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How to futureproofing the workforce

UK businesses face a productivity and recruitment crisis, with 70% of employers struggling to find suitable candidates.

UK businesses are facing a productivity and recruitment crisis. With 7 in 10 employers across the UK seeing a shortage of candidates for their roles, it’s clear that the job market is fundamentally changing. And the way we think about selecting employees needs to change with it.

Research shows that business leaders are very clear on what they need in a candidate.1 The most sought-after skills in 2024 are problem solving (30% of business leaders prioritise this), AI technology skills (28%), critical thinking (24%), marketing (22%), and data analysis (21%). But with such acute shortages of candidates, we need to think again about how we find and evaluate potential employees to locate these strengths.

By having such a defined awareness of the skills they are seeking, employers are in a good position to recognise the candidates that will strengthen their workforce, but they need to be open to approaches other than the traditional recruitment process if they stand a chance of finding them. The days of needing a university degree to even secure an interview are outdated in today’s rapidly changing workforce. What we need is a renewed focus on demonstrable skills and skills-based hiring if we want to tackle the current recruitment crisis.

As of 2023, there were almost a million more graduate jobs in the UK than there were people with degrees to fill them. It’s time to expand the way we think about talent and pivot the selection process to tap into knowledge, skills and potential as opposed to blindly focusing on formal qualifications. Assessing candidates based on their skills and abilities in relation to the specific job role increases the likelihood of finding a candidate who is a perfect fit.  Not only will this help with recruitment, but it will also help companies stay relevant and resilient at the same time. Individuals who

are more suited to the role will obviously perform better, as well as remaining engaged and enthusiastic which then reduces staff turnover too.

Stepping away from the more traditional ways of assessing candidates may feel unsettling to some leaders, but clarity on which skills they’re seeking is the first step to finding them. It’s a challenge to the status quo for most organisations. It’s therefore important to acknowledge that there are limits to what a qualification can highlight – attributes like problem solving and critical thinking aren’t easily identifiable through formal qualifications, along with a plethora of “soft skills” that businesses crave and education can’t easily test.  For the 30% of business leaders who are searching for problem solving or the 24% who prioritise critical thinking, skills-based hiring is far more likely to help pinpoint ideal candidates.

A hiring approach based on capabilities – looking at everything a candidate can bring to a role – enables employers to build a more diverse workforce that’s perfectly tailored to the needs of their own organisation. A candidate’s skills may have been learned at university, but they could also have been learned in a myriad of different ways and expanding recruitment to include these ‘outliers’ will widen the talent pool plus identify candidates who may have been overlooked in the traditional market.

In fast-moving industries, particularly those where the introduction of AI is accelerating the rate of change, skills-based hiring gives companies the ability to prioritise candidates who have the relevant capabilities and up-to-date knowledge. The faster our industries and workplaces change, the more we will need to identify specific needs and recruit specifically for them.

‘The workplace is changing in ways we couldn’t have imagined just one year ago’ confirms LinkedIn’s Future of Recruiting Report 2024, highlighting that 73% of professional recruiters now say hiring based on skills is a priority.

With data showing that focusing on competencies increases a talent pool by up to ten times, and the number of jobs listed on LinkedIn that omit degree requirements jumping 36% between 2019 and 2022, it’s clear that the recruitment revolution is gaining traction.

The employers who will beat the recruitment crisis and win the battle for securing suitable candidates will be the ones who recognise the sea-change that is happening in our workforce and modify their approach to accommodate it. The result of evaluating candidates based predominantly on competencies will not only result in a more diverse and flexibly talented employee base but will also equip businesses to face the rapid changes that are undoubtedly on their way.

As the full extent of what AI is capable of in our industries becomes more apparent, businesses will also need to come to terms with the tasks that AI simply can’t do – inevitably those which require more human-focused skills. And it’s those unique skills that a fresh look at recruitment will identify. It’s time to think again about how we pick the employees that will shape our future.

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