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Why are UK businesses struggling to recruit now?

Despite the UK being in a recession, vacancies can be the result of many economy-wide and sector-specific influences. And in the wake of the pandemic, attracting and keeping the right talent has become more challenging than ever.

A new study* has found that the majority of UK business owners are (91%) facing significant challenges with both recruiting and retaining highly skilled employees. The research* canvassed the view of 500 business owners in the UK on workforce trends.

Of those reporting recruitment challenges, 35% say the business has been negatively impacted, listing the top 3 impacts as:

  • Employee workload increase (40%),
  • Business forced to turn away work (38%), and
  • Delayed recruitment (38%) .

And a third (33%) of these business owners even claim that their business has lost money due to hiring the wrong candidate.

Despite the UK being in a recession, vacancies can be the result of many economy-wide and sector-specific influences. And in the wake of the pandemic, attracting and keeping the right talent has become more challenging than ever.

Even as the labour market is expected to stabilize in the second half of 2023, on balance, the trend towards greater numbers of resignations kicked off by post-pandemic readjustments continues – as the estimate of payrolled employees for May 2023 shows a monthly increase, up 23,000 on the revised April 2023 figures. The pandemic prompted a refocus of priorities and work/life balances, paired with long-standing issues – such as an ageing population, skills shortages and structural tightness across sectors – this means organisations must be prepared for a continued war on talent for the remainder of 2023.

Nick Gold, Managing Director of Speakers’ Corner, comments on the data: ‘We are seeing this continued struggle to recruit in a meaningful way across the board – 91% is an overwhelming majority of business owners. And what’s even more interesting here is that we’re seeing this despite being hit by a recession, which you would expect to create an employer’s market. But it seems we’re still seeing the aftershocks of the pandemic. The most straight forward way to address these challenges may seem obvious, or too simple, but by focusing on skills development and career engagement within your existing team, you can begin to build out the skills pool your business needs with the talent you already have.’

Employee wellbeing and development has shifted into focus in more recent years for many organisations as various recent studies – such as the WorkBuzz State of Employee Engagement report – have found that favorable workplace culture attracts more talent than salary.

Shifting focus to internal mobility and upskilling staff is a key accelerator to closing the skills gap as well a an almost sure-fire way of vetting your candidate to ensure they are suitable for the position. However, with this, organisation may have to be more cognisant of the significant difference between the salary step up when moving organisations than through promotions.

A 2023 McKinsey report found that workers who moved organisations on average saw a 12% increase in salary, whereas those who stayed received less than 3% – creating a significant incentive for employees to move.

*Research commissioned by Speakers Corner,

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