What is the future of hiring in the town planning industry?

Written by: Kate Peers-McQueen
Published on: 16 Sep 2020

Amid increasing pressure to ‘build, build, build’ and rising unemployment, we’re entering a new phase of change in the town planning industry. What does this mean for the future of hiring? And how might it change the way businesses evolve and treat their employees?

In conjunction with Haymarket Media Group’s Planning Jobs, deverellsmith conducted a careers survey with 35 town planners in July 2020, then compared the results with a previous survey in February 2020 (pre-pandemic) to track any shift in behaviour and perceptions.

The questions included reasons why town planners move jobs, what they value in a role and information about how they found their latest position.

The dreaded new normal
It will come as no surprise that things have clearly changed in the last few months. Everyone is tired of hearing about the ‘new normal’ but, like it or not, normality is now different.

Work-life balance has become even more important to jobseekers than it was pre-Covid, with 80% of respondents regarding it as a big factor when considering whether to apply for a vacancy or not. Meanwhile, features such as an enhanced benefits package (29%) and working for an ‘amazing brand’ (17%) are significantly less important now than they were pre-Covid (67% and 42% respectively). 

The survey showed more people are interested in a higher salary (83% vs 75%) or a more senior role (54% vs 42%), although having a large bonus (23% vs 25%) is less important. Interestingly, a new role with an easier commute is less important than it was previously but is still important to over half of the respondents (54% vs 67%) – which could be linked to the fact that many are not commuting as often, if at all.

The types of benefits that respondents regard as important has not changed dramatically, although there is a heightened desire to work flexibly (94%) or work from home (77%). Pension remains an important part of a company’s benefits package, with 83% still perceiving it to be important. As with the previous survey, 40% still want medical/dental allowance as part of their benefits package.

The furlough effect
While some of the current market effects have been obvious, from both large and small employers, the other effects have been both on the pockets and mental health of those on furlough and indeed those who worked through the whole pandemic.

One of the less obvious things to employers is the number of furloughed staff who have been job-hunting for various reasons. Many feel their employer did not treat them well during the process, for example by not keeping them in the loop, whereas others are frustrated to have been furloughed instead of their colleagues. 

We believe the next shift, which is already in play, is this ‘furlough effect’ whereby staff who are expected to return, or are already back, no longer wish to work for their existing employer. Time away from their office and role has given many previously loyal candidates the thinking time to review their long-term position.

The importance of agencies
From the data we have gathered, change has already happened in the mindsets of professionals in terms of where they job hunt and how they research a company. Our latest survey found that 60% of respondents were either headhunted for their latest role or used a recruitment consultant, while 6% were referred.

While many town planners do indeed go directly to roles and employers, with a notable 60% using agencies, 11% heard about their most recent role through a job site, 9% via the employer’s website and 6% via social media. We believe consultancies will continue to be crucial for employers when sifting through the vast number of applicants and unemployed that the market is experiencing.

What does this mean for you as an employer?

  • Look after your team! I cannot emphasise this enough. While we all have pressures, some employers have made the mistake of not keeping in touch with their team members during furlough and now risk losing them permanently. When considering a company to work for, 26% of those surveyed said they would ask current employees for their opinion, compared to just 8% pre-Covid, and 49% would ask industry peers on their thoughts, compared to 25% previously – showing that word of mouth and how your current team and ex-employees perceive you is crucial.
  • Make sure your brand and external content is strong. When asked how they research potential employers, the company website and online content came out on top – at 89% and 83% respectively. However, an unusual revelation in the latest survey showed that 17% would now research a prospective employer through printed material and 11% would look on Instagram (compared to 0% for both pre-Covid) - higher than both Twitter (9%) and Facebook (3%). LinkedIn has become less of a source of information for this purpose, with 40% researching on this site compared to 50% previously – but still a source nonetheless.

For any advice on the town planning recruitment market, or to talk through your recruitment plans, please contact Kate Peers-McQueen on 0203 056 6282 or visit deverellsmith.com

Deverell Smith