Updated: Aug 23
If you’ve been attempting to grow your business recently, it’s highly likely that you’ll have encountered recruitment challenges. That could have been in the form of a lack of applicants with the skills you need in the here and now or increases in salary demands. The situation pivoted exceptionally quickly as order books picked up after the pandemic lockdowns and we have been in a candidate led market for more than a year.
Across the UK, there have been record numbers of vacancies, combined with record lows in unemployment. If you’ve been looking for staff in IT, engineering, health and social care or hospitality, you’ll be suffering the most. In March this year, we had a never before seen situation where there were more vacancies than recorded unemployed. In Scotland during the March to May period of 2022, the unemployment rate reported by the ONS was 3.2%, the joint-lowest we have ever seen.
However, with growth forecast's being revised and the dreaded "Recession" word being bandied around again, you'd think that might dull some of the record-breaking recruitment activities that have been seen over the past few months. What we have seen over the past few weeks, has been a softening where job vacancy increases are plateau-ing. Additionally, whilst candidate availability is still falling, that fall rate appears to be calming.
Permanent vacancies were still in greatest demand in comparison to temporary roles and unsurprisingly, the availability of permanent candidates was the lowest versus temp candidates.
This combination of record vacancies combined with candidate shortages, has led to ever increasing wage demands across industries and geographic areas. Median monthly pay for Scottish workers is up 11.1% compared to the pre-pandemic period according to s1 Jobs. Throw in high levels of inflation and candidates who might have been willing to move jobs for the same or marginally less pay earlier this year are now not budging without a pay increase.
Despite this, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation commented this month that “employment is still lower than pre-pandemic, and while economic inactivity is down this quarter, it is still much higher than two years ago. There is not yet any sign of the economic slowdown affecting the jobs market, but if we don’t address the fact that there are not enough people looking for work, this could put another dampener on the UK’s economic growth.” For Scotland, s1jobs Managing Director, Gavin Mochan, said in the Herald on 15th June 2022: “Worker shortages are no longer actively getting worse, but the market remains tight.”
So what can organisations in West Lothian do about this?
1. Ensure your job adverts and vacancies are reaching the widest possible audience. Some of the cause of candidate shortages is due to economic inactivity, particularly amongst older workers. Are they aware that you are recruiting? West Lothian Council are running a number of employment schemes currently. Have you investigated those to see if they could support you? Job Creation Fund - Invest in West Lothian
2. What about groups that you may not have considered before like career changers such as ex Armed Forces or blue-light services personnel? Could you adapt your recruitment and onboarding processes to recruit transferable skills from people out with your industry or people returning to work after a career break?
3. Are you utilising the full range of advertising platforms to promote your vacancies? We’re not suggesting that you need to spend loads on advertising necessarily, although of course that could help. But what about social media? According to several recruitment forums, TikTok is about the become the next “big thing” in recruitment advertising. LinkedIn remains a hugely powerful tool for recruitment. If you already have one of the paid for versions of LinkedIn, you might be able to post a free job from your profile. You can also put some free job adverts on Indeed which you can put pre qualification questions on to ensure you only see relevant applicants.
4. Maybe see if your marketing team can help. They could advise on your advertising copy to ensure you’re really “selling” the benefits of working at your organization. They may also have ideas around reaching the widest range of talent. And of course, you’ll want to ensure that whatever wording you use and advertising methods you choose, that you’re appealing to diverse audiences. You could try a tool like the Gender decoder: Gender Decoder: find subtle bias in job ads (katmatfield.com)
5. Are you fully utilizing your existing employee network to gain referrals? Whilst this is unlikely to be a silver bullet to your recruitment challenges on it’s own, your existing employees can be the best advocates for your organization as an employer. Additionally, it can also be one of the most cost-effective ways of recruiting additional staff. They may just need a bit of encouragement or some wording that they can put on out through their own (social) networks to spread to word.
6. If salary increases aren’t possible for you, particularly given the rise in many other overhead costs, what else can you offer potential job applicants? Could you offer greater flexibility in working patterns and locations? Are you clear on the development and progression opportunities that an employee could get whilst working for you? Again, there is a lot of funding available to help you upskill your workforce which the team at West Lothian College could advise on: https://investinwestlothian.com/business-support/workforce-development/training-your-existing-staff. Do you promote the full availability of your employee benefits package? For example, do you offer more annual leave than your competitors? Could you join a scheme that provides discounted retail and shopping vouchers? These sort of benefits often have minimal cost to you as an employer but could be a real support to your employees just now who are desperate to cut costs.
7. What is the candidate experience like when they apply for a job with you? Is it simple to apply? Do you respond to applications and how quickly do you inform applicants about the status of their application? If it’s difficult for candidates to apply and no-one gets back to them, word will spread quickly amongst the job hunting community and many applicants could be put off applying. If you have some technology/software to support your recruitment process, ensure you’re utilizing all it’s facilities to be as responsive to applicants as possible. You’ll need to be quick if you find a good quality applicant as they will get snapped up by a competitor if you don’t get in there first.
It's still too early yet to see if the slowing of job vacancy increases is a sign that the jobs market is stabilizing. Traditionally, recruitment tends to get a bit quieter over the summer holiday period and again over Christmas. That didn’t happen in 2021 so it will be interesting to see what happens this year and perhaps that will be an indication of the direction the jobs market is travelling in.