Firms need to entice talent as ONS figures reveal record employment

In tough times for employers, one way they can gain a competitive advantage is by increasing pay to attract and retain talent.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed the employment rate was the joint highest on record at 76.1%, and the rate for women was 72% – the highest on record. Pay rose 3.4% in the three months to April 2019. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained at 3.8%.

Commenting on the data, Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of careers site CV-Library, said the UK cannot ignore the fact businesses are struggling to entice potential candidates out of their roles, in turn having no choice but to offer higher pay to remain competitive.

But Ben Frost, solution architect EMEA at search firm Korn Ferry, said not all businesses are in the financial position to offer monetary rewards to attract and retain top talent. 

“However, for the most part employees’ expectations have begun to shift and so money is no longer necessarily the most effective way of rewarding staff or appealing to new talent. Companies need to look at benefits beyond financial incentives in order to attract the best talent.”

And Matt Weston, managing director at professional services recruiter Robert Half UK, said the intensifying competition for top talent can present significant recruitment challenges as the demand for specialist skillsets rises faster than supply.

“With the summer holiday season approaching, successful businesses are not afraid to move quickly and make compelling offers to avoid missing out on their top choice candidate. To do so, they run a streamlined recruitment process, and combine remuneration, flexible working options, and training and development opportunities to attract their desired candidates.”

Pawel Adrjan, UK economist at the global job site Indeed, emphasised rise of the number of women in employment: “The employment rate for women has never been higher, and the overall employment rate remains at a record high of 76.1%, meaning more people of working age are in a job than ever before.

“Yet despite all this progress, it’s telling how ingrained the gender pay gap remains, not just in reality but also in people’s ambitions. New research by Indeed has found that women’s peak career salary expectations are significantly lower than men’s. Women, on average, expect to earn £45.8k, while men expect to earn £62.9k – a difference in expectations of £17.1k.”

Julia Kermode, CEO of professional membership body The Freelancer & Contractor Services Association (FCSA), said the figures serve to illustrate the important role that self-employed workers play in the UK economy.

“The government needs to recognise their value and take steps to support these workers rather than penalise them with more legislative measures such as the off-payroll reforms they are planning to roll out into the private sector next year.”

Touching on the number of women in work from Ben Keighley, director of smart tech recruitment firm Socially Recruited, said it is partly due to pensions changes and this trend is a huge driver of the UK’s overall position, with record numbers of people in work overall.

“However, scratch the surface and there are some worrying trends such as the skills shortage in key sectors and only a small rise in weekly earnings.

“Hand-in-hand with the better training and education we need to protect industries booming now and in the future; employers need to find ways of targeting the passive potential workforce that is out there and not rely on job seekers coming to them.”

Tom Hadley, director of policy and campaigns at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said while the figures largely paint a positive picture, there is some cause for concern as with a few warning signs, such as declining vacancies.

“The fact that vacancy numbers are dropping is reflected in the REC’s ‘Report on Jobs’ data, which shows a slight decline in permanent placements. At the same time, employers and recruiters are still struggling to find the staff to fill empty roles in sectors as diverse as healthcare, technology and logistics. Businesses are increasingly having to review current hiring procedures, as making the right hire at the right time can be crucial to maximising growth and productivity.”

Meanwhile separate findings from research company Gartner show the number of UK employees seeking to stay put in their jobs is on the increase.

Its latest global talent monitor reveals active jobseeking behaviour declined 9.6% from Q4 2018 to Q1 2019 and 13% on Q1 2018, while employees’ desire to stay in their current jobs rose in Q1 2019, with 33.6% of employees reporting a high intent to stay with their current employer, compared to 29.8% at the end of 2018.

And the difficulty in finding talent across the globe has been underlined by the latest Randstad Workmonitor, which shows 61% of employees claim their employer has trouble finding talent as well as into the future, while employers still have a need for workers with STEM profiles (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). The highest need is found in China with 85% (2015: 77%) and the lowest in Denmark with 28% (2015: 29%). 

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