Overcoming the UK Talent Shortage: Plugging the Skills Gap

Attracting and retaining skilled workers has rarely been more challenging. 77% of organisations in the UK are reporting talent shortages – the highest in over a decade and climbing each year. However, despite the unemployment rate standing at 4.7% according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there is a sense of optimism that these gaps in talent shortages can be filled.

The labour market has roared back to life following the rapid rollout of vaccines and the end of restrictions this summer. A record 50 per cent of all employers in the UK say they plan to increase their headcount by the end of this year, according to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey (MEOS). But businesses are facing tough competition. The market is still reeling from Brexit and the turmoil of the last 18 months, and demand for talent is fast outstripping supply. This boom in hiring means employees are being presented with far greater opportunities than before and can be more selective about where they choose to work.

Employee wellbeing as the true market differentiator

ManpowerGroup’s latest Talent Shortage survey – the largest survey of its kind and celebrating its 15th year – highlighted that the biggest incentive to attracting and retaining workers is hybrid working and employee wellbeing. To keep up in the competition for the best talent however, MEOS data reveals that in addition to offering flexible working options, more than a quarter of employers in the UK are also turning to increased wages as an incentive to fill roles. Many are offering signing-on bonuses and additional annual leave, and enhanced training and development opportunities has become a top joining benefit for almost half of employers.

‘’The pandemic has provided many opportunities for businesses who put their employees’ safety and wellbeing at the heart of their response, and they have been rewarded with less attrition. We must harness this positive Employee Value Proposition step as we move further toward adaptive working and use it as a market differentiator,’’ – Joseph Heppenstall, Group Head of Resourcing & Talent at QinetiQ.

The origin and evolution of the current skills gap

Historic shifts in technology as a result of the pandemic, changing skills available in the market and evolving roles to meet the needs of a post-pandemic consumer, have left employers with unfilled roles, threatening productivity, efficiency, and future growth. Skills required for the most in-demand roles continue to evolve rapidly. Companies of all sizes, from major corporations (250+) to micro firms (fewer than 10 employees) are struggling to attract talent.

Digitisation and the consumerisation of work had already been a growing trend before COVID-19 hit our shores, shifting supply and demand in talent, and causing skills gaps across the UK; gaps which are harder to plug-in in a post-pandemic hiring boom. The skills most in-demand have also shifted; those needed in the early phase of the crisis were vastly different to those emerging now as high-value and what’s expected in the future.

Whilst increasing benefits can work in the short term, it’s hardly a sustainable solution in a continuously evolving landscape. Instead, employers need to think about the talent gap as a long-run issue and implement training and upskilling programmes to combat this, seeing it as a long-term investment in their future workforce and a vital part of the post-pandemic recovery.

‘’We know digital skills are a key part of living and working online but we must ensure that everyone has access to quality training that will equip them with employable digital skills. The importance of short modular digital skills courses, in particular those accredited by industry, cannot be understated,’’- Nimmi Patel, Policy Manager at Tech UK.

As tech disruption accelerates, employers are looking for the right blend of technical skills and human strengths; something that has proven to be a clear differentiator in a scarce market. Resilience, a collaborative mindset, initiative-taking, and adaptability are more important than ever. One thing is certain – this crisis should be a catalyst for a new future of work that is more flexible, more diverse, and more wellbeing-orientated.

So, how can organisations combat the talent shortage?

Employers’ greatest assets are their people – and we know how to unlock their full potential with Train to Fit, a programme available through our Experis Academy. Organisations need to expand the talent pool available to them, both by upskilling and re-skilling a new pipeline of talent. To succeed, they need a partner to manage all aspects of sourcing this talent, managing their learning support and pastoral care.

Our answer is to provide employers with candidates who match a minimum entry-level criteria. This means that although they may not be a 100% match from the start, they have the right cultural and soft skills for your organisation and the attitude and aptitude to contribute from day one. (Candidates are typically a 70% match to the perfect candidate.)

By offering technical skills training, bespoke to individual customer needs, personalised guidance and career development, your organisation will not only have a more skilled workforce, but you will also be attracting and retaining the best talent in the long-run. Our specialised offering is focused on the following skillsets; DevOps, Software Developers, Data and Analytics, PMO professionals and Technical BAs.

As an example, one of our clients required a digital training solution which would enable them to build a pipeline of talent for sought after Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Business Analyst skills. We partnered with one of our affiliated training organisations who are a world-leading specialist in delivering technology training, to create a programme which brought together skills assessments, learning pathways and instant access support on a digital platform. We provided tailored training to meet the exact needs of our client and a designated Experis staffing manager and training manager supported the candidates’ learning progress.

The result? Our Train-to-Fit programme enabled our client to meet their end customer demands. By providing a custom built, fully digital solution, our learners were actively contributing from day one, using existing skills and learning new ones.

The Experis Academy brings together industry leading training providers with experts from recognised brands, to deliver practical and comprehensive training, which helps organisations build the talent they need to bridge the skills gap of the future. To discuss how we can help, get in touch here.