AAB HR expert discusses a revolution in staff recruitment

Asking job candidates why they should choose your firm can help with recruitment, advises Lisa Thomson

As vacancies rise, firms must show why people want to work for them, says Lisa Thomson, CEO of AAB Group’s Purpose HR
As vacancies rise, firms must show why people want to work for them, says Lisa Thomson, CEO of AAB Group’s Purpose HR

In today’s highly competitive recruitment market for skilled talent, traditional approaches to hiring are being turned on their head.

Increasingly, we are working with our clients and asking not “Who do you want to hire?”, but “Why would candidates choose to work for you, and why would your current employees choose to stay?”

Rarely before have candidates had so many opportunities to consider, and employers experienced such challenges to fill vacancies.

Top talent: Show people why they should work for you

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of job vacancies from October to December 2021 rose to a new record of 1,247,000, an increase of 462,000 from the pre-pandemic level of January to March 2020.

This is against a backdrop of a reduction of people in the labour market. Younger people are staying in education and older people leaving the jobs market, so fewer people are looking for each available job, according to the Institute for Employment Studies.

The impact is evident in high-demand skilled areas such as technology, digital and professional services.

Numerous recent surveys and reports have shown the growth surge of tech sector roles in Scotland which, as a percentage of the total jobs market, is increasingly higher than the UK average. Competition for talent is high, and counter-offers rife.

Edinburgh was recently cited by Tech Nation to be one of the fastest-growing tech cities in the UK, and Glasgow was recently announced to be the home of one of three research centres receiving £100 million from the UK Government as part of “levelling up” plans.

Add to this the end of freedom of movement for European Union workers – which has led to a significant increase in the number of employers registered with the Home Office to sponsor employees since the Brexit transition period ended. That trend looks set to continue and we are helping many of our clients with this.

But how does this affect employers, when recruiters and hiring managers are already swamped with vacancies and scrabbling for experienced talent?

Not all companies can compete by raising pay levels and financial incentives, especially early-stage start-ups and scale-ups. At pre-revenue stage, and when you are funded by investors, cash is key, which poses a challenge when people and knowledge are your key asset and USP.

Since I founded Purpose HR in 2014 and, prior to that was leading HR functions in growth tech companies, I’ve had the privilege of working with forward-looking leaders of scaling businesses who recognise the value in developing their employee value proposition, focusing on culture, engagement and experience. A focus on retention and development of skills is as – if not more – important, in terms of hiring and attracting talent. There is still much that employers can do to stand out in the market, such as focusing on employee engagement, job quality and flexibility.

Organisations of any size and stage that can clearly articulate – and, crucially, demonstrate in day-to-day practice – a purpose-driven culture where people feel valued, listened to and empowered in their daily work, can hold a key competitive advantage.

We know from experience that spending time surveying employees and actively involving them in changing workplace practices is an effective way of doing this.

Employers should also ensure that they are taking steps to widen their recruitment strategies and provide flexible jobs to attract and retain disadvantaged groups and pools of untapped talent, which can include older workers, ex-forces candidates, people with caring responsibilities, and those with long-term health conditions who are willing and able to work.

Looking at creative ways to helping some of the six million people who are outside the labour market for a variety of reasons to return to the workplace will reap benefits and help build diverse, inclusive, and purpose-driven workplaces of the future.

There are no easy answers to the challenges of today’s labour market and this all highlights why employers need to focus on speaking and listening to their existing employees and taking a more diverse approach to widening their horizons in the search for talent to compete and stay ahead in growing and developing skilled teams.

Ask yourself: “Why would employees choose to work for us?”, and build on that.

Lisa Thomson is founder and chief executive of Purpose HR, an AAB Group company

Find out more at AAB.uk