A change of climate in the post-furlough jobs market requires businesses to look within to get the talent required says Graham Fisher
The UK jobs market has entered a period of uncertainty now that support has ended for the 1.5 million people on the government’s Coronavirus Retention Scheme. If businesses are to sustain recovery and expansion in this new employment climate, they will need to grow more of the talents within their existing workforces.
While the UK job vacancies are rising and unemployment rates falling, the true effect on jobs from ending furlough is likely to vary significantly between industries. The consequences of the pandemic for retail and hospitality have been well-documented, but the freeze on recruitment and development during the pandemic has only made skills shortages in fields such as software coding and development, digital marketing, and healthcare, more prominent.
With these specialist roles becoming harder to fill, organisations may struggle to find suitably qualified candidates as companies compete for talent, so promoting company initiatives that meet changed employee expectations of the new working world, such as wellbeing incentives and encouraging a better work/life balance, should be a focus for external recruitment. Competitive salaries are still important, but over-reliance on them will ultimately be counter-productive in this new climate. When new recruits are on bigger salaries, current employees insist on achieving pay parity and may leave if they feel disadvantaged and employers can find themselves in a constantly upward pay spiral.
To map talent internally, HR and learning departments should be more systematic in their approach to employee skills and begin with creating a competency framework
Given these pressures, the end of furlough should make employers think far more seriously about ‘growing their own talent’. This is often discussed but seldom put into practice effectively, resulting in wasted talent and resources. It is time for businesses to invest in developing and nurturing the talents of the workers they already have through learning management programmes. Many employers, however, are at a disadvantage because they do not know the full extent of their employees’ abilities. From foreign languages to coding, employees have skills from inside and outside the workplace their employers could make use of and develop.
To map talent internally, HR and learning departments should be more systematic in their approach to employee skills and begin with creating a competency framework. These frameworks can be used to evaluate performance but also provide a clear map of employee competencies, including technical abilities, behaviours, traits, and skills. They can be created and stored within a HR system that nurtures the development of workforce communities to support micro-learning, something which can be particularly helpful with hybrid workforces, and which facilitate regular, informal dialogues between individuals and their managers. These discussions will surface skills that employees have developed, giving an up-to-date picture of individuals’ experience, ambitions, and expectations, which can all be used to identify internal candidates with skills that could be transferable for a role elsewhere in the business. Equally, employees can clearly see the gaps they may need to develop for a new role and, with the support of management, take part in the necessary training or upskilling to progress along their chosen career path.
Mapping the skills of the workforce is an important step forward but growing your own also requires managers to change their expectations. Instead of insisting on a perfect fit for each vacancy, HR should encourage managers to get the nearest fit from among internal candidates who have demonstrated motivation and have transferrable skills or experience and support them to grow in that role.
While managers may worry about the time and effort required to bring internal employees up to speed, the gains outweigh the drawbacks. Firstly, the organisation saves significantly on the costs and time involved in recruitment. Secondly, all recruitment carries risk, but the likelihood of a known internal candidate failing is much less than a candidate recruited externally. Thirdly, regular internal recruitment improves overall workforce morale and gives ambitious employees reasons to stay with the organisation.
Looking further ahead, the advantages of using artificial intelligence to comb through CVs to assess competencies, or to conduct psychometric testing and skills assessments via bots will become apparent. The aim is not to remove human interaction from recruitment but to accelerate both internal and external recruitment, quickly producing a realistic shortlist of candidates from many CVs. This then becomes a basis for conversations for line managers about who to interview. It also helps speed up the recruitment process and provide a better candidate experience.
As they adjust to the post-furlough jobs market, organisations should concentrate on developing talent from within their existing workforce. It is both quicker and more cost-effective. While managers may want to recruit from outside for a quick fix, developing employees by discovering their hidden talents has far greater potential, even if it takes six months to bring them up to the full level of training required. More organisations need to make the most of their greatest resource – the people they already employ.
Graham Fisher is a recruitment expert at MHR International.