Skills shortage is biggest challenge facing HR staff

Recruitment is still the biggest challenge facing HR professionals despite the
economic downturn, according to research by IRS Employment Review.

Its survey of more than 300 HR managers and directors finds that almost 75
per cent put recruitment at the top of their list of priorities, well ahead of
second-placed HR concern, absenteeism

The study finds that 80 per cent of HR manager and directors encountered
recruitment difficulties in the 12 months to February 2002 and 82 per cent
think their ability to fill vacancies will remain the same or get worse over
the next year.

IRS Employment Review managing editor Mark Crail said the findings show the
jobs market is still extremely competitive despite high-profile job cuts in the
wake of 11 September.

The CIPD believes employers must think creatively if they want to recruit
the best people in a limited jobs market.

CIPD chief economist John Philpott said: "Everyone knows the tricks of
the trade – offering increased benefits, bonuses and salaries – but soon
employers will need to establish unique selling points and promote corporate image
to increase loyalty."

Barry Towell, personnel and training manager for Stroud District Council,
thinks the problem of an ageing workforce with fewer people entering the jobs
market is adding to recruitment pressures.

"The demographic time bomb that was all the rage 10 years ago has not
exploded, but is still fizzing away. It is a market that favours employees,
especially those with sought-after skills, rather than employers," he
said.

Research by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and Andersen shows
the number of permanent job placements increased in March and April and is at
its highest level for a year.

www.irsemploymentreview.com

By Quentin Reade

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John Philpott, chief economist,
CIPD

"The Labour market is still fairly tight despite the
economic downturn so it’s hard to get good people. When staff cuts are made the
better people are kept on and not released into the market so the quality is
not there.  Over the past few years this
has got worse as low unemployment means there are less good people looking for
work. At the moment there is more of a drive towards quality and productivity.
Organisations will need to look at what staff they have and the onus will move
from recruitment to training and development."

Graham Thompsett, recruitment
manager, Land Rover

"HR needs to be more strategic and look into the crystal
ball. With retention, in certain areas it can still be difficult because the
money that needs to be offered to retain staff can break your salary structure.
You need to be flexible in the benefits you offer. It’s still an employees’
market. In some areas the talent is more mobile so organisations need to be
more flexible to retain staff. They need to look at hours, pay and benefits and
create a bespoke attitude to contracts."

Stephen Bevan, directory of
consultancy, Work Foundation

"People are not worried about the quantity of staff they
are losing, but rather the quality. There is recognition that there is a small
pool of people who are suitable for the job. Different strategies – not just
pay and benefits – are needed to retain staff. Individual deals are needed, and
people, especially those in IT, are now more concerned with their personal
development."

Alf Turner, HR director, British
Gas

"Recruitment is as hard as it has ever been because
although we are getting good responses we are not getting the excellent
candidates. It is expensive to get the good candidates from other jobs. Overall
I am optimistic. I believe over the next 12 months we will recruit more, but
still, getting the right people will become harder. To combat this we are going
to rely less on agencies because with direct recruitment you are fishing in a
bigger, higher quality pool.

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