2021: A Year in Review

As I sit down to write this, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking where did the year go! Surely it’s been three months and not twelve? I think we are all well and truly allergic to the word ‘unprecedented’, but we can certainly agree it’s been a very different sort of year.

As a business we started January 2021 in lockdown and we are ending December 2021 in a sort-of lockdown. But this does not tell the whole story.

The beginning of the year was most definitely the darkest time for me personally as I recall my three young children having one day at school and then it was straight into lockdown and home schooling. We had been there before, but it was back in the summer – enjoying possibly the best UK weather I can ever recall! This time it was different. It was cold, dark, gloomy and we had all had about enough.

As the clouds started to lift and the sun peeked through, the employment market woke up and soon began to make hay. Business as a whole was adopting a far more resilient attitude with the sense of ‘we just need to crack on’. There is of course one essential ingredient here that accounts for that momentum – people.

The previous year had seen so many changes, redundancies, furloughs and individuals changing career. All of this had left huge gaps in many organisations which essentially resulted in one of the most buoyant job economies we have ever seen. Everybody was hiring and nobody (apparently) could find the right talent.

As a recruitment business this is a better scenario for us than a baron market with lots of candidates and no open roles. However, it has not been without its challenges. Targeting, sourcing, engaging and placing the right person into the right role is still a tricky process. Multiple offers, counter-offers, and last-minute changes are all still ready to slap you in the face once your head is turned.

With all this going on in the background you would think we would have our heads down at NRG and be quietly beavering way.

Not quite.

Our own CEO Therese Liddle stepped down in May to enjoy an early retirement. After more than thirty years in the business you could say it was more than deserved! My colleague Leanne Chambers and myself both stepped up into MD roles for greenbean and NRG respectively. This was a huge change for both of us personally and of course for the business. Luckily, the company was in good shape. As mentioned, we were also fortunate to be in a favourable employment market.

For me, it was not my first time as an MD but my first time leading this great business. It can be a tricky balance, to leverage existing success but also define and shape things your own way to head in new directions. A continuation of the same trajectory but with a different methodology. As they so eloquently say in my other home of Asia: “same same but different!”

I don’t want this review to sound like a promotion or a boast of what we have done. The truth is this: We have had a record year and performed above and beyond all expectations. That is not down to me but to the hard work of all our staff. Their energy, drive and commitment genuinely never fails to surprise me.

I told the team my strategy for this year was very simple – ‘lets fix the roof while the sun is shining’. That meant to overhaul, review, upgrade, change and improve absolutely every aspect of this business to make it even greater.

There were times when even my closest managers were saying to me ‘more changes?’ The answer was always ‘yes, more changes’. More opportunities to improve and do things better.

So, did I fix the roof by December? Not quite! But we are no longer standing knee-deep in water with buckets around us. A few more bricks here and there and some final touches but it is now a safe and solid structure.

Moving into 2022, whatever happens with Omicron or the latest variant, as a business we are in good shape. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that we’re incredibly resilient and can always make the best of a challenging situation.

Lastly, I would like to thank all the clients and candidates who have supported us this year. We hope we can continue to engage with great people on both sides for many more years to come.

James Carss is the Managing Director of NRG.