Finding – and Keeping – a Needle in a Haystack

The top three ways to attract and retain talent in a competitive labour market

The spring sunshine is certainly shining down on the UK’s jobseekers. A record number of people in Britain currently have a job, and the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 1975.

Add to this the fact that salaries are growing at their fastest rate since the credit crunch a decade ago and there is plenty to cheer. If you are a jobseeker, at least.

The inevitable flipside of this boomtime for jobseekers is that employers are finding it ever harder to find skilled staff. The pool of available talent is shallow and competition from other would-be hirers is intense.

In addition, the economic backdrop is hardly stable. The ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, not to mention the spectre of a global slowdown, continue to loom large. The long-term impact of both is unknown, meaning the future course of the jobs market is far from clear.

However Indeed has an unrivalled insight into the current state of play. Its data – from both employers and jobseekers – offers a front row seat on the latest employment trends. These insights give us an unrivalled platform from which to forecast what might come next for the jobs market.

Research by our economist Pawel Adrjan has revealed the most effective ways employers can attract, and retain, the best talent. Speaking at a recent conference organised by the British Chambers of Commerce, Pawel distilled his findings into three key action areas.

You can see his top three tips and recommendations below. Together they can help businesses recruit effectively, whatever economic uncertainty throws at them.

1. Search broadly

The primary response to a competitive jobs market is to search as broadly as possible when looking for potential recruits.

The blunt truth is suitable candidates can be hard to find. There are currently only 1.6 unemployed people in the UK for each unfilled vacancy, and this talent shortage is not likely to go away anytime soon.

Official government data reveals a decline in net migration from the EU to the UK – a shrinking of the pool of foreign workers on whom many sectors rely. This trend is echoed by Indeed’s data, which shows that since the Brexit referendum of June 2016, searches for UK-based jobs by users outside the UK have dropped by about half a percentage point as a share of all job searches.

While this may not seem like a huge drop, in numerical terms it equates to more than half a million fewer job searches each month.

On top of this, there has been a steady rise in the number of UK-based jobseekers searching for jobs overseas. This shift can be attributed to a couple of factors – British workers looking for positions abroad, but also foreign-born workers looking to return home, now that economic conditions are more favourable in many of their countries of origin.

Searching broadly and imaginatively for recruits can mitigate these problems. We recently discussed on the blog how the UK’s hidden talent pools offer an untapped supply of capable staff whom smart employers should be looking to attract.

This message is already starting to hit home, as shown by Travelodge’s recent announcement that it is targeting parents who want to return to work as it attempts to plug an expected post-Brexit gap in its workforce.

2. Search online

At the risk of stating the obvious, most job search happens online these days. Most recruitment should too.

A recent poll by Harris found three in five employed adults searched online before finding their current role. Since this number that includes people who have been in their job for many years, we can expect this proportion to be even higher among people who found their job more recently.

This shift mirrors the steady rise in the number of jobseekers using job search engines such as Indeed. Put simply, if you are looking to hire, you need to have an online presence – and there are some easy ways to improve your chances of success.

3. Understand what employees and jobseekers want

The principal reason people work is because they have to work; they need the money. The good news for workers is that average salaries in the UK are currently rising at a decent rate, and outpacing the rise in the prices of goods and services.

Equally good news for employees is that changing jobs can secure an even greater rise in pay; on average twice as much as staying put. This ‘mover’s dividend’ should incentivise people to seek pastures new, and tempt more employed people back to the jobs market.

While it can be lucrative for employees to change jobs, the costs are ultimately borne by employers, who may not be able to afford to break the bank for the skilled staff they need.

We have discussed before how, while money always talks, there are other ways employers can attract prospective recruits to their companies.

However it’s not enough to merely be aware of the different facets of a job that appeal to would-be recruits. Employers need to be willing to adapt their recruitment strategies too. Whether it is flexibility or stability, there is no hard and fast rule for what people want. But in a climate where the power is with the employee, and where jobseekers are spoilt for choice, it pays for employers to be responsive, imaginative and open.

What it all means

Of course recruitment best practice alone cannot solve the tightness in the labour market or Brexit uncertainty. But the battle for talent can be made easier if employers are willing to search harder – and smarter – for the people they need to grow their business.