“…but my keys are always in this drawer!”   Sound familiar?  I recently lost my keys.  I knew that they were in the third drawer down of my filing cabinet, except I couldn’t find them there.  I rummaged through the drawer and then walked away scratching my head.  Where could they be?  I checked pockets and the bedside table, the desk and the kitchen work surface.  As time passed and the deadline for me leaving (ideally with the keys) approached, I got slightly more frantic in my searching, but each time returning to the drawer where the key should have been, because they are always in there… Not this time. Having supported several hundred companies, quite possibly more than a thousand, on issues related to accessing talent, it is possible to see patterns in the problems they face and the methods they use to solve them.  The companies have come to the UK from all over the world, operate in all sectors and vary in size from small entrepreneurial teams to global multi-national companies.  When asked, ‘what keeps you awake at night?’ Many of them made very similar statements:

“we can’t find / are unable to recruit an engineer / scientist / technician / developer etc.”.

I have always felt that this is only half a statement.  The second half of the statement is

‘…for the money we are offering, in the place we want them to work.’

The fact is that highly skilled people, particularly in STEM and management careers, are generally not sitting around waiting for people to offer them jobs.  They have jobs, and quite often very good jobs – so you are not just trying to attract them in to your business, you’re actively having to pull them away from the one they are in. So where do you look?  Too often companies are looking in the same place and, failing to find the skilled people they think should be there, jump to the conclusion that there are no engineers / scientists / technicians / developers etc.  Looking for skilled people in clusters of talent creates a demand for labour that outstrips the supply.  By thinking creatively about where to access the skills, or how to access some of the skills and train the rest, companies can broaden the talent pool and develop a healthy supply. Recently an in-company recruiter was explaining that people interviewed well, but didn’t perform as expected when they came to work – ‘people have changed, they want something different from work’ she said.  After some questioning it was clear that although there was recognition that people change and the new people coming into their business may want to work differently to those that are already there, their recruitment and interview process had not changed in 15 years. In-keeping with our current theme of The Nation’s Favourite, I invite you to question your own methods for search, selection and recruitment.  If you are not sure where to start, here are a few ideas and, of course, if you would like us to audit your recruitment and selection process, you only need to ask.

  • Have a clear understanding of what your business offers your people, and how it differs to anywhere else they may want to work (not just your direct commercial competitors).
  • Are you searching where everyone else is? Search for talent in unusual places.  If everyone is competing for graduates, go for undergraduates and commit to train them up, or go for graduates from other universities.
  • Do the ‘skills, knowledge and experience’ aspects of your selection process accurately reflect the skills needed to do the job now, and in the future – think ‘management skills’ in particular.
  • Do you replace automatically?  If someone leaves, do you fill the vacancy, or do you audit the requirement?  Do you assess internal capability and review job roles to fill the gap?
  • Are you a Levy payer?  Are you utilising your apprenticeship levy for development?

Effective recruitment saves a business time and money.  Understanding your recruitment needs relies on a sound understanding of the skills, knowledge and competence you need in the business.  If you would like some help in getting to grips with your workforce strategy and recruitment processes, just call to have an initial chat.

By Gareth Preece. A Senior Consultant at Cullen Scholefield, he specialises in strategic workforce planning, talent strategies and organisational effectiveness. Gareth is the former Skills Specialist at the Department for International Trade, a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, a Member of the Institute of Economic Development and an Associate member of the Institute of Export (IoE) and a member of the IoE Academic Board.


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