Filling vacancies is not easy at the moment. According to government figures, between 12% and 16% of businesses in the UK have reported staff shortages since October 2021. At the same time, there are close to half a million more vacancies than there were pre-pandemic.
There are various reasons put forward to explain this situation – a sharp drop off in EU migrant workers post-Brexit, for example, and people not returning to the workforce after being furloughed or laid off during the pandemic.
But whatever the reasons, it’s an additional challenge businesses can ill afford in the current economic climate. Staff and skill shortages are a major drain on productivity, and they make it difficult to maintain high standards of service and efficiency.
What’s worse, labour shortages become a self-perpetuating cycle. When you’re short of people, the burden on those who are employed increases, leading to elevated stress and low morale. That in turn leads to increased churn, which only exacerbates the problem if you’re struggling to find people in the first place.
Talent acquisition has long been a central focus of recruitment strategies, recognising the difference that the most skilled and able people can make to any business. But there should be an equal emphasis on talent retention, especially in the current climate. If you already have skilled, able people in role, the last thing you want to do is risk losing them, and all the more so when it is so tough to replace them.
It’s also well known that keeping hold of talent is a lot cheaper than having to go out and find it. And anything you invest into talent retention, such as extra in-work benefits, also makes you more attractive as an employer, so helps with recruitment, too.
The key question, then, is are you doing enough to hold on to your best people? Here are some things to consider.
More than money and perks
We’ve mentioned in-work benefits, because they are the first thing people think about when it comes to talent acquisition. Competitive rates of pay, enticing bonus schemes, generous holidays and flexible working arrangements are all an important part of the mix, for sure. Few people stick around in a job where they don’t feel they are paid enough and the work arrangements don’t suit them.
But there is a growing realisation that throwing money and perks at people is not enough to keep them happy in a job. In fact, these things may be more effective at attracting new recruits than keeping hold of existing workers. Job seekers are drawn by enticing-sounding benefits. But once in role, they are not the only things that factor into a worker’s sense of satisfaction.
What’s more important when it comes to talent retention is the kind of work culture you create. And a key part of that is offering a nurturing, supportive environment where people feel they can develop. This article in the HBR makes exactly this point, pointing out that a third of people who leave their job cite unsupportive management and a lack of development opportunities as key reasons for moving on.
So if you are asking yourself whether you are doing enough to hold onto talent in your business, you should be thinking beyond tangibles like pay structures and perks. Development and progression are absolutely key. People will stick around if they feel their ambitions align with the company’s and that they can fulfil their career aspirations by sticking with you.
Investments in personal development through training also have a big role to play. Putting resources into helping someone upskill and evolve makes them feel valued, and that encourages loyalty. Giving people the sense that they are appreciated, that the company cares about their careers and that hard work and talent will be rewarded also helps workers feel more secure in their jobs, so they are less likely to consider moving on.
And finally, investing in people developmentally is also a logical way of countering talent shortages in the external market. If you are struggling to find people with the right profile to take your business forward, look at what you already have. With a little input and nurturing, what’s stopping existing employees taking on higher-skilled roles and responsibilities? The payoff is that they will already know your business inside out, and will be predisposed to reward your investment with their dedication and loyalty.
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