How to Hire in a Shrinking Workforce: Overcoming the UK Talent Shortage

In recent years, the United Kingdom has been grappling with a significant talent shortage, posing a challenge for organisations looking to expand their teams or fill crucial positions. The scarcity of skilled workers has created a competitive hiring landscape, requiring companies to adopt innovative strategies to attract and retain top talent. In this article, we will delve into the causes of the UK talent shortage and provide practical solutions to help organisations overcome this challenge.

What is the ‘talent shortage’ and why is it happening?

The UK talent shortage refers to the scarcity of skilled individuals needed to meet the demands of the job market. It encompasses various industries and job roles, making it difficult for organisations to find suitable candidates with the necessary qualifications and experience. Several factors are contributing to the talent shortage in the UK:

  • Demographic shifts: The ageing population and declining birth rates have resulted in a smaller pool of workers entering the job market.
  • Brexit’s impact: The UK’s departure from the European Union has caused thousands of EU workers to leave the UK and made it so that new workers are unable to easily relocate here.
  • Covid-19: the pandemic affected the workforce in a few ways. Many people experienced a huge shift in their life priorities and took the plunge into setting up on their own or retiring; a huge increase in long-term sickness both due to long covid and ensuing NHS pressures; and the workforce’s resistance to being asked to return to the office leading to increased resignations.
  • Skill gaps: Rapid technological advancements have created a mismatch between the skills employers require and those possessed by the available workforce. This gap hampers organisations’ ability to find individuals with the right expertise.

How to overcome the talent shortage

To navigate the challenges posed by the talent shortage, organisations can employ the following strategies.

a) Work on your brand and employee value proposition

Build a strong employer brand by showcasing your company culture, values, and opportunities for growth. A compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that highlights the unique benefits of working for your organisation can help attract and retain talented individuals.

b) Address your recruitment advertising

Make sure your job advertisements are compelling and clearly communicate the role’s requirements and the organisation’s unique selling points. Tailor your messaging to resonate with your target audience and consider utilising diverse advertising platforms to reach a wider pool of potential candidates.

c) Use a mix of job boards, don’t rely on LinkedIn

Explore industry-specific job boards, professional associations, and niche platforms to expand your reach and tap into specialised talent pools.

d) Offer training and skills enhancement

Offering training and skill-developing opportunities to potential and existing employees can attract candidates who are looking to develop their skills and advance their careers. Highlight these programs as part of your EVP to demonstrate your commitment to employee growth.

e) Expand your potential hiring pool and reduce bias

Consider alternative talent pools such as individuals from underrepresented groups, career changers, or those with transferable skills. Broadening your candidate search can help you discover hidden talent and reduce bias in the hiring process. For example, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) ran a survey which showed that only 40% of managers would consider hiring someone aged between 55-64, and this dropped to 18% for those over 65. Reed shares advice on how to attract an older workforce , Forbes looks at ways to attract a younger workforce, Indeed addresses how to attract mothers returning to the workplace, and People Management look at how to attract a more ethnically diverse workforce.

f) Flexible working

The post-pandemic buzzwords are surely “flexible working”. According to a whitepaper published by Cendex, a division of XpertHR, a significant 70% of HR professionals surveyed identified flexible working as a top priority for job candidates. Moreover, 67% of HR professionals stated that candidates consider a working-from-home policy as a key factor when evaluating potential employment opportunities. Emphasise your organisation’s flexibility in job postings to attract a wider range of candidates.

g) Deliver a positive candidate journey

Streamline your hiring process to ensure a smooth and positive experience for candidates. Communicate promptly, provide regular updates, and offer constructive feedback to candidates throughout the process. A positive candidate journey can leave a lasting impression and enhance your reputation as an employer.

h) Pursue passive candidates

Don’t limit your search to active job seekers. Reach out to passive candidates who may not be actively looking for new opportunities but could be enticed by a compelling offer. Utilise networking events, industry conferences, and professional social platforms can be valuable avenues for connecting with passive candidates. Engage in relationship-building conversations and showcase the unique opportunities your organisation offers to pique their interest.

Overcoming the talent shortage in a shrinking workforce requires organisations to be proactive, innovative, and adaptable in their hiring strategies. By focusing on building a strong employer brand, leveraging diverse recruitment channels, offering attractive training programs, considering unconventional talent pools, embracing flexibility, delivering a positive candidate journey, and actively pursuing passive candidates, companies can position themselves for success in attracting and retaining top talent. In this competitive landscape, it’s crucial to remain agile and continually reassess and refine your recruitment approach to meet the evolving needs of the talent market.

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