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CoVID Plan for Recruitment Businesses and the Importance of People Strategy in the New Normal: QX Interview with Kevin


A picture of Kevin Green with text reading In Conversation with QX

Kevin Green is a globally recognised business leader. He has taken up several top management executive positions and served as a strategic advisor to middle-market businesses focused on technology, consulting, and recruitment services. He is also a bestselling author of book Competitive People Strategy, which is shortlisted in the 2020 Business Book Awards.

Kevin shares his thoughts and insights with Aron, representing QX Ltd, covering the following topics:

  • Business Focus in times of COVID-19 Crisis
  • Difficult Time for Businesses – Balancing in priorities between People and Business Longevity
  • Communication from Leaders Crucial during Crisis
  • COVID-19 Recession is going to be Severe than any Previous Recessions
  • Resilience of the Recruitment Industry Tested in COVID-19 Crisis
  • Recruitment Businesses Priorities amidst COVID-19 Crisis
  • Advice to Recruitment Businesses to Prepare for the future workplace
  • Recruiters, Stay positive


  1. Business Focus in times of COVID-19 Crisis

The primary focus should be on getting the business to the other side of COVID crisis. Businesses need to focus on cash flow and liquidity rather than on profit and PNL. They may need to make difficult decisions such as furloughing employees (with the government paying 80% of staff salaries) or even make employees redundant. They need to pivot their operations to sustain through the crisis; remote work, adoption of new AI tech, new service offerings could be part of the new plan. They need to start thinking about the future, start planning for life after the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for a future workplace.

  1. Difficult Time for Businesses – Balancing in priorities between People and Business Longevity

It’s been challenging for businesses – they want to survive through the crisis, and they want to safeguard their employees, their people who have contributed to their growth. It’s not an easy thing to do, is it?

It’s become imperative for businesses to cut their costs. People are getting furloughed; travel and hospitality industries are taking a hit so severe that they’ve had to lay off their employees.

So, it’s a tough time for leaders to be able to have to make those tough calls. But how they communicate these tough calls is important from the people-centric perspective.

  1. Communication from Leaders Crucial during Crisis

Leaders who communicate clearly, honestly, and with empathy are the ones who would drive their business efficiently through this pandemic. In times of COVID, when people are losing their jobs, when people are uncertain and worried about their future, it’s really up to leaders to engage their people, to inspire them, to explain the circumstances and why what they are doing is very important and can help the business. The leaders that communicate and engage their people are the ones that are likely to be able to come out the other side.

  1. COVID-19 Recession is going to be Severe than any Previous Recessions

The previous recession, around 2008-09, was not sudden, unlike this one brought forth by COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. During the previous recession, businesses had time to prepare; they slowed down on hiring, they thought about their balance sheet, they were much more careful around cash. Whereas this crisis, it just came from nowhere. People haven’t had time to think about potentially going into a crisis or recession of this scale. This recession is likely to be way more severe than the earlier one.

Graphs depicting economic uncertainity brought forth by covid pandemic and the previous pandemics
(Left) World Pandemic Uncertainty Index; (Right) Global Economic Policy Uncertainty Index; Source: Atlantic Council

To put this into context, in 2008/09, it took us nearly three years to add a million people to unemployment. Whereas, this year, within a couple of months itself, one point four million people have already registered for Universal Credit, which is our unemployment benefit.

  1. Resilience of the Recruitment Industry Tested in COVID-19 Crisis
A pie chart pointing out the impact of covid crisis on the revenues of recruitment businesses
Significant Revenue Losses Endured, But Recruitment Businesses Stay Resilient. Source: Recruiter Flow

The recruitment industry is incredibly resilient. The industry bounced back within two or three years after the last recession. While the economy was growing by 2%, the recruitment industry was growing by 10-12%. The good news is when the economy starts to move, recruitment can start to grow at pace. And we could most probably see this happening from around Q1 or Q2 next year.

  1. Recruitment Businesses Priorities amidst COVID-19 Crisis

People remember people that help them through tough times.

There’s a lot recruitment businesses can do, must do –

  • They must talk to candidates and clients every day, letting them know that they’re around for support and are open to help you with business-centric favours,
  • They must build relationships with candidates and clients,
  • They must understand their clients’ business.
  • They must have a deep knowledge of each of their clients – how they’ve been affected? What they’re doing around people?
  • They need to know – When will they start hiring? What skills are they looking for?

Organisations and recruitment businesses need to ask themselves big strategic questions – How do we differentiate ourselves? How do we stand out from the crowd? What do we want to be famous for?

This is a great time for recruitment leaders to do some thinking about their business and how they plan to position it on the other side of the crisis.

  1. Advice to Recruitment Businesses to Prepare for Future Workplace

The first thing you must think about is your strategic offering.

Secondly, you’ve got to think about your brand and your values, because in a business which is all about human beings, the ability to be clear about who you are and what you stand for and your purpose is pretty important.

Thirdly, you must make use of technology and think about how you can do things differently and add more value to candidates and clients.

There is no middle ground – you either get to be a niche player i.e. part of niche recruitment practice that understands the candidate base and knows where the talent is or you must be a low-cost supplier i.e. RPO practice or a volume-based recruitment practice that can compete on compliance and volume and not huge margins.

  1. Recruiters, Stay Positive

Recruiters and Recruitment Leaders must stay hopeful! We’ve been through tough times before and we’ve always bounced back. Make sensible and rational decisions but always remember that our business is based on people. It’s the people that work for you, the candidates, and the clients – That Golden Triangle in Recruitment. Look after your people, treat them well; they’ll treat the candidates and the clients well. So fundamentally, it’s the real basics, focus on that in times of crisis. And you won’t go wrong.

Concluding Reflections

It was an insightful experience engaging with the influencer and business expert Kevin Green. With his experience and expertise in the recruitment industry, and his active role undertaking challenging business transformations, we sincerely believed that his views and his thought process concerning the approach recruitment businesses must take to combat CoVID-19 crisis would hold substantial value. And value is what we’ve always strived to offer through our content.

We hope you find value for your recruitment business in this content piece.

These are unprecedented times; the jobs market is in the low, and recruitment and staffing companies are facing severe challenges. Consult with our QX COVID Support team; providing COVID support for recruitment agencies; we are willing to go the extra mile and help you get back up and push on in this time of need.