Q1 HR Market Update In The Time of COVID-19

In the last few weeks, as I’ve been connecting with the HR community, I have found candidates and clients have been consistently asking the same questions. What trends are you seeing in the HR market at the moment? How have others been responding to COVID-19 and navigating the challenges it presents from an HR perspective?

I thought it might be useful for me to share those observations and to highlight the key HR trends with my wider network.

Any additional questions, please feel free to send me an Inmail and I would be happy to discuss further.


  • For those industry sectors less impacted by COVID-19, hiring has not stopped. For ongoing recruitment processes, businesses are now utilising the virtual technologies available and conducting interviews through Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc.
  • For industry sectors more heavily impacted by COVID-19, we have seen HR employees asked to reduce their hours/days, take pay cuts and forego bonuses.
  • For those industry sectors most heavily impacted by COVID-19, we have seen HR employees stood down for 3 months or more and even some redundancies.
  • The really positive news is that the HR community in many organisations, including Woolworths, Coles and many Government departments, are putting initiatives in place to redeploy HR employees that have been stood down. These employees are likely to be engaged on fixed term contracts, with the intent that they would return to their original employer once things start to recover. Peoplecorp are currently facilitating one of these initiatives for a large government entity.
  • The need for an urgent response to COVID-19 has led to an increased demand in certain skill-sets: Change management, ER, Communications, Health & Well-being and Learning & Development.
  • Some permanent roles have been changed to temporary/contract assignments so the required resources can be brought on quickly to get through the COVID-19 crisis. The permanent need can then be reassessed, once there is a clearer understanding of ongoing needs.
  • With the majority of children now out of school/childcare and at home with parents, the majority of HR professionals are juggling work with caring for children at home – a tough balance. Where this would once have been questioned by Employers, there seems to be a deeper understanding that these are exceptional circumstances and we all need to make allowances.

Onboarding solutions:

  • Some new starters are being sent out laptops to their homes and are being set up remotely by internal IT teams. Others have had new starters collect a lap-top from the organisation to ensure some brief physical connectivity and they then take that home.
  • Onboarding is often being completed via Web-Ex, with internal IT teams coaching through the HRIS system.
  • Remote objectives are set along with regular check ins with their line managers throughout the day and virtual meetings are scheduled to share vital information.

The current candidate market:

  • Candidates currently in roles and more passive in their job search are naturally pretty cautious about moving roles in this uncertain time and are less likely to apply to job adverts. They are more inclined to stay in their current role for the short term.
  • The active candidate market has significantly grown in the last month. With many HR hiring decisions going on hold, HR employees being stood down or made redundant and contracts finishing up. There is a lot of competition for roles.
  • The increased competition in the market means some candidates are choosing to lower their salary expectations to increase their chances of securing a role.
  • Those candidates in the senior HR market at the $200/250k+ level, and immediately available candidates can utilise their deep experience and technical knowledge to navigate through key change management programs and are usually engaged on an interim basis.
  • The current COVID-19 crisis has forced all organisations, through necessity, to embrace flexible working/working from home. Those organisations which already had the IT infrastructure to support this, have had a distinct competitive advantage over the last few weeks. We anticipate that this way of working will increase even after social isolation practices are no longer required.

HR Clients:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been an extraordinary time for the HR community as many are caught up in Crisis meetings and pulled away from their day-to-day roles. All this is made more complicated by the fact that there is no handbook for COVID-19. It’s a once in a lifetime event.
  • With HR resources being pulled onto COVID-19 response and continuing economic uncertainty, a number of clients have put non-critical recruitment on hold.
  • The uncertainty in the market means that passive HR candidates are cautious about looking at new opportunities externally so niche HR skill sets such as Remuneration and Reward, Change Managers, HRIS analysts and ER specialists will be harder to find. Utilising established talent pools will be crucial during this time, whether those are developed internally by organisations or by partnering with a specialist HR recruitment provider.
  • Clients who are putting roles on-hold as a precautionary measure, plan to revisit candidates who were in the process once things begin to improve.

Job specialisms:

  • Work Health & Safety/Well-being employees are in demand as they are redeploying their strategies to work on the significant COVID-19 safety threats to employees.
  • Talent Acquisition specialists who can manage volume recruitment are in demand as a number of organisations look to hire and onboard large numbers of casual staff to deal with increased demand. In house recruiters are also helping to redeploy employees into different parts of the business where they are needed during the crisis.
  • E-learning Designers and LMS Trainers are being utilised to design online learning modules, as clients use learning as a way of connecting with employees remotely and maintaining engagement.
  • HR employees with organisational and change management skills are being utilised to redesign team structures and strategies to effectively navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Organisations who have been heavily impacted and had to stand down employees or make redundancies are hiring ER consultants to provide expertise.
  • HR Generalists are in demand mostly on a contract basis, to backfill roles and to manage BAU HR activities, whilst existing HR Business Partners are consumed by COVID-19 Crisis response.

If you need more information, don’t hesitate to email me on adam@peoplecorp.com.au