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Market Insights Business Support Division

19 Oct 2020

Emma Anglim, Associate Director of Brightwater's Business Support division gives insights into market employment trends across Business Support in conversation with Gordon D'Arcy, Commercial Director


Emma Anglim, Associate Director of Brightwater who oversees the Business Support division is in conversation with Gordon D’Arcy, Commercial Director of the Group.

Thank you very much for agreeing to have a chat with me today, Emma.


Emma has been with Brightwater and in recruitment for over 14 years and has seen everything in Business Support. She is effectively the oracle when it comes to all matters of  Business Support recruitment!

How would you best describe Business Support in 5 words?

  • Busy
  • A necessity
  • Backbone – of any organisation
  • Engine – of any company
  • Chameleons

What type of characteristics would best describe those working in Business Support?

People working in Business Support tend to be outgoing with excellent inter-personal and communication skills and exceptional attention to detail.

True or False?

  • Temporary Business Support roles can only cover sick or holiday leave.

    They can cover both but can cover maternity/paternity leave. One of the main drivers for Business Support professionals right now are project related requirements. Many companies are taking on additional Business Support staff for various projects.

  • Those working in temporary Business Support roles were not able to work from home during pandemic

    This is definitely false. Many of my candidates that I had working in temporary roles continued to work. As soon as the pandemic hit, all were provided with laptops and set up to work from home.  New candidates I had starting in new positions were all on-boarded remotely and were able to work from home. Some, depending on the sector and role are working are working in an office location but many are still working from home.

  • Business Support professionals are a “jack of all trades” and not a “master of one”

    I would agree with this. Some Business Support professionals are masters of one, ie they’re experts in one particular area but the majority are essentially “jack of all trades” by the very nature of the role. We are seeing a lot of blended roles now. What were office manager roles previously are now covering roles such as reception / admin or covering a PA role and vice versa.

  • In Business Support a new role can start on a temporary basis but could be made permanent at the end of a contract.

This is absolutely true – it’s a trial run for both sides for employers and employees. Someone can go in on a temporary basis and within weeks or months be made permanent or offered a longer term contract role . It’s a win/win for both sides.

It’s been an interesting year in recruitment – can you give us an overview into year to date, focusing on Q1 and then throughout the pandemic?

From BS perspective, Q1 was superbusy, the busiest to date in my 14 years’ of recruitment so far. All areas were full steam ahead. We were busy with temporary, contract and perament roles at all levels from data entry, reception and general administration roles right through to  office support/ senior executive assistant level. Once pandemic hit however, things still continued throughout March and April. After that a lot of staff were put on temporary layoff as offices fully moved to working from home.  From August onwards, recruitment activity across Business Support picked up again. Companies at this stage realise they need to move forward independent of what’s happening and are recruiting again both on a temporary and contract basis. Employers are understandably cautious about recruiting on a permanent basis until things settle down so they are recruiting office / support staff on a temporary basis with a view to moving to a contract  or permanent role thereafter.

Going back to 1st month of pandemic – what was the biggest impact on roles? What roles were the biggest hit?

One of the biggest impacts initially was on receptionist roles. As companies moved to have their employees work from home, they set up direct dials, filtered calls so there was no real requirement for Front of House staff to meet and greet clients. These types of roles were definitely one of the biggest initial casualties. Since then, offices have slowly moved back to a hybrid way of working with a mixture of office based and working from home options so companies have taken on front of house / receptionist staff on a temporary basis.

Some of the administration roles were also hard hit. If they were not going to be in the office with the team they were supporting, they were laid off or finished up in April / May time but these roles have started moving again and we’re seeing demand start to slowly grow.

In Business Support, temporary and permanent recruitment activity are never quite at the same level. Has there been much change?

Q4 of 2019 was very busy and that fed into a very busy Q! for 2020. The temporary market was very busy but the permanent side was particularly busy, particularly on projects. What was hit initially due to the pandemic was the permanent market.  Now employers are recruiting again but as they’re unsure as to what’s happening with the pandemic in the short-term, the majority of recruitment activity is on the temporary / contract side.  This is with a view to making the roles permanent early next year (2021).

It is always a tale of 2 halves – did you witness growth in any particular industry?

There has been significant growth in some areas  and some maintained recruitment activities at previous levels. Financial Services wasn’t hugely impacted. The insurance, IT, pharmaceutical and FMCG sectors maintained their normal recruitment levels. However, there were some industries such as FMCG, pharmaceutical and some areas of financial services that needed greater support. 

