Hiring trends in the exec support sector – and the effect of the pandemic

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Bain and Gray’s Executive Director Tray Durrant provides the first in a two-part series providing market insights from the recruitment specialist’s annual survey…

Little did we know at the start of 2020 the tumultuous year that lay ahead. Pre-pandemic, the executive support industry was robust and employment at a record high of over 75%. Then Coronavirus hit and resulted in an unprecedented national lockdown that affected lives both personally and professionally.

The Bain and Gray annual survey of market and salary trends was conducted at the height of the pandemic, in 2020, with over 1,000 clients. Circumstances demanded adaptation to glean a more accurate snapshot of the market (through statistics), as well as understanding of the in-depth picture (by one-on-one briefings).

While some trends were obvious, others needed prizing out to obtain a clear overview of the changes that the pandemic had brought to recruitment volumes, sectors, protocols and the use of temporary versus permanent staff.

The immediate effect within our industry was an overnight freeze on hiring. The second quarter of 2020 saw 15% of job offers withdrawn by clients, and the market for temporary staff was cut in half. It was the start of a complex, rollercoaster year: overnight, employees and employers were forced to adopt home-working and nurture a workforce without a communal workplace.

Once the dust settled, recruiters and candidates began to see marked changes in the demand for support roles: junior positions that typically require more onboarding and training were the hardest hit by the move to remote and virtual working. The demand for senior positions came back more quickly and more strongly. At the height of the pandemic, the requirement for exceptional organisation skills was more valued than ever.

Many businesses continued to hire throughout the second half of 2020 in order to be ‘market ready’ when normal service levels resumed. We found that Executive Assistant and Personal Assistant salaries held well throughout this time, and there was no drop in remuneration levels.

Innovative businesses have been quick to adapt to changes in market conditions and capitalise on them. These companies have found effective and seamless ways to continue working productively without prolonged disruption and many intend to keep flexible or hybrid working as a key component of working practices. The role of Executive Support Assistant has adapted well to working from home and those who were always efficient have become more so.

The abrupt reduction in the temporary market of March 2020 steadily picked up in the latter half of 2020 and remains on an upward trajectory that is predicted to continue as companies return to offices in greater numbers.

For many, hiring temporary staff is a good way to ensure goals and deadlines are met without over-committing to a permanent headcount. We are seeing more clients employ temporary and contract workers for front of house office positions, as well as clearly demarcated project roles.

Bain and Gray are thought leaders in Executive Support recruitment, sourcing the very best candidates in London in support roles ranging from Receptionists, Team Assistants, Office Managers, PAs, Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff roles. www.bainandgray.com



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