Trouble recruiting in this tight labour market?

It’s official: recruitment is no longer a buyer’s market.

Following the global recession of 2008, countless redundancies and job cuts made recruitment easy pickings. With just a snap of their fingers, employers could instantly find a whole raft of perfectly qualified people all desperate to work for them. It was without doubt a buyer’s market; recruiters were quickly inundated with applications and could have their pick of the crop.

Today, however, this could not be further from the truth.

The economy is finally in recovery and unemployment now sits at an all-time low. While this may be a positive for the country as a whole, for the 69% of organisations in the UK looking to recruit new employees within the next three months it spells trouble ahead. With a rate of just 1.7 unemployed people per vacancy we are clearly dealing with a tight labour market.

At the same time as unemployment has fallen, we have seen a worrying decrease in the labour supply. Uncertainty surrounding Brexit has already contributed to a sharp fall in the number of EU nationals moving to the UK for work; whatever the final political conclusion, this trend is likely to continue. Add to this the impending implications of an ageing population and it is only going to get harder to recruit new employees.

In the Warwickshire area the challenge of an increasingly tight labour market has become such a concern that the Coventry and Warwickshire Employability Group, made up of representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, local employers and senior HR professionals including Angela Roberts and The HR Consultancy, has implemented a five-point plan to try tackle the issue.

So what does this mean for your business?

One obvious solution when struggling to recruit is to simply raise the salary on offer to attract a greater number of higher quality applicants. The widespread uncertainty around Brexit, however, is just one of many factors that has left businesses feeling vulnerable. With the economy in a somewhat precarious position, increasing salaries is not necessarily an option for you.

Fortunately there are four steps you can take to try resolve your recruitment issues:

Before looking externally to fill a vacancy, every organisation should take a moment to reflect internally. In many cases recruitment issues are often closely tied to staff retention issues, so it makes sense to try to prevent the vacancy arising in the first place. The tight labour market means that no one is dispensable, and organisations should aim to make staff feel valued in order to reduce their turnover rate and therefore their need to recruit. Adjusting your employment package can increase job satisfaction, reduce your turnover rate and potentially improve productivity alongside morale. This should be followed by a skills audit, where it might emerge that some of your existing staff already have the skills the business now needs – with any luck you may not need to recruit after all!

If you have optimised your existing workforce but still need someone new it is time to look at your recruitment process. Even the ‘perfect’ job can miss out on great applicants if the recruitment process has not been optimised. While it is important to ascertain whether someone is qualified for a role, unclear, long-winded or overly complicated application forms all deter potential applicants. Take a moment to streamline your application process, ensuring that it is as straightforward and transparent as possible. The entire process should be candidate centric – you want them to still want to work for you by the end of it all!

If you have made all these changes yet are still struggling to find who you need, it may be time to broaden your horizons. Developing a more diverse workforce has been found to boost staff morale, productivity and company reputation, as people are proud to work for an inclusive employer. Offering some degree of flexible working in particular will not only motivate your existing workforce but also appeal to people with caring responsibilities, disabilities or neurodivergence, all sorely under-represented in the workplace. Including people from different walks of life can also yield the additional benefits of fresh viewpoints and life experiences, potentially giving your organisation the competitive advantage.

Sometimes you can do everything right and still not get the result you want. If it looks as though you are never going to find someone with the right skills for the job, your final option is training. 47% of employers surveyed by the CIPD were planning to up-skill their current staff in order to resolve their recruitment issues arising from hard to fill vacancies. Investing in your workforce improves both productivity and motivation, and can have a significant impact on that all-important retention rate.

The labour market is set to keep tightening with no sign of letting up any time soon. Facing the reality that recruitment is only going to keep getting harder it is easy to feel daunted by the prospect, but with a little strategic workforce planning and implementing the above steps you are giving your organisation the best chance possible.

If you would like advice or help with your Human Resources Management, please give Angela Roberts and The HR Consultancy a call today on 01926 853388, email or visit for more information.

Statistics provided by the CIPD.