Career and Jobs

Future Plans, Hugs And New Horizons: Reasons For Hope In 2021

Last year was an annus horribilis and the start of 2021 has been no less traumatic, with new coronavirus variants, a surge in cases following the festive season and hospitals close to breaking point. But – there is hope in sight, with a Covid-19 vaccine signaling a way out of the devastation. To date, more than 30 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in over 40 countries. Delivering billions more will be a monumental logistics challenge, but the vaccine ultimately gives hope that 2021 will be a better year. Notwithstanding any major setbacks, this not only promises to be the time when we start to emerge from the crisis but when some of the more positive impacts of the pandemic will start to be felt.

Better Days Ahead

Finally, after seemingly endless months of uncertainty, a return to some kind of normality is on the horizon. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the way we used to do business until last week when I did two things I hadn’t done since last March: I put on a suit and I went on a business trip. Both felt great – a prelude to what I hope to experience again soon. Despite the benefits of digital collaboration tools, there are times when only face-to-face will do. There’s something about meeting in person that builds a connection no amount of screen time can replicate.  

Jobs Recovery In Sight

The pandemic has had catastrophic consequences for the global economy and labor markets. In terms of jobs, “it has set back all the progress that we have made since the financial crisis of 2008/ 2009”, says Angel Gurria, Secretary General of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). That’s 10 years of progress wiped out in just 10 months.

However, there are clear signs that we’re starting to emerge from the doldrums. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that job vacancies in the country are now higher than they were pre-pandemic. Vacancies rose by 23.4% in the November quarter, from the August quarter, to reach 254,400. That’s a 12% increase on a year earlier and a dramatic comeback from the plunge Australians suffered in May.

In the UK, too, a report from KPMG and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation reveals that in December (2020) temporary vacancies increased at their sharpest rate since October 2018. Permanent appointments also rose, albeit marginally, for the first time since September 2020. This upward trend tallies with my own experience: Tiger Recruitment saw an 11% increase in the number of permanent jobs briefed in to the agency in Q4 2020 versus Q3. Buoyed by the promise of the new vaccine, many businesses are moving forward with their recruitment plans, ensuring they have the right talent to navigate the difficult months ahead and come out stronger on the other side.

Digital Revolution

However, some things won’t go back to how they were and businesses will be better for it. Technology is one example. This time last year, how many people had used or even heard of Zoom? Now it’s part of our lexicon and one of the most popular ways to communicate.

The pandemic has been a catalyst for change. According to a McKinsey Global Survey, companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and internal operations by three to four years. And their share of digital or digitally enabled products has accelerated by as much as seven years.

This digital revolution has been a lifeline for businesses. As customers have moved online and demand for contactless has grown, companies have kept up by increasing their use of digital tools. Technology has also allowed businesses to adapt to remote and more flexible ways of working, which many will want to keep doing long after the pandemic is over.

But new technology isn’t just a quick fix. If used strategically, it can continue to benefit business, creating efficiencies and enabling further innovations, providing a strong foundation for companies to build back better.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

The pandemic has given rise to a new wave of entrepreneurs. In the third quarter of 2020, there were more than 1.5 million new business applications in the United States – almost double the figures for the same period the previous year. Similarly, in the UK, the number of new businesses registered in Q3 2020 increased by 30 per cent compared with Q3 2019. This is the largest third-quarter increase since 2012, when quarterly breakdowns were first recorded.

The most obvious explanation is that this emerging start-up generation has been born out of necessity; people who are unemployed have decided to do their own thing. But that’s not the whole story. According to research conducted in the UK, one in five Britons plans to start a business this year – over a third (37%) say it’s their long-term ambition. Just 6% have lost their jobs. For many, the pandemic has been the impetus they needed to follow their dreams. And the hope is that this entrepreneurial spirit will help create new jobs and drive economic activity once recovery takes hold.

Something To Look Forward To

While 2020 saw businesses scrambling for survival, 2021 will be the start of a new ‘normal’ – where businesses can apply the lessons they have learnt and emerge stronger, more flexible, more digitally advanced and better equipped for the future.

2021 also promises to be a year of reconnections – when socializing and social contact can finally be resumed. Imagine: hugs and handshakes, seeing family, meeting friends, coffee catch-ups and business lunches, holidays abroad. Those human interactions once enjoyed and taken for granted are tantalizingly within reach. And the fact that we can finally look forward to them is a positive in itself. For so much of 2020, the future was clouded with uncertainty and plans were made only to be broken. This year – maybe not this month or next – but soon, it may just be possible to plan ahead: to book that flight, schedule that new client meeting, plot those long-term career goals and prepare for a brighter future.

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