2021 recruitment check list

Article written by X4 Group’s CEO, Peter Rabey.

With the upheaval in business operations since March 2020, many organisations are now looking forward to embracing the “new normal” in 2021. Casting my mind back to January 2020 it feels like a completely different world. Many people and businesses who have done things a certain way for their whole working lives now realise that some things mean they can be better at their jobs and have more enriched lives by changing things up.

Because of this I think 2021 is not just an opportunity to return, but for many to be the best yet.

Companies worldwide are now set up to enable a huge part of their workforce to successfully work remotely through a range of digital mediums, so the workplace is set to be dramatically different in 2021. As an employer myself and a recruitment partner to a large number of businesses worldwide, here is a breakdown of the key things we’re discussing with our clients to prepare for 2021.

Flexible working

Continuing to give your employees flexible working opportunities is going to be key to your success (there are exceptions for certain industries where remote is not possible, but where appropriate, flexible working is key).

Gone are the days when you worry your employees’ version of working from home is checking emails whilst binging Netflix. The benefits of flexi and home working have been proven. Employees now have added freedom of where they work and when, giving them a much better work life balance.

Hire for cultural add, not fit

In contrast to the culture fit mindset, which seeks to hire and retain more of what is already working for you, culture add focuses on gaining valuable elements that your culture lacks. The hiring question then shifts from “What is this person lacking?” to “What can this person bring to the table?”

Embracing culture add can be uncomfortable at first if like me, your company has historically focused on culture fit, but don’t shy away from hiring people different to you.

Virtual “cultural checks”

Fully virtual interview processes are here to stay. The first virtual culture check is defining your culture to the candidate without them being able to experience it firsthand through a work sample day or meeting the team in person. Things like ensuring you have an up to date Instagram page and careers page giving an inside look on day to day life in the business, informative PDF’s of the career progression, video content and interviews with existing employees, images/videos of the office, company expectations, values and policies etc. are all great things to have available to allow you to define your culture virtually.

The second virtual culture check is the screening process to discover how the candidate will add and contribute to your company culture. Do they offer something new and unique, do they share similar attributes to some of your top performers, do they share your company values and buy into the vision? Online personality and skills assessments are a great way to get a better understanding of a candidate’s soft skills and capabilities.

Diversity and inclusion

With diversity and inclusion being an increasingly more important factor for employees when looking for their next employer, more businesses will be striving to diversify their workforce, allowing for new ideas and ways of working.


New hires will be looking for employers they can trust who have proven they treat their employees fairly during challenging times. Be ready for candidates to ask you how your company managed to get through the pandemic and the percentage of employees that were let go.

Digital first processes

Presentations, meetings, events, learning and development etc. all need to have a virtual option. 2021 isn’t the end of face to face events and meetings, however it’s key to have an online version where possible to cater to your remote audience.

This might not only mean investing in digital technology, but also investing in developing your employees’ technical skills to create a digital-first culture and mindset. To succeed in 2021, your team should feel empowered by improving their technical ability.

Digital skills will be increasingly sought after to support the new technological infrastructure and ongoing digital transformations.


X4 Group’s Finance Director, Jonathon Richardson shares his financial advice:

From a financial perspective cash flow is of huge importance. Can you stomach an increase in staff and the resulting salaries? For how long? When is it realistic that they will generate revenue and when will this turn into cash in your bank account?

It sounds perverse but with some predicting the strongest growth since 1941(!) next year you could risk over trading and overextending yourself. Liquidity and managing working capital are key, especially set against the context of repaying legacy COVID debt from VAT deferrals and CBILS repayments starting to fall due. You may need to temper that enthusiasm to hire, hire, hire without any checks and balances allowing you to manage the growth in a sustainable and robust manner for the longer term.


From 1 January 2021 you’ll need to have a sponsor licence to hire most workers from outside the UK. Freedom of movement between the UK and EU will end and the UK will introduce an immigration system that will treat all applicants equally, regardless of where they come from. Anyone you want to recruit from outside the UK, excluding Irish citizens, will need to apply for permission first.

The requirements are different for each visa.

The new system will not apply to EEA or Swiss citizens you already employ in the UK. EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020, and their family members, can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. They have until 30 June 2021 to apply.

If you want to transfer a worker from a part of your business overseas to work for you in the UK, they can apply for the Intra-Company Transfer route. Applicants will need to be existing workers who will undertake roles that meet the skills and salary thresholds.

Check here for a full breakdown of information:


From 6 April 2021, all public sector clients and medium or large-sized private sector clients will be responsible for deciding your worker’s employment status. This includes some charities and third sector organisations.

If the off-payroll working rules apply, your worker’s fees will be subject to tax and National Insurance contributions. I would highly recommend reading through this gov link which gives a really clear breakdown of all the areas you need to be aware of.

Will the GDPR still apply when we leave the EU?

According to the ICO, the GDPR is an EU Regulation and, in principle, it will no longer apply to the UK from the end of the transition period. However, if you operate inside the UK, you will need to comply with UK data protection law. The government has said that it intends to incorporate the GDPR into UK data protection law from the end of the transition period – so in practice there will be little change to the core data protection principles, rights and obligations found in the GDPR.

The EU version of the GDPR may also still apply directly to you if you operate in Europe, offer goods or services to individuals in Europe, or monitor the behaviour of individuals in Europe.

The GDPR will still apply to any organisations in Europe who send you data, so you may need to help them decide how to transfer personal data to the UK in line with the GDPR.

As always, if anyone in my network wants to discuss their hiring strategy in more detail, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.

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