Business management

The talent gap: adapt now to attract and retain brilliant people

By doing things differently, proactive business owners can strengthen resilience, avoid gaps in their workforce and keep the skills they need.

You’ve all heard about the “great resignation”, a term coined in May 2021 by Anthony Klotz, Associate Professor of Management at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University, to describe a mass worker exodus. 

Brexit has contributed to the phenomenon in the UK, a consequence of EU migrant workers leaving since the referendum in 2016. In some sectors, where lower skilled EU nationals would typically take up employment, this shortage of workers is being felt acutely. 

Care homes, logistics and hospitality have been affected but other sectors include cleaning, catering and agriculture. 

Covid has also contributed to the great resignation. As a result of the requirement for care workers to be vaccinated against Covid 19, those who choose not to agree to this may no longer work in the sector.

Remote and flexible working has meant that employees are no longer restricted to working for employers within a reasonable commuting distance of their homes. The job market has opened up – geographical location is no longer a prohibitor for workers across the UK. 

Another relatively recent phenomenon is ‘time millionaires’. These workers value the time they have been able to reclaim during the pandemic more than income and bonuses. 

The Office for National Statistics reports that many workers furloughed during the pandemic are not returning to their jobs or are demanding the flexibility to be able to spend more time on leisure activities and with family. 

The pandemic has caused many workers to revaluate their priorities, deciding their lives will be enriched by having free time, even if that means their earning capacity is reduced. 

The proactive steps you can take right now

In this environment, job seekers will feel more empowered to negotiate details like salary, benefits and working conditions. 

If, as an employer, you’re not prepared to take a more progressive approach towards working, recruitment and retention, you could find yourself in crisis mode. 

There are some short- to medium-term actions that businesses can take to build resilience.

Where possible, offer greater flexibility in policies, pay and benefits 

Consider whether you can increase wages to retain and attract employees. It’s not always easy to do without passing on costs to the customer. However, it can be more cost-effective than the prospect of running the business with vacancies, meaning productivity is significantly reduced, which could impact income in other ways.

Adapt your recruitment parameters

Since the onset of the pandemic the number of individuals in the temporary workforce seeking permanent employment has increased by 34%. Offering permanent, as opposed to temporary, employment opportunities may give employers advantages in the current war for talent.

Revisit your talent acquisition strategy

Be more inclusive. Widen the channels that you use for recruitment and consider different, flexible working patterns to reach a broader and more diverse talent pool. Staff are now expecting greater flexibility – employers that don’t adapt will lose talent to employers that do.

Think about your overall value proposition and promote it

For example, investing in training and development of employees, and provision of future career progression and opportunities. Both are attractive – equally or more attractive to some people – than wage.

Watch our experts discuss talent attraction and retention, below.

Plan for succession

For the longer term, businesses will need to consider how they build their future pipeline of talent, and they need to think about it now.

  • What skills do you need in the future as we see more and more automation of low-skilled activities?
  • Have you considered how enhancement of digital technologies and artificial intelligence will impact your people and your strategy?
  • Exploring options such as apprenticeships might be beneficial to build a pipeline of talent and start developing future skills requirements today.

Remote recruitment and working

There are challenges that didn’t exist pre-pandemic. New employees often don’t get the opportunity to meet and work alongside their colleagues on a daily or regular basis, for example. This can affect the employee’s feeling of being connected. 

Sometimes, those who are less ‘visible’ due to working remotely, such as part-time or lower-skilled workers, can be forgotten about, especially if they are not joining or participating in virtual meetings on a regular basis. This can lead to them being overlooked for opportunities that may not have been a problem when everyone worked together in one place. 

Employers should ensure they do the following to minimise these issues:

  • be purposeful and deliberate about managing remote workers 
  • have regular, direct, honest, transparent communication with workers 
  • set expectations around culture and goals to establish individual accountability 
  • have an operating rhythm around one-to-ones
  • listen to and act on concerns raised
  • make sure the team has the support and tools they need
  • do ‘pulse’ checks and surveys on well-being, inclusion and diversity
  • have regular team meetings to combat feelings of isolation

In a nutshell

Get it right

You’ll attract the best and brightest talent to your business. As the UK economy builds back, this is crucial for all sorts of reasons, including stability, growth and a return to profit.

Get it wrong 

You could face poor productivity, increased stress and sickness, and even risk losing your business due to inability to meet customer demand. 

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