Where has all the skilled talent gone?

As the new year gets underway, HR leaders will be kickstarting their people strategies – understanding the gaps that need filling and ensuring the organisation has the right breadth and level of skills to meet its targets.
January 28, 2024

As the new year gets underway, HR leaders will be kickstarting their people strategies – understanding the gaps that need filling and ensuring the organisation has the right breadth and level of skills to meet its targets. However, the recruitment challenges U.K. HR professionals experienced in 2023 are not expected to improve in 2024, with the vast majority (90 per cent) stating that recruitment isn’t getting any easier. In fact, the biggest obstacle to finding the right people is a shortage of qualified candidates with the right skills, and so where has all the skilled talent gone and what – realistically – can HR leaders do?
In the three months to November 2023, there were approximately 949,000 job vacancies in the U.K. which is lower than the 2022 record of 1.3 million, but still remains very high. And as it stands, The World Economic Forum predicts that over 85 million jobs will go unfilled by 2030 due to a lack of skilled talent, resulting in $8.5 trillion (USD) in annual lost revenues. This makes recruiting the right talent one of the most pressing issues facing HR leaders today.

The U.K talent shortage is not due to a single cause, but is the result of a number of influencing factors from Brexit through to Covid. For instance, the U.K. saw a reduction in E.U. migration following Brexit with the Centre for European Reform estimating that the U.K’s workforce has reduced by 330,000 since Brexit.

Then there’s The Great Resignation following the pandemic which saw hundreds of thousands of skilled employees leaving the working world for good, or choosing totally different careers in which their skills weren’t passed on.

As it stands, skills shortages are impacting all types of industry, and to make matters worse, many organisations don’t appear to be investing in learning and development to the extent required – at best, workplace training has flatlined in the last decade. A CBI report reveals the stark reality of the U.K skills challenge, revealing that nine out of ten employees will need to reskill by 2030 at an additional cost of £13 billion a year.

Clearly, the external political and socio-economic forces impacting the U.K. skills shortage are outside HR leaders’ hands, however there is much they can still do to address their talent challenges.

Firstly, organisations need a solid and realistic understanding of what is attracting and keeping their people, and this only comes from asking them. Implementing an employee listening programme which includes regular pulse surveys so that employees can anonymously feedback on their experiences – from the quality of management and career development opportunities through to the company culture – is crucial for getting ‘under the skin’ of the organisation. Using the insights from the surveys, action plans can be put in place to target problem areas or replicate elements of the business that are excelling. Ultimately, this helps to create a business that’s an appealing place to work, and which more easily attracts talent.

Onboarding surveys should be used in combination with pulse surveys so that HR leaders can drill into the experiences of new hires. How did they find the recruitment process? Have they been given the tools and resources to do their job properly? Does the job fulfil the employees’ expectations? And so on. Unearthing what is and isn’t working will help to improve how employees are recruited and reduce staff attrition during the first year.

Employee listening should also be used to understanding what skill gaps exist currently and potentially into the future, and whether the company is doing enough to upskill and develop their existing workers. Prioritising skill development and actively investing in learning and development is an important way to address the skills shortage, as well as reduce staff turnover.

Once organisations have taken strides towards developing their existing workers’ skillsets, they will have a clearer idea of which skill gaps still exist and how they might be able to fill them. Looking into new or overlooked talent pools might be the answer here, such as the over 50s (‘returnships’), first-time parents who might be searching for greater work flexibility, and even digital nomads who work remotely while travelling the world.

So to successfully navigate recruitment requires you to focus on what IS within your power first. How can you make your organisation a magnet for new talent? And how can you improve the organisation’s skillset with the employees you already have? And as part of this, you need to listen to your people. Employee feedback may well uncover nuggets of valuable advice that you may never have thought of, helping you to overcome one of today’s biggest HR challenges.

Original Article: HRnews

Create an attractive environment that not only attracts top talent but also retains and engages employees in the long term. For all your recruitment challenges – contact our HR & digital recruitment specialist Gareth Allison on 02920 620702

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