06.05.2020

How are businesses responding to the challenges of COVID-19?

We asked our clients and employers within our network about the impacts of coronavirus on their business, productivity and recruitment plans to find out how things have changed. Here are the results of our COVID-19 business survey.

How are businesses responding to the challenges of COVID-19?

We released an urgent benchmarking survey to help our clients and other employers within IT and engineering understand how similar businesses are responding to the challenges of COVID-19.

The results confirm that most businesses are taking a cautious approach to business activity, with many furloughing staff and putting a hold on recruitment for the time being, while optimistically preparing for the future.

Based on the business industries of respondents we have divided the data into two main categories: manufacturing (includes engineering, manufacturing, MedTech and research industries) and technology (includes computer software, information technology and services, and ‘other’ industries).

Impact on productivity

How has your business productivity been impacted by COVID-19?

2/3 of both manufacturing and technology businesses reported that orders and projects had been delayed or cancelled but 1/3 said they were able to maintain their productivity levels from before lockdown. Technology companies seem to be harder hit by cancelled orders/projects with 20% reporting cancellations, compared with just 5% of manufacturing businesses.

COVID-19 business survey - how has your business productivity been impacted?

Impact on business offerings

There has been a lot of talk on social media and in the news about businesses pivoting their service offering, with breweries making hand sanitiser, Dyson swapping vacuum cleaners for ventilators and The Royal Mint, known for producing coins, now making visors, but what are other businesses doing? Have many changed the way they do business based on the current climate?

Have you repurposed or pivoted your business offerings?

Most of the employers we surveyed, both manufacturing and technology businesses, said there was no change to their business offering. Nobody within manufacturing said they were offering different products/services and only 13% of technology companies had pivoted their business, offering something new.

COVID-19 business survey - have you repurposed or pivoted your business offerings?

Current priorities

With the situation constantly evolving what are the current priorities for businesses? We asked employers to select all that applied from a range of options.

Understandably, with so much uncertainty, over 70% respondents said preparing for the future was one of their highest priorities. Delivering on orders/projects and bringing in new business were also key factors alongside reducing costs.

It seems that even though both manufacturing and technology businesses are preparing for the future, with so many unknowns the immediate response is to focus on what can be controlled now; maintaining productivity by retaining staff and limiting expenditure to protect company finances.

COVID-19 business survey - what would you say are your current highest priorities?

Impact on recruitment and staffing

While some employers were able to transition their staff to work from home quickly and easily, others found it took a bit longer to get settled and into a new routine. It is unsurprising that most employers surveyed said they have implemented a recruitment freeze for the time being while there is still a lot of uncertainty about the immediate future and the longer-term market trends.

COVID-19 business survey - which of the following best describes your situation?

Is your organisation furloughing staff under the coronavirus job retention scheme?

For manufacturing companies 76% have already furloughed some staff, with a further 12% considering this as potential option. While 53% of technology companies surveyed are utilising the Government coronavirus job retention scheme, the remaining 47% of employers said this was not something they were considering.

COVID-19 business survey - is your organisation furloughing staff under the coronavirus job retention scheme

Based on the ever changing situation some employers are reluctant to take on more staff until they are able to better forecast their business projections, some aren’t in a position to onboard new staff remotely and a lot of businesses are furloughing staff under the coronavirus job retention scheme, which may mean the relevant employees aren’t available to interview and hire candidates remotely.

If you are continuing to interview, hire and onboard new staff remotely you may be able to secure exceptional talent a bit easier as there is less competition from other employers. Consequently, this may also have a positive impact on the salaries you can offer as you may not have competing offers or counteroffers to contend with.

Biggest challenges

What did employers say were their biggest challenges at the moment?

Both manufacturing and technology businesses were understandably most concerned about the uncertainty over the longer term because of the market and potential future revenue, with 57% of manufacturing businesses selecting this challenge and 87% of technology businesses highlighting it.

The other main challenges highlighted were the immediate financial impact due to the downturn and staff redundancies/furloughs. One person added they are “Figuring out where this crazy path is leading to!” which is something probably all employers can relate to.

COVID-19 business survey - what are your biggest challenges at the moment?

The good news for employees is that businesses seem to be implementing measures to protect the job security of their workforce as much as possible, by potentially pivoting their business offering, reducing costs and furloughing staff where necessary. The businesses surveyed are preparing for the future. delivering on orders/projects and bringing in new business to provide stability for when furloughed workers return, and to allow the business to grow and begin hiring again.

If your business is facing any of these challenges highlighted or any others we're happy to have a chat and provide insight on the market so you're better informed to prepare for the future.

Sign up for industry updates