In its new 2021 Global Workforce Agility Report, workforce solutions provider KellyOCG reveals that UK businesses have been failing to improve their ability to recruit and retain talent in the last 12 months making it difficult for them to compete in a post-Covid business environment.

Falling behind on recruiting

Fewer than half (42%) of firms surveyed in the UK say their ability to recruit talent has improved over the last 12 months, compared to 59% globally. The only country to rank lower than the UK is Ireland, where only 39% of businesses say they improved their recruiting.

Additionally, UK firms aren’t as committed to implementing hiring and promotion goals for talent from underrepresented groups, with 69% of UK companies saying this is the case versus 76% globally. Underrepresented groups are racially, ethnically, or culturally distinct groups that are not in the larger majority.

Struggling with employee retention

The results from the survey also show that UK firms have struggled to retain talent over the past 12 months. While the majority (53%) say their ability to retain talent has improved in the last year, the global figure stands considerably higher at 62%.

Looking deeper at UK firms’ inability to retain talent, the majority (55%) of UK employers surveyed say that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on younger employees’ career development and progression.

UK businesses also say that employee satisfaction and wellbeing has fallen over the past 12 months. Fewer than four in ten (39%) UK firms say employee satisfaction has improved over the last year, the lowest level of all countries. Further, only 38% agree employee wellbeing has improved during the same period (Ireland is the only country to rank lower). By contrast, these figures stand at 62% on a global level, with the vast majority of surveyed executives stating that employee satisfaction and wellbeing have improved.

Fixing the problem

Worryingly, many UK firms don’t seem to have a clear view of how to tackle these issues and recruit talent more effectively. Only four in ten (40%) UK businesses say they have a clear view of the optimal mix of talent required across all business areas. Additionally, only 36% state they have a clear view of how talent strategy links to tangible business outcomes, compared to almost half (49%) globally.

UK firms don’t fare much better in international competition when it comes to improving the employee experience. Just over half (57%) of firms agree that improving the employee experience in their organisation is as much of a business priority as improving the customer experience. This is the second lowest rate globally and significantly behind the global average of 73%.

However, the survey did uncover a group of business leaders who are working to improve recruitment and successfully retain talent. This group, the Vanguards, recognize that visibility of talent and creating a positive employee experience leads to greater retention, productivity and engagement, which translates to better business results.

Some steps these companies are taking are:

  • Having a comprehensive and holistic approach to talent management
  • Regularly gathering feedback from employees
  • Encouraging employees to define their role
  • Defining productivity and wellbeing metrics
  • Benchmarking their employee value proposition (EVP) against their competitors

Sam Smith, Vice-President and Managing Director, KellyOCG EMEA, commented: “We know that the war for talent has intensified over the past few years, and the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly increased this pressure. Our data shows that the majority of UK businesses have struggled to improve their ability to recruit talent over the past year and clearly many are also struggling to successfully retain talent.

“The reality is that firms must now make recruitment, retention, and improving the employee experience business-critical priorities. Organisations need to be nimble and creative in their approach to recruiting and retaining talent. They have to increase their focus on DEI and wellbeing, as well their own understanding of existing talent within the business in order to stand out. Age-old formulas are no longer going to be enough for employees and the sooner firms realise this, the sooner they can make the changes they need to create a more effective and successful strategy. “


By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.