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Talent War Begins – 5 Strategies Employers Need to Survive!


In the past few months UK unemployment has fallen 6.9% to pre-recession levels and wages/temporary pay rates in certain areas are rising at their fastest in decades.

In all technological and engineering sectors, skills shortages are becoming acute and causing a major concern to business owners. For example in the construction industry, businesses that bid on fixed-price contracts a year ago, are now sourcing labour at 20-30% higher than they budgeted.

Skill shortages are not going to improve anytime soon; if anything they will get much worse. One hanging question for employers is: (Can you win the talent war?)

Around the turn of the year several reports were published by prominent companies in the recruiting world, KPMG, REC, Manpower which all came to the same conclusion, 2014 is now a candidate driven market. For the first time since the recession began, there are more jobs being posted than there are candidates available with the skills to fill these roles.

As any GCSE student of economics will tell you, when demand exceeds supply, the price of labour (wages and pay rates) rises. This has been obvious in the first quarter of 2014. In April KPMG/REC reported permanent salaries rising at their fastest rate since 2007. In sectors emerging quickest from the recession, such as engineering, IT and construction, wages are accelerating at remarkable rates.

For example, the notoriously low-paid construction industry is rapidly developing with a monthly increase of £1 per hour for some trades. According to a recent report, construction businesses are looking to employ 182,000 additional workers in 2014. If this does happen, there will inevitably be implications for the sector.

We have witnessed these high levels of employment before, so some may argue the skills are still there in the economy. Sadly however recruiters will tell you they are not. Many skilled workers left construction due to the lack of jobs and retrained in other areas, such as retail, teaching, healthcare and IT; preferring to work in sectors less vulnerable to boom and bust. Many overseas and EU workers have returned home and with the Eurozone economy now growing, they too are preferring to stay more local.

The demand shows no sign of abating. Almost half a million new private sector jobs are to be created in next 12 months the ICAEW Grant Thornton BCM quarterly survey reported this month. Once again as we reported earlier thetop five sectors for growth this year concluded that in construction, IT & communications and business/financial services employment; growth would be between 3.2-3.5%.

In a nutshell – freely available talent is now a thing of the past.

Employers have to change their recruiting behaviours if they are to continue to grow their businesses. As any employer or hiring manager will tell you, talent acquisition is the key to driving business forward. It isn’t just sourcing talent that needs to be a priority; they need to look at preserving that talent.

For young recruitment consultants who have been sourcing talent for the past 5-10 years, this talent shortage may be a new concept. For those of us who have a grey hair or two, we have been here before. However, this time it’s different. Very-different.

When we emerged from the recession of the 80s/90s, recruitment boomed in all sectors, making the life of the recruiter somewhat easy. Talent was abundantly available, so recruiters could cherry-pick candidates.

Globalisation is one factor that changed all that. Organisations can now switch suppliers to outsource certain services to foreign countries where skills and labour are hugely cheaper.

So what do employers need to do?

1 – Long Term Resource Planning

Every employer (SMEs and multi-nationals alike) needs to produce resilient resource plans and create flexible talent sourcing strategies. With talent no longer freely accessible, businesses need to accept that it will take them 3-6 months to have any new recruits on-board. In some cases longer, maybe never. They need to adjust business/project plans accordingly. Alternatively they need to employ interim, temp and contract staff and accept they will pay a premium for it.

Sensible businesses will start to produce resource plans based upon their five-year business projections. These will need to be contingent on hitting certain business milestones but every business will need to do this going forward.

Larger businesses will no doubt look at pipelining their own staff. Who could be the next team managers, unit managers, senior developers and business champions? Roles crucial to your business growth will need to be given greater consideration.

Smart businesses and recruitment agencies will work with employees to develop career paths in line with these plans and support employees with their own personal development plans. They will ensure that as their business revenues grow so does their own talent pool.

Quality talent is no longer a commodity that can be bought, sold and traded. It needs developing and nurturing.

2 – Measure and Improve your Employee Value Proposition

Your employee value proposition (EVP) is the term used to describe the characteristics and appeal of working for an organisation. An effective EVP can bring an organisation significant benefit.

According to Corporate Leadership Council research a well thought through and executed EVP can:

* Improve commitment of new hires by 29%
* Reduce new hire compensation premiums by up to 50%
* Increase the likelihood of employees acting as advocates from 24% to 47%
* Top-performing organisations are able to spend 10% less on base pay compared to under-performing organisations.

It also increases a business access to passive candidates by an estimated 29% and makes the whole task of hiring the best talent so much easier.

Smart businesses will measure and look to improve their EVP. They will take advice from their recruitment agency partners who invariably know which are the best employers in a region. They don’t need a Sunday Times report to tell them and if you ask them they will probably tell you.

