Comment: How to hire the best talent for your digital needs

Matt Weston, MD of Robert Half UK, shares his tips to help employers source and secure the right candidates to support their business in the year ahead.

It's vital that employers focus on attracting the skills they need to keep up with the increasingly competitive business landscape, says Weston. Picture: Contributed

As 2019 gathers pace, it’s time to consider what’s on the horizon for the employment market in the year ahead.

From a political point of view, the past 12 months have been dominated by the government’s Brexit negotiations. A key element to emerge from this will be access to talent while the UK grapples with its current skills shortage.

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While the Scottish jobs market remains strong, as recent ONS figures have shown, it is vital that going forward, employers focus on attracting the skills they need if they are to keep up with the increasingly competitive business landscape. As Robert Half’s research has shown, businesses in Scotland are increasing their recruitment investment to fill skills gaps while also preparing for the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The digitisation effect

Despite earlier predictions that artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will steal our jobs, the latest studies show the opposite effect. PwC has reported that AI will be all about displacement, not replacement, of traditional jobs. It predicted that around seven million UK jobs in sectors such as manufacturing and transport could be displaced by AI between 2017 and 2037. But it also said that about 7.2 million new jobs could be created, notably in sectors like health and science - meaning a net growth in jobs of about 200,000.

However, the UK talent market is already experiencing a lack of the digital skills needed to help businesses adapt to digitisation, AI and automation. In Scotland alone, four out of every five SMEs – the equivalent to 273,482 small, medium sized companies - are struggling to attract the skills they need. All the indicators show that demand for skilled professionals in finance, technology, marketing and business support will continue to grow in line with the sharpening focus on productivity, digitisation and automation.

The impact of your employer brand

Finding candidates is the first step in winning the war for talent. But persuading in-demand professionals to join your firm over another is just as much of a challenge.

It is increasingly important to candidates that they find roles with organisations that provide a collaborative, flexible workplace that also makes them feel invested in the success of their team. Recently, the British Chamber of Commerce has cited a link between flexibility and increased productivity levels which can only be a good thing for business.

Streamline your time to hire

Demand for the best professionals with the most relevant skills will continue to grow in the year ahead - and acting more quickly to secure chosen candidates must be high on businesses’ agendas. In our research with jobseekers, we found almost a quarter claim to receive more than one job offer, while 57 per cent have accepted a second-choice role when their preferred employer took too long to contact them.

Call on the professional gig economy

Start thinking about flexible recruitment strategies. What we’re calling the professional gig economy is well underway, with over 15 per cent of the UK workforce now classed as self-employed. As it gains momentum, this trend opens a wealth of new strategic staffing possibilities for businesses. Organisations are beginning to rely more heavily on flexible recruitment models as a means of balancing economic uncertainty and lack of available talent.

Focus on retention

Once you have attracted and secured the right people, the next challenge is to ensure they stay. According to our research almost one in four people would consider leaving their current job if an equivalent job with a better remuneration package came along. When it comes to attracting highly-skilled employees, businesses have little choice but to offer competitive packages: nearly two in five (39 per cent) companies in Scotland say increased remuneration levels have been necessary in the last three years to secure the best quality candidates.

Retention strategies for the coming year should focus on the human-first approach, beginning with leadership techniques. Our research found that employees were most happy at work when they felt a sense of appreciation, pride in their organisation and were treated with fairness and respect. It also found three quarters of candidates are more likely to quit their jobs if an employer is unable to provide a clear development path, including training, compared with three years ago.

Time for change

It’s difficult to know how political and economic events will play out in 2019. But whatever happens, the digitisation agenda means employers have no choice but to hire the right people to transform and automate business processes. The good news is that there are already tried and tested ways of ensuring that you attract and retain the people you need.