The weeks leading up to Christmas are usually a quiet time in the jobs market as retailers fix their focus on Christmas trading and decisions over recruitment are deferred until January.
This year, as with last year, however the rule book has been ripped up. New client assignments are coming in thick and fast as retailers look to get ahead of the market. All the signs suggest activity will continue right up until the start of the festive holiday.
This in part reflects pent up market demand for new talent following another year of disruption and uncertainty. After a bleak start to the year with a third national lockdown, my expectation was that jobs market activity would bounce back in the autumn. But this never really materialised as supply chain issues – most notably the fuel crisis – diverted business’s attention elsewhere. Now, however, the floodgates have well and truly opened and I expect that momentum to continue into the first quarter of 2022.
Trends on the high street reflect those in the jobs market. Retailers I have spoken to recently say they have taken strong sales momentum into the Golden Quarter reflected in the latest ONS data that shows October sales were more than 5% higher than in February 2020, the final month before Covid-19 took hold. Just as the jobs market is set to be hugely busy and competitive in the New Year retailers will be hoping trading stays similarly strong.
Back to recruitment, and I’ve noted before how old job specifications are being ripped up. At the most senior level, one-dimensional roles are rapidly disappearing. Retail executives who excel in just one discipline risk finding themselves increasingly exposed. Going forward, retail leaders will require a genuine breadth of experience across multiple roles and business functions.
We’re also seeing a continuation of the trend for businesses to combine roles such as retail and property director or digital and marketing director. Agility is the big word coming out of boardrooms at the moment. Speed is of the essence in order to stay one step ahead of competitors and keep on top of market trends. When one person has oversight of multiple functions they can make business-critical decisions quickly and ensure a minimum of conflict between different departments.
Of course, it’s important we all stay mindful of the potential impact of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19. This week the government signalled its intention to move to a Covid ‘Plan B’ which involves working from home guidance and vaccine passports in large venues.
While we all hope trading can continue unrestricted throughout the winter and beyond it’s only right we remain vigilant in the weeks ahead. I’ve spoken with numerous businesses that have cancelled or postponed Christmas parties out of an abundance of caution.
So here’s to a safe and successful Christmas – both professionally and personally – and to hitting the New Year running with exciting business plans delivered by exceptional people.