Facing skills scarcity? Collaboration is the key
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Facing skills scarcity? Collaboration is the key

16 September 2021 By Matthew Lewis - UK Public Services and Not for Profit Director at Hays

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Many will have seen the headlines in the media around the lack of people and skills to meet demand across the post-Covid landscape. We’ve hit a perfect storm as a resurgent private sector and transforming public sector compete for skills in a labour market that’s vastly reduced due to large numbers of EU nationals returning home.

Where are these skills shortages?

For those, like me, that like a statistic to back the anecdotal evidence, there’s some startling numbers underlying the recruiter and engager’s experience of the struggle to find and engage the right talent.  The ONS Vacancies and jobs in the UK report for August 2021, for example, shows a record breaking 953,000 live vacancies across the UK – this is 21% higher than pre-pandemic levels and up 44% on the previous quarter. Overlay that with pre-existing pre-pandemic skills shortages in professional and technical environments, from digital, data and technology through to all corporate professions, qualified social work, care work, HGV driving and construction and trades, and you can see why internal talent attraction and partner suppliers alike are struggling to meet demand.

Responding to the resourcing challenge

So, in facing this challenge, what can employers do? As a supplier we look for closer collaboration with our customers, recognising the importance of the partnership in the delivery of this critically important service, and a seat at the strategic table when it comes to skills and demand planning. It’s an obvious statement, but the more notice suppliers have of potential demand, the better they can prepare to meet that demand, and explore creative solutions when it is apparent the labour market cannot deliver on the task at hand.

This starts with analysis of the root cause and effect of the resourcing challenge and the question “what is the outcome I’m looking for?”. Many organisations struggle with permanent talent attraction, and typically find themselves looking for interims and temporary workers when in reality it’s a substantive post that needs filling. Tackling the root cause of the demand by addressing the permanent recruitment issue can significantly reduce long-term costs and bring improved outcomes such as longer-term commitment, skills development and knowledge transferral.

Solving the long-term skills crisis

Whatever the form this response takes, whether it’s better articulation of the social purpose of the organisation, improved targeting and direct engagement of candidates with key skills, a compromise on essential and desirable criteria, a search for transferable skill sets, or a review of the candidate journey itself, the potential impact on the ability to find and engage the right people could be huge.

Meanwhile, we have now a significant opportunity to look at the skills development pipeline through the review of early careers opportunities and pathways to employment for the disadvantaged and those displaced by Covid – people who, with some investment of time and re-training, can help us all begin to fill some of the gaps in the labour force – to everyone’s benefit.

What you can do right now

For a strategy that can help address skills shortages in the shorter term, the key is to be selective. When faced with challenges around candidate engagement, the first thing organisations often do is blanket the market, sharing opportunities with as many recruitment agencies as possible. Whilst it may feel counter-intuitive, the right thing to do is find specialist recruiting experts and commit to working with them in an active and engaged fashion.

Sending an emailed job spec with a request for CVs that’s copied to a long list of suppliers is unlikely to receive the attention needed. Organisations, and hiring managers, need to invest time in cultivating relationships with key suppliers who can find and engage the right people, equipping recruiters with the fine detail they need to promote your organisation, the role and what’s in it for the successful candidate. 

Working with the right partner is key

Spending time in consultation with your recruiter about the market, the skills you need, what you are offering and essential and desirable criteria in a candidate as well as key transferable skills is integral. Committing that time to key selected suppliers will ensure their commitment to you, and the prioritising of your requirements if you are able to equip them with the information and knowledge that is so needed to generate candidate interest in a role.  

Finally, and most importantly of all, act swiftly and decisively. Don’t let pursuit of ‘the perfect candidate’ get in the way of securing a competent, skilled and in-demand professional. Remember, there are 953,000 opportunities out there competing for the attention of those candidates you’re trying to secure, so there is no time to waste!


If you have any questions or would like to know more about how our Managing Temporary and Permanent Recruitment framework can help, please get in touch with the team.


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