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Recruitment Trends 2021: Marketing, Digital and Technology

Author: Sam Shinners
Recruitment Trends 21

In early 2021, 5 million jobs were being secured by the UK government’s furlough scheme - and as September 30th rolled around, thousands of workers waited with bated breath to see what would happen. Originally, experts expressed huge concerns about how many pandemic-impacted businesses would be able to retain staff once they lost vital support - worried about what a sudden increase in unemployment rates would do to our economy. 

However, October data actually revealed an increase in recruitment activity across the UK. In fact, the UK unemployment rate sat fairly steady at 4.5% (0.5 percentage points higher than before COVID-29, but 0.4 percentage points lower than the previous quarter)

Despite economic uncertainty, UK businesses seemed determined to prioritise their existing employees across 2021, with a CIPD survey discovering that employee wellbeing continues to “rise up the corporate agenda,” and 50% of companies now have a formal wellbeing strategy (up from 44% in 2020).  

Forward Role attributes this increase to rising concerns from business owners, after data dropped that 1 in 4 UK workers are currently considering a job change, in a September 2021 survey, over “40% of larger businesses were struggling to recruit” and this was likely due to our newly-transformed candidate-driven market, where many job seekers are demanding higher work flexibility. In particular, the Marketing, Digital, and Tech sectors have been impacted by a growing labour shortage - with UK job vacancies surging to a record high 2.7 million in 2021

As the pandemic moved us into what recruiters called “The Great Resignation”, we’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel emerge: the so-called “The Great Attrition” - setting the stage for an attractive market for any company looking to fill gaps. 

2021 Recruitment Trends

Going forward, every growing company needs to stay on top of recruitment trends. In markets like Digital and Tech, fierce competition for high-skilled candidates is arising. For fast-growing service providers like Marketing, filling job roles and predicting labour movements could be the difference between accepting new clients and continuously turning business away.


Marketing Sector

Digital marketing spending in the UK grew by 9.6% between 2020 and 2021, according to aCyber Crew study, with traditional marketing methods barely an afterthought for many hybrid businesses. The pandemic fortified an online economy and forced businesses to adapt their business model and redistribute advertising and marketing budgets accordingly. Marketing methods like Social Media Management were more important than ever - and businesses turned to Marketing firms and consultants for advice on how to reach and sell to their customers in our new working environments. 


As a result of the increasing IoT, the UK now “boasts the biggest digital advertising market” in Europe, where the industry grew by 4.8% in the last year (Source: Group M). This growth generated recruitment searches for vital high-skilled roles, with popular jobs posted on LinkedIn including:

  • Marketing Specialists

  • Digital Marketing Managers

  • Social Media Managers

  • Copywriters

  • Account Managers and Supervisors (which made it on the “5 Most In-Demand Jobs in the UK 2021” list published by Corr Recruitment in September)

  • Digital Account Executives


Technology Sector

According to Tech Nation’s 2021 report, demand for tech jobs in June 2021 was 42% higher than the same period in 2019 - and these listings made up a prominent 13% of all UK vacancies. A Robert Walters publication also discovered that 70% of tech employers are anticipating a shortage in labour resources, with the majority seen  in Yorkshire (73%), London (62%), and the North (55%).

Despite arising concerns and difficulties to fill executive and leadership roles, the UK market is primed to expand its search for talent. With the closure of Brexit comes rising popularity in Global Talent Visas, which allow data scientists and engineers from across the world to settle in the UK to work. Thankfully, this is complemented by vast tech sector growth in the UK, meaning the market can create appealing job opportunities to attract global talent. 

Alongside international recruitment, the Technology sector could respond to rising skills demand by:

  • Investing in education, like STEM sponsorships and University scholarships.

  • Embracing SaaS recruitment processes, using data-driven recruitment to efficiently communicate with candidates.

  • Adopting updated recruitment strategies, where 8 in 10 technology job seekers search for their next opportunity online, but only 28% of employers are utilising job boards

  • Building relationships with freelancers and potential temporary workers who can help fill urgent surges in demand over busy periods.

  • Working with specialised Tech recruitment firms.


Digital Sector


As of the 5th Feb 2020, the UK digital sector was worth more than £400 million a day to the economy -7.7% of the UK economy as a whole. Many businesses now require digital support across websites, IT, and data management - resulting in one in eight advertised UK tech jobs requiringdigital-based skills.

This sudden surge in demand for web developers, software programmers, and data engineers have pushed average wages up across the board, with businesses desperate to attract skilled talent. We can also expect to see benefit packages improving as businesses compete with each other to secure the skills and qualifications they need.

In 2021, this fight has already started, evidenced by Tech Nation discovering that many UK-based digital and tech jobs currently being advertised offer a salary premium of up to 50%.

2022 Recruitment Trends


All the evidence is pointing towards an increasing necessity for improved recruitment processes, creating vast opportunities for data-driven recruitment. This growth will be directly supported by new advancements in RPA and SaaS technologies, where AI can now help review CVs to find ideal candidates according to specific job requirements. Data-driven recruitment can also:

  1. Decrease overall hiring costs.

  2. Reduce human error and mistakes.

  3. Improve efficiency and response times.

Alongside, we can also expect to see more candidate negotiations (as labour shortages result in increased bargaining power), and higher demand from companies needing to work with recruitment firms for hard-to-fill executive roles, especially in Marketing, Digital, and Technology organisations. 

Working with Forward Role

For help expanding your horizons and driving change in your industry through intelligent recruitment, contact us! At Forward Role, you’ll find genuine Marketing, Digital, and Tech experts who care passionately about delivering for their clients and candidates.

If you're a candidate, we'll treat you the way we'd like to be treated when making an important life decision like moving jobs. If you're a client you can expect exceptional delivery and communication as a matter of course.


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