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Top tips to help HR be agile when dealing with the skills shortage

13 September 2021

Story by
Andrew Jones

Help HR be agile when dealing with the skills shortage

The double punch of Brexit and COVID-19 has hit many UK businesses hard – with the much-reported skills shortage one of the chief fallouts from the past 18 months.

The UK has the highest proportion of skills shortages in Europe and one of the highest globally.

ManPower Group recently revealed that the proportion of employers struggling to fill certain skills has more than doubled in the past two years, from 35% in 2019 to 77% in 2021.

But this is hardly the time that business leaders want to contend with a shortage in skills – with a shrinking economy and a long recovery on the horizon, HR needs to be able to retain talent access talent talent quickly.

Indeed, where many will have spent lockdown reviewing how best to improve their company’s products and services, it will be frustrating if an inability to access the right personnel prevents them from maximising the potential of new or updated offerings that they have been eager to launch post pandemic.

Finding the right people with the right skills to fill critical positions has a major impact on a business’ ability to grow.

It’s a challenge compounded by the difficulty of retaining the skilled staff businesses already employ – one wrong step with talented team members can upset the applecart.

I heard recently of a US CEO who lost 10% of their engineers on the spot following orders to return to the office and stop remote working post pandemic.

One of the reasons Rishi Sunak’s ‘Help to Grow’ scheme was set up was to help businesses learn new skills – supporting existing workforces with professional development to patch up any skills shortages.

However, our research has shown that the programme is unlikely to achieve its perceived value – only a third of UK business decision makers have heard about ‘Help to Grow’ and know what it entails.

So, how can businesses put themselves in the best position to mitigate the skills shortage, while driving the most productivity out of their existing workforce?

1) Lockdown taught professionals to effectively work remotely – take advantage of this: A silver lining for those that had been concerned about the impact of Brexit on skilled workers from Europe leaving the UK is that the pandemic has taught us how to collaborate remotely and work with colleagues no matter where they are based. This means these talent pools can now readily be unlocked and benefitted from by many industries digitally. Just because offices are opening their doors – we should still look to tap skills from those working from home, wherever in the world that might be.

2) A modern working week that attracts skilled staff: We know happier teams are more productive and more loyal to the company, increasing deliverable value and reducing the high costs (in both time and money) of recruitment and reducing the overhead of induction and initial training.Businesses need to be proactive in looking at what other companies are doing to help their staff work for them. Flexitime, four 9-hour day weeks instead of five 7.5-hour day weeks, is a good example of this.

3) Understanding what matters to each team member: Understand the realities of your staff: flexible working, childcare, remote working, reducing travel costs can go a long way to help individuals live happier better-fulfilled lives.Not to be forgotten is paying solid industry rates and rewarding the extra effort put in by people. Failing to treat people in your business with basic human respect will lead to sloppy work for those who want to leave and the added factor of resentment for those who can’t or don’t.

4) Offer a career path, not just a 9-5 job: Take your staff on a journey. Careers have a career path; jobs don’t. A job is a dead-end slog; a career path offers hope and can help individuals buy into your ambition for the organisation.

5) Commit: Even if you offer a revolving 1-year contract, for example, this can massively increase an individual’s self-respect, help them budget ahead for school uniforms or a holiday, or even simply help them get a contract for the latest phone. After all, why should they commit to helping you if you can’t commit to helping them?



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