On the 20th March 2020, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his plan to save millions of UK jobs – the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme (CJRS). Though it was by no means a cover all for everyone, the scheme has generally been praised for its generosity and innovation. As of 30th June, 9.4 million workers have been placed on furlough and employers have claimed £25.6 billion in wages.

It has been a lifeline for many businesses, particularly those in retail and hospitality, who have been unable to continue operating. Of course, the recruitment industry has made use of the CJRS too, especially because many organisations have stopped or significantly slowed their hiring efforts.

And yet, despite having a 30+ strong team of consultants and our brilliant back office team, we made the decision early on not to place anyone on furlough. As the scheme comes to a close, and we head back towards normality, here’s why we chose to ignore the CJRS, and the impact it’s had upon our business.

For our clients

Not all of our clients have introduced a hiring freeze, and I’m glad that we were able to remain open and to continue supporting them with a full-strength team. Some of our clients changed their businesses in response to the crisis, while others were able to continue virtually unaffected – in both cases they needed the right people in place to help. We’ve been able to continue recruiting, assisting with video interviews and virtual onboarding. It’s also been a brilliant time for new business, resulting in an 80 per cent increase in clients we had never previously engaged with approaching us, rather than the other way around. Their usual supply chain was disrupted, as so many individuals were placed on furlough, and we were able to step in when others couldn’t.

And look, we know full well that a call from a recruiter on a busy day can be irritating. We’ll only call people we can genuinely provide value to, but there’s every chance we won’t be the only recruiter you speak to in a day. What has been great during the lockdown is that clients do have time for a longer conversation. We’ve been able to add value and offer support to existing clients and talk strategy over the last few months, so that as soon as they’re ready to resume hiring, we are too.

For our candidates

It’s been a nerve-wracking time for some of our candidates – particularly contractors who had jobs lined up, only for them to be cancelled or postponed because of the lockdown. We’ve worked extremely hard to get as many people into work as possible, getting other candidates to offer stage so they at least know they have something in the pipeline.

Making the most of everyone’s extra time, we’ve also increased our candidate networks so that we can assist as many people to find new roles as we can. We’ve helped our candidates get used to the new state of play, coaching them through virtual interviews and helping them to improve their CVs to position them in best light.

For our employees

Overwhelming, our team have told us how having work to do throughout the lockdown has kept them focused and assisted their mental health. They had confidence that there would be jobs to return to once restrictions eased, because there was no pause in their work.

It’s been good for them financially too, having been able to continue earning commission and they’ve had the time to strengthen relationships with candidates and clients, expanding their networks for the future.

For our business

Recruitment is a saturated market, and if you take your foot off the pedal under normal circumstances you’re toast. These have been far from normal circumstances, but still we have managed to keep the wheels moving while others have pulled over, and as a result we’re ahead.

Our team are motivated to work hard for a business that has supported them in tough times and they haven’t been attracted to new opportunities while on furlough, as so many other consultants have been.

I know that this wasn’t an option for all businesses, but by continuing to operate at full-strength throughout the lockdown, we are in an incredible position now – hiring new roles for our London and Cardiff offices, and planning for a new office in Bristol. I’m glad that we took a risk, and opted for own path.