Employers cautiously optimistic about 2021, recruitment survey finds

Many delayed hiring due to Covid-19, but plan to begin recruiting again this year

Only 9 per cent of employees surveyed were in favour of a return to full office-based work in the next six to 12 months. Photograph: iStock

Employers are gearing up for a talent war in 2021 as companies anticipate an increase in business activity in the coming 12 months and a return to hiring puts pressure on the market, according to a new survey.

The survey was part of a comprehensive employment and salary survey by Lincoln rectuiment. It found a cautious buisness outlook for the rest of the year, but with some signs of optimism. Half of all employers surveyed expect activity to increase in the next year, while 29 per cent are optimistic about economic recovery.

Companies are also planning to return to the recruitment of permanent staff. Some 33 per cent said they had delayed hiring due to economic uncertainty triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, but 47 per cent of business owners are now planning to hire permanent staff this year and beyond.

The survey, conducted amongst 1,200 employees and employers across a range of industries, also found more than a quarter of companies are expecting to increase salaries by up to 2.5 per cent, while 50 per cent of employers will maintain pay at current levels.


Employers may have a struggle to hang on to staff, however. Thirty-six per cent of employees said they would move to their next job in the next 12 months, with 57 per cent of employers planing to invest in reskilling as a direct result of Covid-19.

The survey also indicated priorities among employees had changed, with flexible working and health insurance or private medical cover now the most important to a majority of workers.

Staff may also push for more flexible work practices, with the survey finding only 9 per cent of employees were in favour of a return to full office-based work in the next six to 12 months. That figure rose to 15 per cent a year from now. More than half said they would be in favour of fully remote working for the next three to six months, with only 8 per cent seeking that option a year from now.

A mix of office and home-based working was the preferred choice for 67 per cent in the next six to 12 months.

“While the pandemic has had an immediate and significant impact on recruitment activity in the Irish market, from pay cuts, temporary layoffs and redundancies, there is a case for optimism among employers in that these staffing changes will only last in the short-term,” said Shay Dalton, managing director of Lincoln Recruitment Specialists.

“We believe that 2021 is likely to be a year of two phases: the first will be spent focusing on stability measures from business continuity, employee safety, contingency planning, compensation and rewards and training and development. In the second, organisations will look towards driving efficiency, business growth and performance in the post-pandemic era, and we see recruitment playing a key part in this once again.”

He said companies should focus on reskilling workforces to adapt to the Covid-19 crisis.

“Companies need talent strategies that focus on digital, cognitive, communication, and adaptability and resilience skills; these are fundamental skills in this era, irrespective of an employee’s job title,” he said. “As we transition to the “new normal”, organisations that fail to sharpen their axes on upskilling now will be limiting their potential to do so at scale in the future.”

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist