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Business confidence neutral to positive despite coronavirus

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Over half of business executives believe that the covid-19 pandemic has had a neutral to positive impact on business confidence, according to a global study of business leaders by a leading recruitment consultancy.

The research, by specialist recruiter Robert Half, revealed that fifty-eight per cent of executives feel that the global health crisis has had either a positive or neutral impact on business confidence.  The remaining forty-two per cent of the more than 1,500 c-suite executives polled felt that the pandemic had had a negative effect on business confidence.

Amongst the five countries included in Robert Half’s survey, Brazil reported the greatest degree of negative impact, followed by the UK and Belgium.  In France and Germany, the majority of survey respondents indicated that the overall business impact of the pandemic was largely neutral.

Ninety-two per cent of those surveyed see opportunities coming out of the pandemic, with digital transformation the top priority for forty-one per cent of businesses.  A significant proportion of firms  have also redesigned job roles (twenty-nine per cent) and adopted new business models (twenty-eight per cent) in response to covid-19’s impact.

Businesses reported remaining agile and resilient in response to the “new normal” brought about by the pandemic, however they said the health crisis had not been without its challenges, with just over a quarter (twenty-six per cent) of executives highlighting the difficult business climate and around a sixth (sixteen per cent) of respondents citing budgetary constraints as the greatest barriers to innovation at the moment.

Despite the government furlough scheme coming to an end next month, many firms remain positive about recruitment for the remainder of the year, with eighty-eight per cent of respondents expecting to hire permanent or contract staff between now and December.   Three quarters (seventy-five per cent) of companies surveyed had hired and/or onboarded new staff remotely during lockdown.

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

Companies are also overwhelmingly more open to hiring from outside their market and having new staff work remotely moving forwards, with eighty-six per cent indicating this.

“Commercial agility, use of new technologies, effective forward planning and risk management will remain vital to business recovery following the impact of covid-19,” commented Matt Weston, managing director of Robert Half UK.  “Businesses should determine which projects they want to prioritise over the remainder of the year and conduct a skills audit to ascertain if their current workforce is equipped with the capabilities needed to achieve their new-look goals.

“The essential competencies needed to grow their business may have shifted during the pandemic, so they may need to redesign job roles, upskill current employees or consider new combinations of permanent, temporary and project-based staff in order to build a smart, flexible staffing plan to power their post-lockdown recovery.”

3rd September 2020