18 months ago, when the pandemic first hit the UK and the employment market, it was not a pretty picture if you were either a recruiter, an employer in the process of hiring, or a candidate either seeking a new role, or worse, mid-process. Like feeling the impact of the right hand of Tyson Fury, most of these things were either knocked out, destroyed, or indefinitely put into retirement.
The latest figures show...
It is hard to believe where we stand today, still well within the pandemic, however newly released figures show the number of job vacancies from July to September 2021 were a record high of 1.1 million - an increase of over 300,000 pre-pandemic (January to March 2020)!* Please read that last sentence one more time. For the same period, growth in average total pay was also up 7.2%.
If you happen to be at the coalface of this as an employer struggling to recruit and retain staff, you will know in a real-world sense just how real these current challenges feel. So how and why did we arrive here? Such buoyancy and demand in an employment market would normally be the result of a thriving bull economy, and we all know that’s not where we are. Just look at energy costs and supply chain failures.
The world of work has changed
12 months ago, in October 2020, most economists - with data received since March that year - were predicting mass unemployment, redundancies and severe job losses. There was a pivotal shift in Quarter 1 this year. Early signs of recovery saw employment rising to 75.2% and unemployment falling to 4.8%*.
By April, the number of payrolled employees had increased over five consecutive months to 97,000. Business confidence was on the rise, lockdowns were phasing out. Prior to the lockdown, 16% of employers were planning redundancies; these currently stand below 10%.
The world has changed dramatically in a direction we did not expect. The nature of how we work has also changed. Though some forward-thinking businesses had flexible approaches to working from home, most did not. The lockdown proved it was possible, it could be done, employees could be trusted, they could be productive and in turn they could, in many instances, have a better quality of life with shorter commuting times and more time spent with family.
Along with the world changing, people have also changed. They have changed how they now want to work, what they want to do and how they want to balance their whole life. There has been a shuffle of the cards; individuals have altogether changed roles and industries.
There is no shortage of talent
And this begins to hint at the problem, the elephant in the room. There is no war for talent and shortage of talent. This very statement assumes that the employment market has remained the same which it clearly has not. The whole concept of work is radically different and still in transition. The current government guideline which was ‘stay at home’ is now ‘go back to the office’ but the overriding response is ‘no thanks’ or ‘yes, but not how we did it before’.
Rather than merely hiking up pay (which is happening), employers need to be much savvier and more strategic and consider that the whole twentieth century definition of work is dead. Any real shortage in the true sense is likely in an expanding or emerging function where lack of training and education have fallen short. Unrealistic qualifications and requirements are to blame.
The so-called war for talent would seem like fighting a long-lost cause. A hiring expectation based on a pre-pandemic employment market is quite simply incredibly outdated and defunct. Looking to the past to hire traditional skills for today’s workforce is the equivalent of trying to put a CD into an Amazon Alexa.
The future of recruitment
The future of the workforce is exciting, dynamic and holistic in that it encompasses all aspects of our life. Employers now more than ever need to embrace these changes and focus on engagement. A tight job description with eight out of ten boxes ticked is not going to be a successful method of finding the best person. Listen to the changes in the employment market, focus on talent acquisition and not candidate acquisition. The people are there, we just need to open our own eyes.