At the start of 2023, many Club members predicted recruitment and retaining staff would be one of the hot issues of the year. How businesses strengthen their ‘employer brand’ and compete successfully in the war for talent seemed to be top of many 2023 agendas.
Given the stagnating economy, having the right volume of skills and expertise was viewed as vital for business growth. Since then, national indicators are suggesting the talent war may be petering out.
The National Picture
In May, the Office for National Statistics reported that unemployment had risen to 3.9% (up by 0.1% on April, and 0.2% from March). While the figure is low in comparison to previous decades, many weren’t expecting the figure to rise.
At the same time, the ONS reported that the number of vacancies fell by 55,000 to 1,083,000 (from November 2022 to January 2023). 1.083m is still a considerable figure though. To put this into context, before the Brexit referendum and pandemic, there were just 768,000 vacancies in the UK in February 2016.
There have also been reports that the UK Economy is slower in bouncing back to pre-covid levels when you compare it to others in the G7. Initially, The IMF (International Monetary Fund) had forecast the UK Economy would shrink by 0.3% in 2023. Recently it revised its forecast and now expects the UK to grow by 0.4% in 2023.
The Local Picture
Many Club members reported that theirs and the businesses they speak with are very busy. In fact, they’re so busy most need extra pairs of hands to get everything done. Here are some indicators, members mentioned and agreed with.
- Businesses turning away work because they can’t fulfil it to their usual standards, because of a shortage of staff.
- Teams which are short-staffed having to keep a close eye on colleagues to avoid burnout from increased workloads.
- Businesses still struggling to find the right talent to fill their vacancies.
- Candidates for jobs having multiple offers on the go to consider.
At a local level then, it would seem the talent war is as strong as ever.
The majority of Club members had vacancies they were trying to fill. To help their businesses cope, some organisations were rethinking their promotion tracks to bring people on earlier in their careers. Others had instigated an internal recruiter solely focused on filling the organisation’s talent gaps.
How employment could be helped to kick-start economic growth
The session then discussed how different groups could support employment in kick-starting UK economic growth. Club members focused on three key areas – the role of businesses, the role of education and the role of government.
Strengthening employer ‘brands’
To help organisations boost their reputation and strengthen their employer brand for potential and current employees, the following suggestions were made.
- Recognise that in the current market, employers have to impress employees, and less the other way round.
- Make sure your organisation’s values are clear, but more importantly that they’re visibly ‘in action’ and not just words bandied about.
- Be clear on the profile of skills, behaviours, and attitudes required and feed this into the recruitment search. Being vague won’t help you find the people who will come and then stay with your organisation.
- Employees will remain loyal if they enjoy working for the organisation. How enjoyable is the experience of working in your organisation?
- Communicate progress regularly – informally and formally. Employees appreciate gaining feedback on their performance, what worked well or less so and the learning points to take away. It brings reassurance and helps them progress and stay loyal.
- Think about incentives which will be valued by specific employees, for example paying for training, bonuses for meeting key goals. Not everyone is motivated by the same incentives.
- Recognise more people expect a flexible working environment. It’s the norm, rather than the exception.
How education can help
Club members discussed what skills and qualities it would be good for those leaving education (school, college, university) to already have when they join the workforce. Suggestions included:
- Personal drive and independence
- A positive attitude
- Financial and commercial awareness
- Social skills and awareness
Many members felt it was important for organisations to support schools in preparing students for the workplace. For example, explaining what working life is like, giving guidance on written and communication skills for the working environment, outlining what to expect.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities for organisations to partner up with the education sector. These include attending careers days, supporting employment skills development programmes in schools, and giving students internships or industrial placements in their studies.
Another consideration was to raise awareness of alternatives to the degree-route to employment. With the high levels of debt which students are leaving university with, there is a growing interest in gaining employment and studying for professional qualifications ‘on the job’. For some this makes for a stronger learning experience, as they can apply their learning more readily to daily work.
How the government could help
The third area Club members explored was how the government could help with employment. Most felt greater support and attention should be given to apprenticeship programmes. The consensus was that they needed to be valued more and bring clearer benefits to the apprentices and businesses involved.
Other suggestions included:
- Financially incentivising employers to take on those who are unemployed.
- Widening retraining schemes (such as the ones used by the Armed Forces) to upskill people for different work sectors.
- Rethinking immigration visas for sectors which are really struggling to attract talent.
It would appear many businesses are still finding the recruitment landscape a challenge. Looking ahead, and if the economy is to grow, employers, education and the government will need to collaborate and find solutions to solve the talent gaps and boost productivity.
Fortunately, there are signs this is happening – particularly with closer relationships being forged between businesses and the education sector.
Thank you to all the Club members who joined us at our May event. If you would like to attend our future Business Club events, please get in touch with the Shipleys’ Godalming team for more information.
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