Top-quality talent is becoming harder to find and, as I’ve written before, the talent crunch shows no signs of easing. Right now, British businesses are heading straight for 'talentmageddon'.
Many companies are embracing innovative solutions. Andrew Nisbet, founder of Nisbets, is an advocate of tapping into local talent pools, highlighting the role that family businesses can play in supporting regional economies. Whereas Steve Rio, CEO of Briteweb, has written about how embracing remote workers can increase access to the global talent pool.
If you’re struggling to find talent, here are some ways to overcome the obstacles and find the skills you need to grow your business to new heights.
Don’t ‘rush hire’
Faced with increasing competition for talented workers, I’ve seen many employers fall into the trap of 'rush hiring', grabbing as much talent as possible regardless of the quality of successful candidates: as long as they look good on paper, that’s enough.
But, even in talent shortages as severe as these, employers should be very careful about who they hire. You are hiring people for more than just their skills and making the wrong hire can lead to personality clashes, a collapse in team morale or high attrition rates. Take things slowly, and make sure that you’re finding the right people.
This is something that is echoed by industry professionals. Alistair Shepherd, founder of Saberr, told me: "Almost half of an employee’s success in the first 18 months on the job can be attributed to how the employee fits in with others in the organisation. Team fit is one of the greatest predictors of whether someone is likely to leave."
So it isn’t important just to find the people with the right skills – it’s vital to find the person with the right personality and ‘team fit’ too.
1. Show your personality
The solution to the talent crunch, then, is to make sure that the scarce talent available in the market right now wants to work with you. You have a responsibility as a company to set yourself apart. But how do you do that?
One way is to show your personality; let potential employees see how working with you would be fun, different, engaging and good for their career in the long term. People are ultimately looking to work for company where they can have fun and enjoy themselves. It is a cliché, but they want to wake up in the morning feeling energised, excited and looking forward to going to work.
The best way to show that your workplace is fun is to go out on a limb and show your personality and flare. There is a tendency for some companies to make pains to look corporate, professional and clean cut. That is important, of course, for credibility, but also consider showing a bit of your colour.
Tech companies, I have found, are very good at this. It has become a regular feature of Silicon Roundabout in London for companies to host pizza nights and all-night hackathons for potential employees.
Fat Lama is one company that has tried to set itself apart. They took two 7ft male llamas to a technology recruitment fair on Brick Lane in 2016 to raise some hype and get potential recruits talking to them. They also ran a llama selfie competition. This is the type of personality that will make sure that the company is remembered by the right people – even three, four or five years later.
2. Become a flexible workplace
One of the best ways to find new untapped talent is to engage with people with unique work requirements: potential candidates who have to work from home; individuals with childcare or caring responsibilities; and people who live outside of your town or city.
You should tap into this talent pool by becoming a more flexible workplace. Technology means that it’s completely possible now for a sub-set, or even all of your employees, to work from home, using tools like video conferencing and Slack.
Many employers are instinctively worried about the impact that incorporating these changes will have on management structures and team morale, but I think these risks are overplayed – the bigger risk is not finding the right talent at all.
This is a view echoed by Alex Tebbs, founder of VIA: "Flexible working solves many talent acquisition issues. High quality candidates no longer need to travel to work. An employee that would have previously turned down a job due to lifestyle or geographical commitments no longer needs to compromise, as they are able to work where-ever."
In fact, Tebbs goes on to say that rather than making it more difficult to measure and monitor your employees, the adoption of the latest flexible working technology could actually make it easier. “Flexible working systems such as this give an overview on how active people are being with their computers, so employers can view productivity, workflow and who is available all in one place,” says Tebbs.
3. Cast the net wide
Finally, I find time and again that many employers aren't finding the right talent because they aren't looking in the right places. For example, an engineering firm might only advertise in engineering trade publications or on niche engineering jobs site. Or a UK technology company might only stick their jobs on Tech.London.
I think it’s time for employers to be much bolder. Rather than just looking in the same places they need the courage to look and think less conventionally to find the people with the right attitudes, soft skills and enthusiasm, but maybe not all of the skills yet: local schools and university, the local community, and local clubs and groups.
Many employers will shrug their shoulders at this suggestion. After all, these local people often don’t have the requisite skills to join your firm. But that’s why it’s critically important to invest in a well-managed training or apprenticeship scheme.
There has never been a better time to employ an apprentice or start an apprenticeship. In fact, according to the latest Government statistics, 9 out of 10 employers said they were satisfied with the outcomes from their apprenticeship scheme. So if the talent is not out there right now, you can play a role in creating the talent of the future.
Many people will struggle to find talent over the coming months and years. But there is a clear way forward for employers who engage with this challenge innovatively and openmindedly.
About Sharon Fishburne
A columnist and marketing expert, I previously worked at number of the biggest global consultancies, including PwC, advising multinationals on their expansion strategy. I saw the value that smaller local businesses could take from the process too.