Upskill and diversify: Strategies for overcoming recruitment challenges

Employers could do more to attract labour from diverse talent pools in order to tackle skills shortages
Employers could do more to attract labour from diverse talent pools in order to tackle skills shortages

In the second of a series of articles looking at how organisations can tackle growing recruitment challenges, Claire McCartney from the CIPD digs deeper into the statistics.

In the first of our articles for Personnel Today drawing upon our recent resourcing and talent planning survey with Hays, we explored what organisations were doing to strengthen their employer brands and become employers of choice.

Now it is time to take a look at the number and depth of recruitment difficulties being experienced by organisations and the strategies that they are adopting to overcome these. In a future article, we will focus in on what organisations can do to develop and upskill existing employees.

Depth of difficulty

Recruitment difficulties remain substantial for organisations, with three-quarters experiencing them in the last year. Such difficulties are consistently high across sectors.

When it comes to the depth of challenge this seems to be substantial, with one-tenth of organisations experiencing difficulties recruiting for more than 50% of their vacancies.

Professionals/specialists (64%) are the roles that have been the most difficult to recruit for over the last year. Technical positions (40%) and senior managers or directors (30%) follow closely behind.

Reasons given for these difficulties include: a lack of specialist or technical skills; candidates looking for more pay than could be offered; and a lack of relevant sector/industry experience.

Public-sector organisations are particularly likely to report difficulties filling professional/ specialist positions, while manufacturing-and-production organisations are particularly likely to report difficulties filling technical and manual/ craft workers.

Finally, not-for-profit organisations are particularly likely to report difficulties filling service roles. These difficulties reflect the demand for different types of positions within sectors.

Against this backdrop of recruitment difficulties and skills shortages, respondents also emphasise that the skills needed to do jobs are changing.

Three-quarters of HR professionals believe this is the case in their own organisations and they suggest that professionals with leadership, digital and commercial awareness skills are likely to increase in demand over the next 12 months. These are all skills and roles that will help strengthen organisations’ current positions and potentially support future growth.

How to overcome these challenges

In a change from our previous survey, organisations are now most likely to reduce recruitment difficulties by upskilling existing employees to fill hard-to-recruit-for positions.

The previous most popular choice for this – sponsoring relevant professional qualifications – has now been pushed down to second place.

Employers are also looking to different industries to recruit candidates with transferable skills. It is encouraging to see that organisations continue to be open-minded when it comes to recruiting candidates with potential but without experience (lack of experience is often cited as a reason for recruitment difficulties).

Organisations in the public sector are more likely than other sectors to be addressing recruitment difficulties by recruiting candidates from overseas.

However, this strategy is likely to be impacted in some way by the outcome of any Brexit negotiation deal. The public- and manufacturing-and-production sectors are more likely to be developing apprenticeship schemes in response to recruitment difficulties.

The public sector is also more likely to be partnering with other organisations to fill any skills gaps. Finally, private-sector organisations (including manufacturing and production) are more likely to be targeting passive candidates than the other sectors in a bid to overcome recruitment difficulties.

Delivering on diversity

While organisations are, on the whole, being proactive when it comes to trying to overcome recruitment difficulties and skills shortages, one area that could be improved upon is diversity and inclusion.

The proportion of organisations with a formal diversity strategy in place is slightly down on previous years. In the light of ever-increasing competition for talent and recruitment difficulties, organisations need to broaden, rather than restrict, their potential pool of candidates in the UK.

The most common method used to address diversity issues is the monitoring of recruitment/ staffing information to obtain data on gender, ethnicity, disability, age and so on.

While this can be useful, if that data is not used and evaluated as part of recruitment and talent strategies, it can become meaningless.

A number of the other methods used to address diversity have decreased in practice this year, with the biggest decrease being in organisations seeking to attract talent of all ages.

While we have seen that many organisations are making progress in developing the skills of younger employees, it is important that they do not take their focus away from the other end of the spectrum too, with more seasoned employees having just as much to offer organisations.

Claire McCartney

About Claire McCartney

Claire McCartney is associate research adviser at the CIPD.
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