How to be an employer of choice in an increasingly competitive jobs market

How do you make your business a place where the talent you crave wants to work? Claire McCartney examines recent CIPD research and provides five tips to help your organisation become an employer of choice.

The CIPD and Hays recently launched their resourcing and talent planning survey 2017. The survey sampled over 1,000 HR professionals in February and March of this year and examined a range of issues including: the impact of the external climate; recruitment budgets and costs; resourcing and talent management practice; and employee turnover and retention.

We have seen more organisations than ever before say that competition for well-qualified talent has increased in the last year. This, coupled with the fact that the skills needed for jobs in organisations are changing and evolving, means that recruitment difficulties are at increasingly challenging levels.

The research found that three-quarters of organisations experienced recruitment difficulties in the last year and one-tenth had trouble recruiting for more than 50% of their roles.

On top of that, the uncertainty that has been caused by the UK’s decision to leave the EU is already being felt on the ground by recruitment and talent professionals, with around one-fifth noticing an increased cautiousness in prospective candidates and around the same proportion seeing evidence of an increased cautiousness in their organisations’ recruitment.

Three-fifths of organisations also anticipate that in the next three years, as a direct result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, they will experience increased difficulty in recruiting senior and skilled employees, and two-fifths anticipate increased difficulty in recruiting operational staff.

These contextual challenges highlight the increasing imperative for organisations to strengthen their recruitment channels and position themselves as an employer of choice.

Strengthening recruitment channels

Technology is helping organisations to build effective recruitment channels, with corporate websites, professional networking sites and commercial job boards seen as the most effective channels overall.

There is also a growing trend for organisations to combine in-house and outsourcing activities as part of their recruitment delivery. This appears to help organisations to widen their recruitment channels and access quality candidates.

Search and recruitment consultants, for instance, are rated as the most effective channel for attracting senior and middle managers and professionals/specialists, while in-house channels such as company websites, professional networking sites and access to jobs boards are seen as effective attraction channels for several other roles.

However, if organisations do work with recruitment partners, it is pivotal that they are just that, a partner, and have a clear understanding of the organisation’s business and values.

More work, though is needed, when it comes to the recruitment process itself, with two-fifths of employers agreeing that they have lost potential candidates due to the length of their recruitment process. This seems to be somewhat of an own goal by organisations and, while it is important that there is enough rigour in selection processes to ensure that they are fair and effective, this needs to be balanced with the need for selection processes that also work for candidates.

A renewed focus on employer brand

Encouragingly, the research suggests that many organisations are placing a renewed focus on their employer brands – a key way in which they can position themselves as an employer of choice.

Almost nine in 10 (89%) organisations have made efforts to improve their employer brand over the last year. This proportion has increased from an already high 86% in 2015.

Most of the organisations who are focusing on improving their employer brand have improved their corporate website, recognising that this is often the first point of contact with potential candidates and a highly effective recruitment channel.

Almost half have also improved candidate experience. This is particularly important given the lasting impression a poor experience can create and the likelihood that many candidates will also be consumers.

With the increased popularity of and transparency provided by platforms such as Glassdoor, one negative experience can be substantially amplified. More than two-fifths of those improving their employer brand have also attended career fairs or networking events and almost one-third have made their pay and benefits more competitive.

It is encouraging to see that many organisations are recognising that values are increasingly important to candidates and employees alike and that they should be at the heart of their brands. Values continue to top the list of elements organisations believe most important to attracting candidates, followed jointly by career development opportunities and pay and benefits.

Reassuringly, this mirrors what employees say they are looking for from new roles. Global LinkedIn research from 2016 found many candidates agreeing that companies pique their interest if they talk about organisation culture, values and offer opportunities for career growth.

Positioning yourself as an employer of choice

There are a number of things you can do to help your organisation to become an employer of choice:

  • Create a positive candidate experience: Take on board feedback from both successful and unsuccessful candidates and ensure that your selection process is engaging, thorough and fit for purpose.
  • Put organisation values at the heart of your offering: Candidates are increasingly becoming attracted by an organisation’s culture and values, so ensuring that your values are clearly communicated and shown to be at the centre of your employee and customer experience will likely reap benefits.
  • Focus on career growth opportunities: Career development and growth opportunities matter to candidates and employees alike. There are plenty of ways in which you can develop people without having to break the bank. Think about opportunities for cross-function working, working on special projects, short or longer-term secondments and internal mentoring schemes.
  • Review your pay and benefits: Over the last few years, we have seen a period of considerable pay restraint and, more recently, pay has not kept apace with inflation. Where possible, review your approach to pay and benefits and think about adjustments you can make to increase your appeal to new joiners and employees.
  • Evaluate and review your recruitment and retention practices: Less than one-fifth of organisations in the research have any return on investment measures when it comes to their recruitment processes currently. This is a missed opportunity. Even the simplest forms of measurement can be effective, such as tracking the turnover rate of new hires, seeking feedback from candidates on their experience and monitoring the performance of new recruits. This will give organisations the insight to attract and retain well and strengthen their position as an employer of choice.
Claire McCartney

About Claire McCartney

Claire McCartney is associate research adviser at the CIPD.
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