Facing a recruitment crisis


It’s not often that the intricacies of hiring staff make the headlines. But recently we have seen a growing number of articles in the media, all highlighting the problems some UK employers have encountered in recruiting staff.

Whether it’s looking for people with specialized expertise, as in the case of heavy truck drivers or a shortage of nurses in England, finding enough people to work in specific industries like agriculture and social services, or people looking to change jobs for better work-life balance, pay and conditions – recruiting has become a much more difficult task for many human resources departments in organizations of all kinds. sizes.

The combined forces of the pandemic and Brexit have introduced considerable uncertainty and pressures, especially in how organizations attract talent and support existing staff with training and development. Unemployment levels in the UK are falling and employment rates are rising, according to the latest figures from the ONS.

The challenges of recruiting are significant. The recent report of the Business Barometer *

found that 63% of decision makers agree that their organization found recruiting difficult because candidates lacked the skills required for the position. Almost a quarter (24%) believe that finding staff with the right skills remains the biggest challenge organizations will face over the next five years.

And this in a context where employers must invest more and more in recruitment. Not only is it taking longer, but spending on recruiting is also increasing, with 29% of people in our report saying they spent more on recruiting than in the past, with average spending per employer of around £ 25,200 per year.

The report provides an overview of the development of the current recruitment crisis. We have seen that UK employers face the most difficulties in hiring entry-level specialists – more than two-fifths (45%) of organizations find it difficult to recruit for non-senior positions. So while a lot of time and attention can be spent on executive search, in this case it’s not about top talent and top executive packages, but rather the long-term sustainability of the company. staffing which is the backbone of organizations.

Addressing this talent crisis is imperative for employers because, as our report revealed, organizations believe this skills gap will have a profound impact on the growth of their businesses. Proactively closing this gap will be essential to ensure continued success.

From the perspective of the post-pandemic workplace, computer skills are highly valued. Many companies are now to some extent an IT company, and the rapid acceleration of digital over the past couple of years means that these skills will always be in demand. So when decision makers were asked which skills are likely to become more important over the next 12 months, IT skills (such as mastering Zoom) came out on top with 37%, followed by technical / operational skills (34% ), industry specific. skills (32%) and managerial skills such as decision making (33%).

So what can the HR function do to support their companies through this crisis? One solution is to invest in training your current workforce, as a more sustainable way to close the skills gap. If recruiting is so difficult – and seems likely to remain so – then the obvious answer is to develop and retrain existing staff so that the required skills are acquired within the organization, rather than imported from a competitive market. .

From entry-level to specialists, forward-thinking employers are implementing talent management and training strategies to ensure future success over the next five years. And a critical aspect of that should be hiring apprentices – or allowing people within the organization to move on to apprenticeships to develop new learnings and skills.

It’s no surprise that this year more than half of employers believe that workplace learning and training will be critical to their long-term success, an increase from the previous year. The Business Barometer report found that despite the challenges associated with hiring entry-level talent, more than half (56%) of companies believe that on-the-job learning and training is critical to their long-term success, an increase of 8% compared to last year. Additionally, 96% of employers who currently work with apprentices plan to maintain or increase the number of apprentices in their organization – a resounding endorsement of the value of this type of training.

By supporting staff through learning, it is a win-win for organizations and individuals. Apprentices acquire knowledge and skills to help them develop their career progression and aspirations. During this time, the company makes sure that the talents stay and develop internally and that the expertise within the organization becomes more secure. On-the-job learning means skills are up to date, can be applied immediately, and staff feel their employers are investing in them as individuals.

Clearly, strategies are needed to ensure the sustainability of UK companies operating in all sectors and human resources and training and development are essential to their establishment and implementation. When staff and managers feel pressured due to shortages, it has a significant impact on all aspects of the job. More than half (56%) of employers believe that unfilled vacancies drain their workforce and that the skills shortage stifles their growth potential and can impact staff well-being.

Finally, flexibility has become both necessary and expected in many organizations since the start of the pandemic and this will apply as much to learning and development to manage the recruitment crisis as it does to everyday working life. Educational programs – be they apprenticeships, degrees, leadership programs, professional qualifications or more informal learning – will also need to be flexible. This is a challenge for HR and L&D leaders going forward: staying ahead of the skills shortage and ensuring their organizations develop the skills they need to be successful.

* Report from the Open University and the Institute of Directors