One quick win you can implement is to remember that most unsuccessful candidates that come for an interview with your company are probably sitting next to the candidate you want to employ. So make sure EVERY candidate goes away raving about your business, so the best candidates have a positive opinion of your company.

Check out “Talentsmoothie’s info sheet” for more information.

3 – Develop Strategic Resourcing Relationships

By now you will have realised that the future of talent acquisition requires a very different approach and skills than in the past. Fostering and developing partnerships and relationships with key niche recruiters is going to be critical in sourcing the right talent too.

Identifying true experts in the areas you are in is imperative. You cannot expect employers to know every skill market; where the best candidates are, which employers are churning staff, who is the best employer in your market and what the best candidates need to attract them. This is where your true partners come in.

Building networks of people who can assist you develop successful strategies for your business will strengthen your resourcing. From the top down, it is important to build relationships between individuals and teams, which in turn will provide a greater ROI.

You cannot treat your resourcing partners badly and expect them to jump to your every demand and supply you their best candidates unless you recognise their need to exists and thrive too. So work on a WIN/WIN relationships.

4 – Improve your internal Leadership and Management Training

Back to your EVP, and your recruitment partners. One-thing niche agencies know is which agencies treat their staff the worst. Often they know, because candidates have told them which are the worst line managers in a company.

In any survey about why people leave jobs it is not salary that comes top. For the past 25 years I have been in recruitment the top reasons people change jobs are:

* Career progression and advancement
* Fresh challenges
* To learning new skills
* Quality of Life – flexibility
* Great environment to work in – creative freedom, team
* Better leadership and management

If your managers are reviewing their staff regularly, ensuring that their career aspirations are in line with your company’s plans, have PDP with training committed to supporting their growth for the new future roles; then I would suggest you will start to remove the reasons why people leave.

You might also want to look at implementing employee surveys and assess how attractive you are to Generation-Y. They have a whole new approach to work and you will need to ensure you incorporate their new desired ways of working in your plans otherwise they will shun you.

A good HR Team will be essential in supporting the line managers achieve all these things. Good line managers will also become aware of all these issues too and want to improve themselves.

Developing leaders who can coach and mentor others is a great way to improve less-experienced (not necessarily less talented) workers. When people have guidance, it goes a long way to preventing mistakes and sloppy work. Management training is the only way to ensure that operations run smoothly and that staff are results-driven.

5 – Grow your own – Train your staff

So many employers don’t realise that talent is right under their nose. The best employers in the future will as a matter of course recruit people with huge potential and values that match to their company values, but be willing to invest and develop them.

When you can truly offer:

* Career advancement
* Challenging work
* Great working environment
* Supportive and excellent leadership and management
* Personal development planning and training

You will then be able to attract the best potential talent, employ, develop and retain it. This is a far better and more cost-effective way of recruiting. Yes – your managers cannot expect any longer to deploy people into their key jobs and roles straight away, which is why they need to undertake proper resource planning.  They will however find it easier to attract the top potential talent and retain them longer.

Whilst the skills gap will undoubtedly become a major headache for recruiters in the future,  these five strategies will help you win the Talent War.

One thing is certain, the top 5 recruitment sectors to be in for the next 5-10 years are definitely IT, engineering, energy, healthcare and emerging technologies. So employers in these industries need to stay focused on the above strategies to survive in a talent-sparse world.



Ian has had an impressive career to date spanning nearly 30 years in recruitment, talent acquisition, sales and training sectors.

Having worked as Sales Director for Hays Specialist Recruitment for 11 years, Ian understands the complexities of corporate resourcing and constructing high return client relationships. He has led the sale of Managed Services contracts with values of up to £20M per annum and delivered numerous long term high value partnerships.

As a strategic partner to many blue chip organisations, Ian has worked at board level to assist strategic decision-making in skills availability within regions, sectors and countries. The organisations Ian has helped with his innovative, solutions focused approach include Barclays Bank, Clerical Medical, NHS Connecting for Health, DWP, MoneySupermarket, AXA Direct and Leicestershire County Council.

As well as being a founder partner of Recruitment Training Group, Ian also runs the complimentary Selling Success business, offering consulting, coaching, training and education in business development and relationship selling. Ian’s enthusiasm for coaching doesn’t end there, as a qualified FA coach he enjoys motivating people to be the best in their sporting endeavours, as well as in business.

Using Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and management psychology, Ian is able to teach sales relationship skills that it takes others years to learn. Ian is a highly proficient user of social media as a sales tool, having generated over 50% of his business income via social media. And gives others the framework to use channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter to drive their own success.


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