Hiring within FMCG – a review of Q3 and predictions for Q4

As the owner of a recruitment consultancy that specialises in the FMCG and related consumer goods markets, I wanted to share some of the recent trends we are seeking in these sectors, thoughts and reflections on the quarter that’s passed, and what businesses can expect going into Q4.

It’s worth mentioning that our view is based on our core areas of Supply Chain & Procurement, eCommerce & Digital and Sales & Marketing, so the commentary here is broadly reflective of those skill sets.

Bouncing back & adapting

April was a month none of us in the recruitment industry want to experience again, but by the time we got to June, the market was showing signs of genuine recovery. By that point we were coming towards the end of lockdown in the UK and businesses had transitioned to fully remote working models. It was recognised that hiring needed to continue to augment momentum gained as the market started to normalise following the early lockdown days of panic buying.

‘Zooming’ replaced F2F meetings and larger, more established businesses seemed to be the quickest to adapt. In truth, our blue chip clients were those who remained most resilient to adapting to the new virtual working model. Some SMEs acted borderline bullish during this period when it came to hiring, but as we entered Q3 we saw more SMEs starting to strategically hire and look for opportunities to fill pre-existing gaps; essentially hiring as a bi-product of greater confidence.

A space in which hiring demand dramatically increased was our consultancy client base that works closely with Amazon (Seller) and other key marketplaces. The need for Amazon skilled candidates has never been higher.

The holiday within the holiday

The result of June’s re-emergence continuing into July meant that the first half of the quarter was positive. Whilst volumes of roles were still c.50% down on early March at Vertical Advantage, the engagement and commitment from the market was resolute (as nerves subsided we saw far less clients changing their mind on signing off requirements than in Q2).

The end of the full time furlough period on July 31st was a potential concern and whilst the run up to this had seen some high profile administrations for businesses, particularly aligned to hospitality (e.g. Adelie Foods / Café Rouge), companies that were aligned to grocery powered on with their hiring.

The early part of August was more buoyant than normal for that time of year, however, as the month progressed, the traditional Summer holiday slowdown took grip. This resulted in many processes slowing down or grinding to a halt during this period, as the UK seemed to copy our European counterparts in taking extended mid-summer breaks (fully deserved might I add!).

Super September

Coming out of the August bank holiday weekend, vacancy volumes were lower than they had been for the previous 3 months, which gave some cause for concern. However, the market has taken a significant turn for the better in September with live vacancies jumping c.70% and confidence is a lot higher and more resilient to changes in macro socio-economic policies.

What we are seeing now is that challenge is creeping back into the market, as a result of greater buoyancy – competition is ramping up. There is no longer an abundance of candidates that clients can have their pick from, and they are no longer alone in making offers. Approximately 40% of our candidates that were offered roles in September have had more than one offer on the table.

Overall, candidates are seemingly more financially motivated post-lockdown than previously, which is understandable if they may have been through a few months of financial hardship.

In addition, we have seen more people leave their new jobs within the first few months than we normally would. The reasons for this vary from having taken a role in desperation, struggling with a combination of work and mental health challenges when starting a new role, or poor remote on-boarding resulting in low levels of engagement. If your business intends to remain working remotely going into 2021, this needs to be a serious consideration and a priority for businesses.

“Approximately 40% of our candidates that were offered roles in September have had more than one offer on the table.”


Less than 90 days to Christmas

So, what’s coming next?

The Christmas countdown will certainly benefit trading in the broader FMCG space, but similarly to the August holiday period, it’s tough to predict the consumer outlook and as a consequence predicting the trends of the hiring market will not be easy (I will try to get off the fence shortly…).

  • The furlough scheme ending could bring a new wave of redundancies – My suspicion is that the complete end of the furlough scheme will result in some more redundancies in isolated pockets and sadly, there will be more retail / hospitality led businesses suffering hardship. Undoubtedly the result will bring more candidates onto the market, however with many other businesses now getting hiring into full swing, I expect to see this talent being snapped up quicker than we saw in Q3.
  • Increased competition – Businesses that have been using direct channels to hire (advertising / referrals / talent pipelining) will find the market more competitive and speed is going to be one of the most important factors when looking to deliver on time to hire. This is particularly true with more fixed term contract roles in the market than normal, as businesses look to try before they buy.
  • Changing candidate expectations – Candidate expectations on work have evolved and they will very much be looking at a potential employers for positive work / life balance in 2021 and beyond, so nebulous answers around this topic will not be enough when it comes to decision time.
  • Niche skills are now being snapped up – Experts on customs / export around Brexit are very much in demand as the year is coming to an end. As are digital skills related to various marketplaces and for anyone that can navigate the complexities of Amazon from a supplier perspective, can command a premium in this market…….. There’s no sign that this will change in 2021.

…and that’s all from me! Finally I’d like to wish you all a healthy and prosperous final quarter. As always, if you feel Vertical Advantage can help at all, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.