The state of the current global labour market is making it increasingly difficult to find the right candidates to fill open vacancies and close skill gaps. The perfect storm of the pandemic and Brexit is making the labour market progressively more complex, making recruitment teams’ jobs harder than ever before.
Data from the Office for National Statistics reported that from July to September 2021, the estimated number of vacancies recorded was at its highest level since records began. With industries including transport and storage, accommodation and food service, and manufacturing reporting vast surges in the number of open positions, labour shortages are now being deeply felt across entire sectors.
Furthermore, the ONS reported a quarter of businesses with recruitment difficulties named a reduced number of EU applicants as a factor, rising to almost half in the transport and storage sector, where a lack of truck drivers has led to widespread delivery bottlenecks.
In this article, we hear from 3 recruitment professionals and business leaders about the biggest challenges they are facing when attracting new talent in today’s market.
The lasting impact of Brexit and COVID-19
Stacey Cullen is Head of Staff for The Cocktail Service, a leading event bar and drink specialist agency. Having navigated the impact of the pandemic in the hospitality industry, Stacey is only too aware of the impact that Brexit has been having on the sector when it comes to attracting staff: “Recruiting high quality candidates for events work is always a challenge, but the mix of Brexit and Covid has had a massive impact on the number of staff available to work in the sector. I’ve spoken to other contacts across the industry who have had large amounts of their workforce moving into other sectors like healthcare or food delivery. Others are going back into education to retrain.”
Despite the inherent challenges of Brexit and the impact that the pandemic has had on the hospitality industry, the team at The Cocktail Service has in fact grown during the pandemic, and Stacey puts this down to a couple of key initiatives: “We managed this by devoting a lot of resources into providing regular contact points for staff throughout the past year. We’ve just held our first staff social for 2021; a little delayed but great to touch base with the team in a more relaxed setting!
“Ensuring to keep our rates of pay competitive has always given us an edge; our rates for entry level jobs have historically been above the National Minimum Wage.”
A candidate’s market
The record number of open vacancies has turned the job market on its head. In what was historically, an employer-driven market, candidates now have the upper hand. VIQU is an award-winning IT recruitment & consultancy business and their Associate Director Nicholas Hopkins has had first-hand experience of this candidate-driven world.
“Candidates are now in the driving seat, having many career options and companies available to them. I find that employers often make the mistake of believing that a candidate will wait weeks and weeks for feedback or for a formal offer. Unfortunately, when this happens, the candidate has often already accepted another job with a company that did move at a good pace. An employer that believes their brand is strong and so fantastic that a candidate will work to their slow speed is infuriating for me and incredibly naïve on their part.
“The interview process is a two-way street, candidates have as much right to interview the company as the company does to interview the candidate. However, parties on both sides often forget this. Employers don’t realise that the interview is the time to sell themselves to the candidate.”
The need for better benefits
What’s more, faced with the prospect of candidates taking the driving seat, employers need to be prepared for those candidates commanding more than just the best salary they can get.
The traditional ‘work to live’ attitude that dictates that salary should be the number one deciding factor in choosing a job is swiftly on the decline. Today, many job seekers demand other factors beyond their salaries. What is your company’s culture like? How satisfied are your employees? Is there a clear path of progression?
Amy Spurling is CEO and Founder of Compt, a provider of employee perks and rewards software. She shares how crucial employee benefits and perks have become: “There are a lot of jobs available right now – we keep hearing that businesses have plenty of openings and are struggling to fill positions. For job seekers, there is a big opportunity to pick and choose; they can take the time they need to find a company that has a culture and work environment that’s a great fit. After all, there’s no rush – there are plenty of jobs.
“It used to be that interviews were pretty one-sided. The company would grill you to decide if you were a fit for them. A lot of that has reversed and employees are now the ones interviewing companies. Employers will have to find new ways to stand out and go beyond offering a “great company culture” and “excellent work-life balance,” especially because that’s what everyone is offering nowadays.
“People are looking to work for a company that actually cares about them and fulfils their needs. Gone are the days of the Friday office pizza party. People want to be able to choose what works best for them, whether that be a gym membership, a day-care stipend, money toward a mediation app, support for continuing education, etc.”
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