We truly are in a unique talent landscape that is creating both a number of challenges and a wealth of opportunities for HR teams and the talent sourcing sector.
Skills shortages are a significant problem for employers at the moment. While the spike in hiring that we saw during the first half of 2022 has certainly slowed, demand for talent is still significantly high. Employers across a range of sectors are reporting difficulties attracting the skills they need despite the uncertainty that’s crept into the market over recent months.
However, on the other side of this issue, we have never had such wide-spread acceptance of flexibility in the workforce. Whether that’s through remote working practices, greater reliance on the flexible labour market or an up-tick in Statement of Work (SoW) contracts.
Navigating this unusual scenario is an HR headache, though. There is no guidebook to showcase best practice approaches as there essentially isn’t any best practice that’s 100% relatable to the current situation. As we face the uncertain climate, I brought together leaders from the talent and outsourcing community to create a unique Knowledge Hub, including representatives from Adecco UK&I, Allegis Global Solutions, AMS, LinkedIn, Page Outsourcing, Magnit and Resource Solutions.
Together we shared insights into what lessons from the past we could translate for the new world of work and what is currently working well, or not so much, for firms across the UK.
Rebalancing the workforce
While there was a wealth of insight that came out of the discussions, there were a number of stand out points that will really help the HR community throughout the coming months. The idea that flexibility isn’t going to dissipate anytime soon is a concept that we can all perhaps embrace. However, with reports of brands such as Disney and KPMG back-tracking on flexible working, talent teams have a tough time ahead.
It’s crucial that candidates and current workers or employees feel they are listened to. If they are indicating a continued desire for flexible working options while business leaders are mandating returns, then HR and procurement teams will face an uphill battle to attract people for emerging roles.
To some extent, this ties into the need to evolve leadership styles to better suit the current world of work. Greater collaboration across the C-Suite to ensure a people-centric approach is at the heart of any corporate decisions really is a must. This human-focused strategy does also require a skills-led approach to the economic climate. While the economy may be facing uncertainty, we know from past experience that a knee-jerk reaction to budget and people cutting can be damaging to longer term worker availability.
Rather than losing resources, where talent can be redeployed or retrained should be the first consideration. Skills development is needed across the country. While technology and digital attributes are certainly a top priority to create a strong labour market, talent is in significantly short supply across a range of sectors and mindsets have to shift to focus on skills over profit for the sake of sustainability.
Supporting skills growth
The skills agenda is particularly high on the agenda for the UK workforce and is, in fact, the planned focus for our next Knowledge Hub event. But with the Spring Budget announcement coming in the next few weeks, it has never been more critical that a strong and flexible labour market is nurtured.
Together with APSCo UK, we have submitted our key recommendations for policy actions to support the recruitment outsourcing and procurement markets across the country. This includes reforming the Apprenticeship Levy so that it better allows for those in the flexible workforce to access funds and develop their skills, and accounts for ‘lane changers’ who are looking to retrain for new career opportunities.
With the Employment Bill now shelved, there is also an opportunity to drive suitable change through the EU Reform Bill, to deliver clarity around applicability of regulation to professional contractors. As those engaging flexible workers will be acutely aware, improved regulation is required that is both appropriate for the modern workforce and recognises the differing needs of the professional recruitment market, in particular the highly-skilled, self-employed segment of the workforce, which requires less protection through regulation.
How to best address the skills shortages isn’t going to be achieved with an over-night quick fix solution, but I’m certainly hoping our next Knowledge Hub gathering provides HR teams with insightful guidance. For now, at least, adjusting to the rebalanced workforce is a necessity.