Due to the nature of the job in business support, and the high tempo, is it important for recruiters to really know their candidates?

It’s a necessity in my opinion. We need to build up a good relationship with them. In the office, we’re meeting these candidates face to face which helps to build that relationship.  Now we’re meeting them over Zoom or MS teams. It’s a hugely important part of our process. We need to do a deep dive into their requirements, motivators so we can get to know them really well. This enables us to make sure we’re placing them into the right role and company.


If you were a business owner who hasn’t recruited on a temporary basis before, what would be your advice?  

I have a passion for temporary recruitment but candidates can be a little hesitant about taking on a temporary role. Employers too are cautious about taking on temporary staff initially because they don’t necessarily understand the whole process. The big plus about temp recruitment is that it’s risk free. BrightWater as the recruiter takes all the risk. We get the person set up – do all their payroll, look after their PRSI, holiday pay etc. We have a unique timesheet portal and manage the payroll which is paid on  a weekly basis. If the candidate doesn’t work out for whatever reason, or the requirement is no longer there, they can be finished up with immediate effect thanks to our terms of engagement. The risk free aspect is the huge advantage for employers when it comes to temporary recruitment. It’s a great way of getting someone in with unique skills on a short-term basis. Candidates really enjoy it.

So what you’re saying is that if you were a business now in the process of recovering, need a person in just for a short-term basis, just pick up a phone to Emma Anglim.

It’s the ideal way to do it. We’re getting lot of businesses approaching us now for Brexit, getting people geared up for Brexit, taking on temporary staff, training them in for when Brexit happens. Or because of the pandemic, clients may have made admin staff redundant but now have a backlog of admin tasks for 2/3 months. They’re now taking on staff to clear that backlog. Hiring business support professionals on a temporary basis is genuinely the ideal solution for companies right now.

Brightwater has done all the screening, reference checks. A lot of our temps have temped for us previously so we have a really good and trusting relationship with them and we’ve got positive feedback from our clients on them. We know what and who is the right fit for each organisation.

Have the events over the last few months meant that employers are now looking for different requirements for business support staff?

That’s actually a valid point – what we’re seeing is requirements for blended roles.  During this type of scenario (we’ve never been through a pandemic but we’ve seen how recessions have changed requirements, ie between 2008- 2010). What tends to happen is that companies sit back and do a full audit of their resources to see where they can amalgamate or streamline their requirements. We’re seeing a lot more blended roles now. If an organisation had 3 different people doing the roles of a receptionist / administrator / office manager, now due to costs they have merged those requirements into one role. Likewise with a PA and Office Manager role. Employers are also looking at taking resources from other departments ie accounts to blend in with an office support role. This is becoming much more prevalent

On the candidate side, they like blended roles. It gives them a bit more meat and diversity in the type of role. Once we as recruiters talk the role through properly with the employer, we can then look for the best fit for them in terms of candidates.  

How have salaries changed across Business Support?

There has been no huge knock on effect on salaries across Business Support and we don’t expect any real changes.  What we are seeing however is recruitment at junior levels happening at a slightly lower salary. The €30k roles are now around the €25/26k salaries as there is much more candidate availability at this level. Otherwise salaries haven’t been hugely impacted, we’re seeing maybe a maximum of a 2-3% decrease across some roles.

What kind of benefits can a candidate expect from working in Business Support roles?

Generally, it’s very industry specific.  Some industries have standard benefits regardless of whether you’re in a temporary, contract or permanent role. What we have seen over the last 2-3 months is that if a client is taking on someone for a 6-month contract, they are now putting into place a sign on bonus or completion bonus. This ensures that those candidates will stay with that organisation for the full length of the contract role and won’t consider other permanent roles elsewhere.  

For permanent roles, it can be very industry specific. For the majority of higher-level roles such as Office Manager or Executive Assistant level roles, the standard benefits apply such as healthcare, pension, in some cases bonuses and of course the overall softer benefits would apply.  

As companies can now onboard candidates remotely and will be investing in the whole interview/onboarding remotely process as well as the training, employers want to incentivise their temporary / contract staff to stay there for the duration of the contract.

Emma Anglim was in conversation with Gordon D’Arcy.

If businesses are looking to scale up or expect to get busier over the coming months whether it’s Brexit or Covid related, Brightwater’s Business Support division can help with any temporary / contract or permanent recruitment requirement.  Contact Emma Anglim on [email protected] or + 353 1 6621000