How to address the skills shortage and build the talent pipeline

The skills shortage issues facing employers today are likely to be here to stay due to demographic and other trends. Employers need to adapt, a webinar heard yesterday.

ipad with 'send cv' button


Employers have been taken by surprise at the number of skills shortages they are currently facing and need to focus on building their brand and developing a short and long-term talent strategy that is agile enough to adapt to an uncertain future, according to a leading recruitment expert.

Matt Alder, host of The Recruiting Future Podcast, told a Manpower webinar on the future of the workplace in data, deals and dialogue, that employers need to think more broadly about their brand, about changing attitudes to work and about longer-term talent pipelines. “The skills shortage is not a problem that will go away,” he said.

Jo Taylor, RPO Operations Director at Manpower, spoke of the need to build relationships before the traditional milk round stage. She said some employers are reaching out to young people in Key Stage 2 and developing light touch relationships with schools. They are doing everything from providing mentoring to helping with university applications and cvs.

Taylor added that it is dangerous for employers to simply throw money at the skills shortage. Instead, she said, they should focus on issues such as flexible working, corporate social responsibility and environmental impact because candidates want to know what makes them stand out as an organisation.

Taylor spoke of research showing that candidates want more flexibility and that 43% think Covid has brought the end of the 9-5 norm. Employers realise things are changing and are responding, although 29% were still not offering any flexibility at the beginning of the year.

Alder said employers were under a lot of pressure to declare their intentions about post-Covid ways of working, but he added: “I’m not sure any organisation is in a position to make a definitive decision about what happens.” He said it is important to recognise that companies will make mistakes and that decisions about how and where employees work will affect the kind of talent an employer can attract.

Digital acceleration

Alder said that many businesses had fundamentally changed during Covid which has hugely accelerated digital transformation, for instance, the way businesses interact with their customers. He said employers need to know and understand the skills they have already in the business and how they can redeploy and upskill their people.

Taylor spoke of the need to reform assessment processes in order to have a better knowledge of people’s skills background and their ability to retrain and cross skill. Standard assessment processes are one-sided and outdated, she said. “They do not assess the skills needed for the future…Assessment for future fit must be a leading priority over the next 12 months,” she stated.

Alder added that employers are using technology for everything, but what is important is to ensure you have the right technology to deliver the right experience for people, for instance, remote training should not just be via webinars, but should encourage more agile, mobile forms of learning.

Another problem that employers face is a lack of nuanced data. Not many applicant tracking software systems provide high quality, insightful data, said Taylor. In the past, she added, the ability to leverage real-time data was a ‘nice to have’. Now in a competitive hiring world it is essential. Alder added that making recruitment more of an online process means there will be more useful data points to look at, for instance, how long it takes for a person to answer a particular type of question. “Everyone needs to have a data mindset,” said Alder.

Building the internal pipeline

The webinar also covered effective talent pipelining. Taylor said it is vital that employers look to build their talent pipeline internally through making use of their current workforce rather than always looking externally. She called on employers to do a skills gap analysis, referring to McKinsey research showing how this could best be done: firstly, through comparing the skills employers have with those they will need in the future; secondly, through shaping learning and development around skills gaps and finding the right format to deliver that learning to a disparate workforce; and thirdly, through building skills delivery at scale.

Employers also need to invest in ensuring their hiring managers feel part of the recruitment process, understand the pressures of a competitive talent market and that a one-way interview style no longer works, said Taylor. “They have to convert people. Even if people don’t get the job they will get an impression of the brand,” she stated.

Taylor added that the recruitment market needs to be more responsive to changing demand, more agile and more able to adapt to virtual working. Planning needs to allow for change without it having an adverse impact on the organisation, she said.

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