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What’s going on in the UK recruitment market right now?


DATE: May 1, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Following the layoffs of over 74,000 employees in the Tech and UX space in the past year, hiring demand for these skillsets has decreased whilst businesses focus on roles essential to maintaining operations.
  • There's been an exciting growth in interest for video editing and production skillsets, seemingly taking the place of the likes of presentation designers, somewhat thanks to generative AI tools.
  • Freelance and contract demand has spiked where permanent roles have dropped off as organisations find ways to tackle important projects with restricted headcount.
  • There's been a disappointing decline in Sustainability and Diversity initiatives as budgets are tightened, including hiring activity that has the potential to facilitate discrimination.

The hiring landscape can be unpredictable at the best of times, so we've pulled together some key trends and insights to help you answer the question: “What's going on in the UK recruitment market right now?”. Whether you're a business leader trying to plan for the remainder of 2024, a hiring manager responsible for imminent intake, or simply exploring the market and new opportunities—this is what we're seeing in the market at the moment.

Tech and UX Hires Decline Amidst Shifting Priorities

With the uncertain economic landscape, the recruitment market is witnessing a significant drop-off in demand for tech and UX hires. Once prevalent as organisations emerged from the pandemic, the demand for tech and UX talent has subsided, in line with the heavy layoffs seen in the tech sector. Companies, exercising caution amidst economic uncertainty, appear to focus much less on driving innovation.

As businesses reassess their priorities, they are opting for a more conservative approach to hiring, focusing on essential roles to maintain operations. This shift reflects the broader trend of companies tightening their belts and adopting a more strategic approach to talent acquisition.

A Rise in Video Editing and Production

In contrast to the decline in tech and UX hires, there has been a notable uptick in demand for professionals skilled in video editing and production. With the surge in remote work and virtual interactions, businesses are increasingly turning to video content as a means of communication. What was once the realm of presentation designers for things like business pitches is evolving into a drive towards video content creation.

The adoption of video editing and production reflects a broader shift towards digital communication strategies, with video content on social media steadily growing and AI exploration providing a platform where it might have been too expensive to explore previously.

The Evolving Landscape of Permanent Market vs. Temporary Work

Amidst economic uncertainty, the recruitment market is witnessing a shrinking permanent market and a slow-growing interest in more contract and freelance work. With businesses grappling with budget constraints and volatility, the draw of flexible staffing solutions is growing notably. While permanent hiring remains subdued, contract and freelance opportunities are on the rise, offering businesses the agility to scale their workforce as they need.

The rise of contract and freelance work does reflect a broader trend towards flexibility in the market. As companies navigate the complexities of a post-pandemic world, they are increasingly turning to contingent workers to meet their staffing needs. It can also often allow a side-stepping of HR or leadership directives to limit headcount, where a freelance worker can tackle important project work via an Umbrella company or third-party payroll.

Core Values Can't Be Allowed to Slip

Amidst reduced budgets and economic challenges, there is a concerning trend emerging: the relegation of sustainability and diversity initiatives to the back seat. As businesses grapple with financial constraints, critical issues such as sustainability and diversity risk being sidelined. While some companies are taking new tentative steps towards initiatives like anonymised CV submissions, others are veering in the opposite direction with the adoption of recorded video CVs—a practice that can inadvertently perpetuate biases.

It is imperative that businesses reaffirm their commitment to sustainability and diversity, embedding these principles into every facet of their organisation, including their hiring processes. By prioritising sustainability and diversity, companies can create a more inclusive and equitable workplace, driving long-term success and, ultimately, doing the right thing.

Right now the UK recruitment market presents a lot of challenges and a few opportunities for businesses. By staying on top of current trends and tapping in to the expertise of a trusted partner, business leaders can navigate the shifting landscape and make decisions more confidently for their teams. As this landscape continues to evolve, organisations have got to remain agile and savvy in their approach to talent acquisition. We'd like to think we're well positioned to help you on that front—so, if you'd like to chat about recruitment, the market, or learn how Aquent helps businesses grow, feel free to get in touch.