The skills gap is worsening within many industries in the UK

The skills gap is worsening within many industries in the UK

The much-discussed ‘war for talent’ is continuing to hit the headlines this year as organisations across the UK bear the brunt of industry-wide skills shortages threatening their productivity and growth. A lack of necessary skills can have a profound effect on the success of a business and the blame for this is often placed with HR. However, I feel strongly that the responsibility for combating the skills issue should be shared within an organisation, and not left solely to HR.

Although the HR department does hold the general responsibility for talent acquisition, the responsibility for the management of that talent, hiring methods and the creation of a true and compelling employer brand needs to be shared with the wider business.

Findings from our Workforce Horizons study show that 93 percent of HR and resourcing professionals feel they are facing a talent shortage for skilled positions, and only 12 percent are extremely confident that they have sufficiently highly skilled staff available to meet the needs of the business.

With this knowledge, it cannot be denied that the skills shortage pressure won’t be easing anytime soon. What must now be asked is, how can UK organisations change their strategies to solve this critical issue?

Recruiting early

Organisations have long been partnering with universities and colleges to create and sponsor courses that equip people with the necessary skills to give them a head start in their career. However, these days we are seeing an increasing amount of high profile organisations targeting primary schools in an effort to spark interest in their particular sector from an early age. When approached from a young age, it is possible to change and mould an individual’s perceptions, and the impact tends to be much longer lasting.

Shifting perceptions

In order to really combat the skills shortage, businesses must challenge their hiring strategies, such as bringing in more junior, less experienced staff as interns or apprentices. These keen, skilled workers can bring a number of benefits to the workplace, such as fresh perspectives and new talents. To sustain and champion this new thinking, businesses need to make sure that they are hiring forward-thinking managers to help nurture new talent in the best possible way. This combination of young talent and managers who are committed to developing new staff is a sure fire way to success.

Retention is key

For a business to really attempt to solve the skills shortages issue, instigating a strong supply-channel initiative, although extremely important, is only one step in the journey. It is equally as important to develop strategies that promote staff retention.

Not only are the right skills hard to find, but individuals with those required skills are even harder to attract. These candidates are fully aware of the control they can flex over both the recruitment process and their ongoing salary and benefits negotiations. This is why it is critical for businesses to ensure they have a strong and authentic employer brand that provides an accurate representation of what they are like to work for and is true to the benefits they offer to help differentiate from the crowd. This helps organisations to attract the right people from the very beginning and increases the chances of them staying for the long run.

An imperative factor is understanding your competition and the continuously changing candidate market. If you want your business’ recruitment and retention strategies to stand out, you must take the time to know what is happening in the market and adjust your strategy accordingly on a frequent basis. Although it is necessary to understand your company’s particular talent needs and culture, being aware of what your competitors are doing and how the market is changing will give you an extra leg-up in the race for top talent.

Most battles are won through a team effort, and this is true of the fight against the skills shortage. A company-wide effort is required to combat this pervasive hurdle, and HR certainly should not bear the burden alone. Wider business strategies that support recruitment and retention need to be put into effect.  Businesses that take steps towards a more collaborative approach to the issue will reap the benefits in terms of both talent attraction and retention.

You can find read the full Workforce Horizons report here.  


Nicola McQueen, Managing Director, Capita Resourcing. Nicola has worked in the recruitment industry for 17 years; joining Capita in 1999 as a recruitment consultant. Today, Nicola is responsible for Capita Resourcing and its wider businesses; encompassing the overall management of all client solutions, the core delivery teams, strategic account development and management of key stakeholder relationships.

Her remit extends across Capita HR Solutions, talent acquisition research business Write Research, Security Watchdog – a market leading brand offering pre-employment screening services – and employer branding and marketing agency ThirtyThree.

Nicola is ultimately responsible for the strategic direction of our wider business which includes our acquisition activity, and personally oversaw the acquisition of ThirtyThree in 2014/5.