2020 was a year no-one could’ve predicted, and it goes without saying that the economic impact has been far-reaching. Recruitment businesses across the world reported major drops in activity and sadly, many have had to downsize or even close in the wake of low employment opportunities.

I too, found myself anxious about the prospects of maintaining the success of TSR during the pandemic, concerned for my staff and for the future. Talking with others in my network I was certainly not alone and reading Greg Savage’s article reflecting on the state of permanent recruitment in 2020 it seems that all around the world, recruitment business owners were asking themselves the same question: How can we survive?

Data from across the world clearly indicated a massive drop, more than 40% in job orders and placements at the height of the pandemic, and it was reassuring to see that TSR was tracking similar trends, maintaining placements in our niche and specialist areas including several C-Suite appointments, albeit at a slower rate than 2019. Sadly, despite my best efforts to source South African data, I came up empty-handed, and with the realization that local recruiters remain closed to the idea of sharing data, seemingly unaware of the benefits this type of information would have for all of us.

Staying abreast of trends and utilising credible data to hold yourself, as a business owner to account, provides the opportunity to focus on the activities that matter and realistically benchmark your business, rather than falling into the trap of assuming “it’s the same for everyone” and potentially downplaying the risks, or failing to seize the opportunities ahead.

For the past few years South Africa has been unable to contribute data to the World Employment Confederation’s (WEC) Economic Report, largely due to the reluctance of business owners to share. One might wonder whether the problem is related to a lack of access to data, rather than unwillingness to contribute, but in a world driven by technology platforms it seems crazy to think that data is not readily accessible to all recruiters.

Recruitment has always been a numbers game, with most recruiters required to track – and report – their activity daily. And whilst I firmly believe in quality over quantity, I still insist on keeping a close eye on the numbers. Access to meaningful data gives me the confidence to accurately forecast, to identify mitigation strategies, and to effectively manage the business proactively.

This discipline helped, I believe, to manage the fear which seemingly gripped many others in the industry whose knee-jerk reaction was to retrench employees and downsize. I am extremely proud to have been able to retain my entire team throughout the worst of the pandemic, and their ability to focus on doing the work – maintaining our high levels of candidate and client centricity and specialist service delivery – without worrying about their job security and finances, is reaping reward.

As we head into the 2nd quarter of 2021, I am delighted to say that our job orders have recovered to pre-lockdown rates, and the team is successfully placing each month. The decision made for TSR to specialize, focusing on in-demand niche skills sets, like Data Science, ICT, and transitioning Management Consultants into Corporates, has paid dividends.

We remain convinced that our ability to draw insights from a range of data sources, not only for our business, but for our clients too, is the reason many top organisations choose to partner with TSR for recruitment, talent mapping, and executive search assignments. As we all learn to adjust to the ‘new normal’ we remain committed to sourcing the best talent for our clients and finding opportunities for our candidates.