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Is the ‘Great British Resignation’ slowing?

With demand for workers outstripping supply and ‘the great resignation’ showing no signs of abating, Britain is facing some huge recruitment challenges.

By Catherine Buckley, B4 Associate Editor

Bloomberg reported in May that 20 per cent of UK workers, or almost a fifth, have said they expect to leave their current job for a new employer within the next year, as they search for better pay and job satisfaction levels.

A survey conducted by accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has found that 18 per cent of workers said they “were very or extremely likely” to switch jobs in a year.

And the latest stats from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that demand for workers is outpacing supply available from the labour force for the first time in almost 50 years.  

The early careers’ labour market paints a similar picture with Institute of Student Employers data showing apprentice and graduate vacancies higher than at pre-pandemic levels.

Hiring People said: “Competition for talent remains high across all business sectors, with 87 per cent of companies saying the skills gap makes it increasingly difficult to fill open positions. Larger companies are finding it the hardest to find and recruit the right staff.”

We spoke to some of our B4 members for comment on their recruitment challenges and any steps they are taking to abate them:

Frank Nigriello, Group Director of Corporate Affairs, Unipart Group and Chairman of B4 has spoken to dozens of business leaders across the country in the past few months and almost all of them cited recruitment as an increasing issue.

“At Unipart, we have benefited from low attrition for many years. One of the core factors influencing this is our focus on employee engagement,” he said.

“Our proprietary business system, The Unipart Way, provides colleagues with a voice in their day-to-day operations, a world class toolkit for making improvements to the way they work and ongoing training and development to continually refresh skills. 

“Coupled with Unipart’s commitment to responsible business, these factors have tended to build long term relationships between the company and its people. Nowhere is this more evident than in our Mark in Action recognition programme which regularly recognises colleagues who go the extra mile for their customers.

“As our company grows, we continue to face the same challenges as others in recruiting new employees. However, our focus on building a strong culture and a ‘can do’ attitude amongst our people, has contributed to our business growth as well as our ability to recruit.

“For any company recruiting today the focus on attitude as well as aptitude is fundamental to finding great people. Similarly, having a strong culture, positive values and a clear sense of purpose enables job seekers to align their personal values with those of the company. My advice in recruiting is to be clear on your company’s values, make certain they are authentic and lived, and express them through meaningful stories that people can remember,” he added.

Maria Coombe, Head of Resourcing at Blake Morgan LLP, Oxford, said the legal sector was also finding that demand outweighed supply at all levels and across all practice areas. 

“Potential candidates are not just chasing higher salaries, however, and are basing their career decisions on factors such as commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion and ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance). They want to know what their future employer stands for and so we have been bringing our firm values to the front of our recruitment campaigns,” she said.

“Reacting quickly is key in recruitment processes in the current climate along with involving the hiring managers as early on as you can. Make the most of video platforms to arrange quick interviews and be prepared to make offers quickly. Working collaboratively with trusted recruitment consultancies will assist in reaching all corners of the market. 

“We are seeing the market being driven by candidates and we are flexing our approach to be able to provide them with the information they need to be able to make an informed decision – whether that be an office visit, understanding career progression opportunities or our Learning & Development offering,” she added.

Peter McLintock, partner & head of Oxford office, Mills & Reeve, said that many businesses were facing issues with recruitment following post-Covid financial growth, including Mills & Reeve as it looked to expand its team in Oxford.

“The company has implemented a few strategies to get around this including the increased use of social media to showcase its culture where people thrive and encourage others to join. This has taken shape by using platforms to run a number of “takeover” days with employees and work experience students showcasing the work of the firm,” said Peter.

“We are also using LinkedIn to proactively contact candidates who may be suitable for roles which are live, but also for roles we may have in the future.

“Mills & Reeve also recognises the need to be agile and is adapting its recruitment processes given the fast-paced market. Given the financial challenges that the UK may experience this year, this agility is key and proving you are a great place to work is more important than ever before,” he added.

James Wigley, Nuffield Healthcare Account Manager in Shropshire, said the healthcare sector was facing a huge shortage of both clinical and admin staff.

“Pay is one of the issues as people can achieve higher rates of pay and choose their availability, so we have to infill with agency and bank staff. It is a struggle, and the Nuffield is looking at it as a whole,” he said.

“We are embedding apprenticeship schemes which will have an impact in a few years’ time and trying to get nurses through our doors early,” he added.

Echoing the sentiments of James, albeit for a different sector, Colin Sweeney, Chief Executive at Weston Park, said: “In the wake of Covid, we needed to scale the business up and we went through various options with our HR department, such as re-stablishing our apprenticeship programme, working with local job centres and agencies to promote vacancies.

“There have always been problems historically in the hospitality industry getting good kitchen staff who are questioning the perception of the industry. It hasn’t been properly presented as a career choice. Covid showed us how important it is as a GDP employer. A lot of people who were working in the UK left the country and the gap widened. Agencies are really driving up our payroll costs.

“We are having to pay chefs much more than a normal salary and with energy bills increasing from £13k-£28k, more needs to be done by the government. There is no silver bullet, we are all in the same boat. We are looking at efficiencies while ensuring the level of service is still executed to a high standard. Perhaps the government needs to create innovative schemes to help younger people get to work in more rural locations like ours,” he added.

Paige Eades, Group Marketing Executive at Morris & Company Ltd in Shropshire, said the company was trying to recruit into the care side of the business by promoting learning and development opportunities and challenging how working in the sector was portrayed in the media.

“We are keeping things simple with digital campaigns, ‘refer a friend’ schemes and summer roadshows to boost recruitment. We understand that hybrid working has become expected for many roles and where possible as a company we offer it to help with work-life balance,” she said.

And even the charity sector is not immune. Elodie Home, Head of Fundraising at Severn Hospice, which is the preferred charity partner of B4 Shropshire, said: “We are looking at how we market ourselves as an employer and making that much stronger.

“We are looking more at apprenticeships and also at age barriers and how we can challenge some of those. We are looking at people who are a little bit older perhaps, but who have fantastic transferable skills. It’s interesting to see that nearly all businesses are struggling in this area, across the country.”

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