we, the British people, did what we do best and joined together, supported our neighbours and communities by making the most of technology. Weekly quiz nights and socials were created to help and encourage those struggling to reach out and talk about their worries. Clapping our NHS and essential workers gave signs of hope and admiration for those on the front line, and together we came through it, creating a real sense of support and community spirit.
Our business was no different to most, our sector was hit by the instant plummet in permanent recruitment requirements, and for periods of lockdown so was our temporary division. Thankfully, our business supports many of the leading retail brands whose distribution centres are based in Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes, and with everyone being forced to shop online, e-commerce flourished, with many witnessing order volumes similar to those of Christmas and Black Friday trading.
This, coupled with the increased demand for people working from home across our commercial division meant our plans, set in the early part of the year, had to change.
We took the decision as a business to evolve to be fully operational online, removing any need for people to visit us in person but still experience the same level of service we pride ourselves on with our candidates and clients.
Demand for temporary staffing solutions grew far beyond what our initial predictions considered.
As we grew towards typical peak trading periods, virtual meetings to plan volumes started, but this time with a different feel. The labour market was the toughest we had experienced, and although the press was reporting record numbers of unemployment, we simply didn’t see this volume coming through for generic logistics roles. Our teams and clients had to work harder than ever before, not only in the attraction of agency colleagues, but also to ensure we retained them. Reviewing of pay rates, incentives and quirky initiatives played a key part in securing staff for peak. It became a battle of pay rates, and with the increased pressure to deliver the highest volumes seen through e-commerce, we also had the obstacle of managing a safe working environment and social distancing guidelines alongside it.
Peak trading was delivered. Another year has been completed, and together our partnerships delivered for our clients and their customers. No one will say it was pretty, in fact, most of us will say it was far tougher than we would have liked; however, we are through it now, and we are armed with information and experience that will set us up for the challenge of 2021.
2020 brought some interesting highlights for ACS Recruitment.
- We entered two new markets – Milton Keynes and Peterborough
- We onboarded 300 home workers for a commercial client
- We increased our internal headcount by 12 post furlough
- We donated to 25 separate charities over December for our advent event
- We went fully online with our candidate registration process
- We expanded into a second office in Northampton
- We established our central resource hub to support our onsite divisions
Reviewing the plan means we have time to look at the past 12 months with a focused mind. We have experienced the toughest year our generation has witnessed, and we came through it. This is something we always do with our clients, which has in turn helped our partnerships flourish into the next phase of any plan we put together.
Are you looking forward to 2021? I know we are!
If you would like to review your agency support provision and would welcome some outside advice or would welcome the opportunity to see why we are different, please get in touch via ACS Recruitment