Skills recruitment and retention challenges could threaten UK growth

Business leaders in general agree that access to appropriately skilled workers is essential for economic recovery. Worryingly though, more than half believe it difficult to recruit entry level workers with the desired skills, according to research by Accenture Management Consulting. 

Some 61 per cent of respondents said the same about middle management and 59 per cent about executives. Nearly a third state that retention of high performers is currently a problem. It’s a challenge at all levels, the survey of 401 senior decision makers in large UK businesses found.

The majority of business leaders are focused on short-term needs, when it comes to new staff. Four out of five say they consider immediate needs when recruiting new staff, while only 47 per cent consider the economic landscape of the next five years.

“UK companies should consider re-thinking strategies for finding the skills they need to support growth,” said Aimie Chapple, managing director at Accenture Management Consulting, UK and Ireland. “To address skills shortages at all levels, as well as challenges holding onto existing talent, companies may need to integrate their recruitment, skills development and retention strategies. It’s clear that British employers need to think more seriously about the long term outlook when hiring talent, and not just the immediate future.”

Strong commitment to skills investment

The study found that 91 per cent of senior executives indicate investing in employees’ skills is essential for their businesses to grow. Nearly two-thirds plan to invest in up-skilling their employees to achieve growth. When asked which three skills were most valuable to the success of their businesses, they identified communication skills, sector-specific technical skills and analytics skills as the most important.

Despite the reported struggle to recruit senior leaders, more than half of executives indicate that training is focused more at recent graduates and junior staff members rather than senior executives.

“A better skilled workforce can be achieved more cost effectively with smarter matching of people and roles,” said Chapple. “High performing employers often invest in capabilities that better capture sophisticated data about their constantly evolving talent pool. We often counsel large organisations to invest in tailored training and provide opportunities for job exchanges to foster an environment in which the best talent remains loyal.”

Potential strategies for companies tackling the skills gap to consider:

  • Establish programs and incentives – such as a searchable skills database and opportunities for talent mobility – to identify and leverage “hidden” talent within your organisation;
  • Identify more candidates by pre-screening with a rich array of data rather than strictly the experience and education listed in a curriculum vitae;
  • Make learning new skills an integrated component of work;
  • Take greater advantage of the European labour market to search for available talent. According to recent Accenture analysis of the European labour market, just under half of organisations say they effectively utilise their domestic labour market to satisfy skill needs. Only 28 per cent make use of the skills available within the rest of the EU; and
  • Create horizontal networks to develop talent among companies in the same sector, and vertical networks between different sectors within the same supply chains. A more liquid market of talent available to all will be the result.

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