Courtney Steele Alexander Steele News, Industry News
As we prepare to enter March and approach our 12th month of the pandemic, there is no doubting that the last year has been one like no other for businesses and consumers alike. We have battled through lockdowns, adapted to working from home and tried to come to terms with tier systems and what they mean for trading. As an industry, the consumer goods sector has seen trends in demand that could not have been forecasted from a surge in demand for flour to a complete drop off in food to go.
With route maps out of lockdown being announced and a feeling of cautious optimism in the air, we sat down with Alexander Steele’s Business Director and specialist in Food and Drink Manufacturing, Giuseppe Leo, to discuss how the industry has adapted and changed over the last year as well as the market post pandemic.
In your opinion, what has been the greatest challenge to Food and Drink Manufacturing since the beginning of the pandemic?
"Safety standards for both the workforce and the products being made are paramount in this industry. In a very short space of time every single factory in the UK had to completely change the way they work; from how raw materials enter the factory, to the PPE needed for workers and other measures being implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19. This had to be achieved almost overnight, during a period where certain factories were having to produce at record level to meet the demand and when we knew very little about the virus itself."
How have you seen businesses overcome this?
"There was an initial pause so to speak, so that businesses could risk assess and plan to make the necessary changes. The demand for experienced HSE professionals took an upturn.
Fortunately, some of the most intelligent, forward thinking Food Science & Food Safety professionals have been at the forefront of UK manufacturing for over 30 years so most businesses came up with the solutions and implemented the measures very quickly so that they could keep production going and continue to feed the nation."
What differences do you see in the current lockdown to last March with regards to the businesses you work with and their response?
"This time round, everyone was better prepared due to the experience of the first UK wide lockdown. Most, if not all factories were able to continue manufacturing safely with robust measures in place."
The way we use technology in recruitment has altered in many ways over the last eleven months, what aspects of this do you think will stick? Have you noticed these changes making a positive impact that would not otherwise have taken place?
"Well, from a recruitment point of view, employers have really embraced video conferencing and conducting interviews via Zoom / Microsoft Teams. I think there has always been a way of thinking that the best way to assess a potential candidate had to be face to face; the pandemic has changed that. Employers are more comfortable conducting initial meetings online; this in my opinion has made recruitment processes more efficient. It can be difficult to align diaries for interviews and video calling gives both candidate and employer more flexibility whilst minimizing the risk of the spread of the virus by limiting visitors to the sites.
Our clients have been able to recruit successfully despite the restrictions and it has opened all of our minds to how a recruitment process can be completed. I believe this will become an industry mainstay."
How is the market forecasting for 2021?
"I really believe that the UK Food and Drink Manufacturing sector are taking the initiative to invest and future proof their business’ because of the pandemic. Additionally, this period has increased the awareness of the nation to the importance environmental issues and general wellness. This in my opinion will be driving a demand for new products and I believe plant-based and sustainable products will continue to grow in popularity."
Redundancies and increased unemployment have become an issue over the last year; how do you foresee recruitment consultancies playing their part in aiding people to find work?
"I believe we must be honest, transparent, and make sure we are placing candidates forward for roles that match their experience and skill set or at least to a role they can transfer their skills and experience into if you have an employer with an open mind. We should give good, tangible and actionable advice, offer insight and represent them in the best light."
What do Alexander Steele offer that can aid companies who are looking for talent over the coming year?
"What we offer is genuine and detailed knowledge of this marketplace for both our clients and candidate’s requirements which always allows us to make the best matches. As a business we are continually assessing new technology and software that can assist us in identifying and searching for the newest and best talent the market has to offer. We have access to the relevant job boards, advertising, and our ever-increasing database.
Additionally, the team at Alexander Steele have over 60 combined years of long term relationships with industry professionals. This allows us to make approaches to specialists who aren’t actively on the market but whom we know to have the best qualities and experience to undertake a particular role. This network is what gives us the edge to alternative methods of recruiting talent."
Why is this more beneficial than running the recruitment themselves?
"As aforementioned, we offer our clients a much broader choice when it comes to the best candidates in UK Foodand Drink Manufacturing, rather than the individuals who just happen to be looking for a role at that given time.
We focus on quality of service as opposed to volume, which is why 80% of our recruitment is with clients we have developed long term relationships with and who use our services repeatedly. We have been engaged with some new and thriving businesses over the last 12 months who have come to us as they recognise our core values align with what they are looking for in a recruitment partnership."
Can you give us a final word on 2021 and what we should expect…
"I always like to err on the side of positivity. Businesses are investing and planning for a nation post pandemic. The increase in exciting new talent coming to market is as strong as I’ve seen it and with the ever-increasing development of new and exciting products. I am positive that UK Consumer Goods Manufacturing will continue to grow, evolve, fully recover and continue being a great employer & integral part of the UKs economy. "