Written by Julie Mott, Managing Director, Howett Thorpe

Considering the millions of furloughed workers during the height of the pandemic, global markets seem to have bounced back remarkably. And it may be surprising to learn that unemployment has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels (sitting at an estimated 4.5% — just 0.5 percentage points lower than before the pandemic and far lower than the forecasted 5.6% for 2021).

But although unemployment rates are looking positive — good news for society as a whole — there is a catch for businesses.

Since the easing of lockdown restrictions kickstarted the economy and people’s behaviour began to shift back towards ‘business as usual’, there has been a rapid increase in hiring as companies refocus on recruitment and growth. However, job vacancies hit 1.1 million between July and September of 2021 — the highest level since records began in 2001 — meaning many businesses are struggling to fill positions in an increasingly competitive market.

So, what can companies do to attract, secure and retain the best employees?

Keep calm and carry on

Although the post-pandemic period may present challenges for recruitment, there are still plenty of ways for businesses to stand out and obtain the top talent…

Recruit and develop from within

When there are lots of jobs available, it quickly becomes a candidate-driven market — whereby competition is fierce, and companies have to select talent from an increasingly dwindling pool. Staff retention is crucial in this situation.

As such, managers should consider whether a current employee could fill a vacant position within the company. Internal recruitment is cost and time-efficient and (while not always possible) can provide the opportunity for promotion and investment in existing talent, retraining and growth — allowing companies to boost retention levels and appeal to future external candidates.

Embrace technology

Research has revealed that 85% of workers would prefer a hybrid working model since the pandemic. So, employers need to cater to this demand and offer long-term, flexible working solutions where possible if they want to make candidates’ shortlists (yes — shortlists are no longer just for recruiters and employers!).

To do this, businesses must embrace technology to ensure their employees have the tools they need to do their work and enable consistent collaboration, no matter where they are working from.

Plus, not only will hybrid working make companies more appealing to candidates, but it will also enable them to broaden their search, allowing them to tap into talent pools from further afield.

Make them an offer they cannot refuse

With rising vacancies comes greater competition for the top talent, forcing employers to increase their salary brackets to retain their current staff and attract new candidates.

Once we take reported depressions in wages from the furlough scheme out of the equation, salaries have risen by 4% on average compared to this time last year, increasing the need for businesses to make a competitive salary offer.

However, although a competitive salary proposition holds a lot of weight with candidates, it is not the only aspect to consider. In fact, recent research has found that 80% of employees would prefer to take additional job benefits over a pay rise. So, businesses should assess the complete package they are offering, from perks and flexible working to office culture and staff wellbeing — or risk losing out on top talent.

Look for passive candidates

When the market is highly competitive, it is important to remember that just because someone is not actively looking for a new role does not mean they cannot be swayed by a better offer elsewhere. As such, companies should seek out suitable candidates already in employment and initiate discussions with them to draw their attention to vacant roles. Once again, technology can be a huge help in this scenario — with social media platforms like LinkedIn proving extremely effective when ‘headhunting’ high-level talent.

Of course, this works both ways. While you are searching for passive candidates at other companies, competitors will likely be doing the same with your employees. This is why staff retention should be a top priority to ensure they are not tempted away.

It all starts with recruitment

The recruitment process is where candidates gain their first impression of a business — from the moment they view the job advert to the quality of the company’s online presence and clarity of communications. Unstructured interviews and inconsistent contact during recruitment are guaranteed to put off any candidate, let alone the top industry talent.

Targeting only the most suitable candidates from the start is crucial in the current recruitment landscape. However, getting hiring right takes time and resources that many internal human resources departments do not have. Recruitment can become an expensive, stressful and time-consuming task without the proper infrastructure and support, so it is well worth having a strategy in place before getting started. That is why many organisations turn to specialist recruitment agencies to take the reigns and leverage their extensive networks to secure (and retain!) the top talent.

About the author

Julie Mott, Managing Director at Howett Thorpe is a highly respected and well-connected recruitment individual with over 20 years of experience working in the ever-changing industry.