How to survive being furloughed and keep your job after lockdown

How to survive being furloughed and keep your job after lockdown

To many in marketing, it feels as if the clock is ticking on their employment status.

For those furloughed, the extension of the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until the end of October has merely delayed what they fear could well be sweeping job cuts.

The large marketing agency holding groups were swift to announce their plans. WPP, for example, has introduced pay cuts (including a 20% cut at leadership level), suspended share buy backs and closed media agency Triad. One of the biggest scalps came when one of Omnicom’s chief talents, Chief Creative Officer Greg Hahn at BBDO New York, was let go. Other roles were also cut from DDB and BBDO.

But the widespread loss of UK marketing jobs has not arrived yet. So what is happening in the UK job market and how can marketers ensure they have a job – even if it isn’t the same role – in a post-pandemic world?

Furloughs and the current job market

Rosa Rolo, Commercial Director at marketing recruitment company Major Players, says agencies have been hit slightly harder than brands and that hesitancy and uncertainty have meant a lot of hiring decisions have been stalled.

Rosa Rolo

She says, “Business seemed to be carrying on as usual until lockdown was confirmed by Boris and then almost overnight companies put their live roles on hold and a lot of candidates that were due to start had their start dates deferred.

“We have since seen a lot of those ‘on-hold’ roles disappear completely. However, businesses are realising their need to either pivot their services or offering, or even change their communication style with consumers, so some new roles are appearing.”

Major Players has seen an 80% dip in permanent hires and a 60% dip in freelance roles across the market since the lockdown started.

The way in which marketing functions and communications departments have been affected has also been different. The marketing side of the industry has been disproportionately furloughed, says Lucy Cairncross, Executive Director, VMAGROUP.

“Redundancies have not been mentioned in discussions with companies but a large proportion of marketers have been furloughed while communications directors have been flat out in crisis mode since the first few weeks,” says Lucy.

Neither recruiter believes being furloughed has made individuals more vulnerable to redundancy.

An uneven effect

As expected, job security has been adversely affected in some sectors more than others directly mirroring the impact of the lockdown. Travel, hospitality, and retail were obviously the first and most significantly hit. But there have also been new job opportunities.

Rosa says, “Retailers who want to get ecommerce prioritised and hospitality pivoting to consumer delivery services has helped create some need for talent to help businesses work out how they communicate with this ‘new normal’ consumer base.”

Marketers in ‘digital first’ businesses have fared much better, she notes.

“Their [digital-first companies] communications strategies were already aimed at a virtual audience and businesses that have been able to tap in to what people in lockdown can’t access physically have done better – for example fitness tech businesses, health tech businesses and ecommerce."

“The majority of our Q2 placements – around 70-75% – are those into digital roles, such as social media managers, CRM, and analytics,” says Rosa.

Lucy also notes that senior marketers are being retained to support the business while their teams are furloughed and that this has placed huge pressure on those individuals.

How to survive the end of the furlough scheme

It may well be that job cuts are not as severe as feared. It may be that they are worse. In the meantime, the uncertainty has been de-stabilising.

Recruiters therefore advise those who are furloughed or have spare time to take positive steps to improve job security.

Lucy Cairncross

Lucy says, “We always advise those who are redundant or job hunting to start building their skills, improving their networks and actively focusing on their own development.”

Rosa suggests job searches should focus on the sectors that have become stronger during the lockdown.

“Economists are talking about ‘economic scarring’ so understanding how consumers are going to engage with brands moving forward will be critical. It’s about the sectors that have continued to do well in this market – FMCG, supermarkets, government organisations, online retailers and then target those businesses for your job search,” she says.

In the meantime, it is worth keeping a few other issues in mind, says Lucy.

“If you are furloughed, this is a weird time. Remember that not working is unique and it won’t last forever. So make the most of the time you have; learning, spending time with your children – whatever keeps you sane and happy,” she says.