There’s no doubt that the onset of the pandemic had a dramatic impact on a range of industries worldwide. Employers and employees faced new challenges and adapted accordingly. Now, more than two years on, what’s changed? We spoke with Nicky Taglione, owner of Tag, a global headhunting company in industrial PPE. Nick has over twenty years’ experience in global PPE recruitment. Together, we’ve taken a deeper look at the long-term effects of the pandemic on the labour market, and how of out its chaos, we see a new sense of order arising within the protective clothing industry.
Changes to the workforce
Overall, the pandemic has had a major effect on various workforces. The disruption to regular work patterns had a knock-on effect, whereby many employees began to re-evaluate their work-life balance. The opportunity to work from home made both employees and employers question the traditional five-day-a-week pattern of working in offices.
For some employees, the ability to work from home led to an increase in productivity. For others, it was the opposite, as their work required close contact with others.
In the protective clothing industry, we have seen 25% of the workforce changing to another job as a result of Covid-19. Apart from work-life balance, the most common reasons for changing jobs included:
- Salary averages: workers nowadays being much more aware of what the average salaries are for their types of positions
- Career development: individuals want to know that there is a career path available for them
- Overall package and benefits: employees want to see the entire benefits of working with a company and not just a basic salary — incentives are important
- Company culture: as people want to feel happy where they work and feel valued in their working environment
- Training and support: important in all industries, but especially PPE, as products need to be sold the right way without employees second-guessing selling products that save lives
Post-pandemic, this has led to a ‘war for talent,’ with a renewed drive to bring fresh new talent into the industry.
“The pandemic led to major changes in the labour market and major changes in the PPE market. So we need to ask ourselves, how do we learn from that?” — Nicky Taglione
Effect on business owners
For those who were about to launch a new business, the pandemic invariably made this endeavour much more difficult. In addition, the post-pandemic push for talent has driven salaries for employees up. While this is undoubtedly a positive change for workers, it is an expense that smaller companies simply cannot afford.
However, a growing reliance on digitalisation allowed business owners to be more effective in their trade. For those who would usually travel as part of their work, costs were saved on transport and accommodation, owing to the new reliance on virtual working — something which has continued well beyond the first year of the pandemic.
The ability for employees to work from home has benefitted employers, too. In many instances, there is no set location for hiring talent, as long as they have the skills, allowing employers to source talent globally.
“Out of chaos comes order — following the pandemic, we see an industry awakening where people are looking to rebalance and refocus.” — Nicky Taglione
What does this mean for the protective clothing industry?
While the pandemic was an incredibly difficult time for us all, one silver lining is that it has led to an industry awakening. Employers and employees worldwide are looking to rebalance and refocus their work.
For the PPE industry, this means a number of shifts between pre and post-pandemic ways of working. We expect that:
- Hybrid work models are here to stay: as employers respond to employee demand for a better work-life balance.
- Digitalisation and automation are essential tools: the pandemic forced us to adapt to not being able to carry out our work in-person, but the work still had to go on somehow, especially in the protective clothing industry. Thus, we developed digital measurement tools: for example, tools which could take measurements of the body and of eyes virtually. We also strengthened our capacity for e-commerce, for instance developing a customer portal where supply levels and shipping status could easily be monitored. These developments were essential to get us through the pandemic, and are an excellent opportunity to provide greater access to the range of protective clothing options available to end users.
“Distributors are learning to be more flexible with how to sell a concept. Due to issues around scarcity of supply, they are now using digitalisation as an enabler, to reach the entire supply chain up to the end user. At TenCate Protective Fabrics, we will continue to focus on craftsmanship while going along with this trend.”
— Wouter van den Brink
- Data is crucial: during the pandemic, where it was not always possible for in-person sales and consultation to take place, there was a heightened demand for data. Data-driven sales mean less reliance on manpower. However, more work needs to be done around producing effective data and forecasting, in order to meet this ongoing demand and put our best foot forward when it comes to our products.
Out of chaos, comes order: moving forward
As we navigate our way through the post-pandemic world, it’s clear that there a number of shifts and changes have taken place within the labour market. While the past two years have been difficult, we are now in a position where we can reflect and adapt in the face of what we have learnt from our evolving workforce. Ultimately, if employers can find a level of flexibility that takes onboard the changes to employees’ values over the past two years, while staying true to the needs of their business and end users, we can find a new way of working that benefits everyone.