Hiring strategies for business growth

The signs suggest 2023’s economic slump may be brief – planning ahead now will help companies take advantage of growth when it returns.

The cost-of-living crisis, global geopolitical challenges, and impending recession are everywhere, and it’s easy for businesses to panic as growth predictions stall. But a quick look at the economic data gives reasons for optimism and suggests the slump may not be an enduring one.

For a start, the Bank of England expects inflation to start falling from the middle of 2023 to reach around 4% by the end of the year and continue falling beyond that to its target of 2%. Some of this will be due to reduced demand from UK consumers hit by the rising cost of living, but it also relates to falling wholesale energy prices and falling prices of imported goods as global production challenges start to ease.

Then there’s recruitment activity. After the 2008 financial crisis and during 2020’s pandemic lockdown, recruitment slowed dramatically. Today, that isn’t happening – while chief executives are cautious about growth hiring, PwC’s CEO survey shows just 19% are implementing hiring freezes and 16% are reducing the size of their workforce. This is in stark contrast to 2008, when twice as many anticipated headcount reductions.

For anyone in that 19% of businesses planning a growth hiring freeze, it might be a good idea to think of it as a brief one. The Bank of England has said the 2023 recession is likely to be shallow and brief and expects a recovery later in the year. In preparation for the return of growth, here are four key steps companies can be taking now to ensure they are ready.

Focus on strategy

Make sure your talent acquisition strategy is closely aligned to the business strategy, checking in every few months to ensure your hiring plans align to where you expect the business to be in one year, three years and five years’ time. This will ensure you know what’s coming and can plan according – and is particularly critical in areas where in-demand skills are hard to come by such as technology skills. Geoff Smith, who has worked as an HR director at organisations including Kantar, Wilmington PLC, and NCR Corporation says this is something every business should embrace. “Taking time out to think about the talent needs of the future will be beneficial for all organisations.” He adds the emerging concept of ‘strategic workforce planning’ offers tools for modelling future talent supply and demand and for helping organisations measure the gap between the two. This includes “developing a detailed understanding of future activities, clearly defining the skills of the future, forecasting labour supply and developing properly costed workforce plans. Tasks and activities need to be dissected and tasks redeployed or automated where appropriate. Only then can new roles and workflows be properly defined.”

IT Roles

Cyber security, cloud technology, data analytics & software developer  shortages are likely to become more acute as the year progresses.  

IT Salaries

Start looking now if you anticipate needing accountants with business-partnering soft skills and financial data analytics skills in the near future.

Hire graduates to fill future skills gaps

If your business is in the process of digitising or planning to increase its use of technology, plan ahead to develop the skills you’ll need. Roles in software development, cyber security, data analytics and cloud computing are particularly hard to fill and employing graduates in these spaces will – in a few years – produce a cohort of highly skilled people with an attachment to and understanding of your business. It’s also a great way to improve diversity at your company, with all forms of diversity being easier to achieve from a graduate pool than from more experienced workers. Seeking diversity in more experienced workers means you are effectively relying on previous employers to have hired in a diverse way. Instead, look to graduates for a broader pool.

Claire Collins, human resources manager at Macro 4, says graduates – as well as more experienced staff – are an important part of Macro 4’s recruitment strategy. “We regularly on-board graduates, placement students and IT beginners with the right aptitude and potential, who we will train and mentor, as well as experienced staff. We also actively encourage movement between teams. This gives us more versatility, as well as enriching the employee experience.”

IT salary increase

If you are likely to need technical marketers with skills in data analytics in the coming months, it's a good idea to take these 4 steps.

IT Recruitment Agency

Human Resources teams taking time out to think about the talent needs of the future will be beneficial for the entire organisation.

Remember retention

Improving your retention, as Geoff Smith says, is “absolutely critical,” and the best way to reduce hiring costs and ensure the business has the talent it needs to maintain momentum. He advises being crystal clear on the top 10% most important roles. “Too often organisations take a holistic approach to talent management which, although providing an environment where diversity of skills, attitudes and backgrounds are all valid, isn’t actually helpful in allowing companies to direct their retention strategies to those employees that they really need to retain.” He advises HR leaders to combine investment in careers and pathways for growth, with transparency on pay and benefits and mature approaches to work-life balance. Hybrid working, regular pay reviews and taking steps to ensure people feel invested in the company and have a sense of purpose are also all critical.

Claire Collins agrees retention is crucial. “We feel that the best retention strategy is to be a really good employer to work for. That encompasses many different areas: having an open and empowering work culture; providing a competitive salary and benefits package; offering development opportunities for employees; and ensuring that everyone in the company feels valued.”

Include upskilling

By forecasting future skills requirements in line with business strategy, companies will be able to identify areas it is possible to fill by upskilling current staff. Training and development initiatives, when managed well, don’t just help to future-proof the business and reduce the need for hiring – they can act as a retention and engagement tool, keeping staff interested, progressing, and learning. Claire Collins says this can be particularly important for staff at the beginning of their careers. “In particular it’s important for graduates and new employees to see clearly how they can progress within the company. Providing interesting and satisfying work is also key. We have many highly qualified technical staff who tell us they enjoy the challenges of working in a fast-moving software company, where no two days are the same. In addition, we offer opportunities for them to move on to different teams and projects so they can develop their skills.”

Ashdown build strong working relationships with the HR teams, recruitment teams and business stakeholders they partner with. Combining the latest recruitment technology with an innovative approach, we deliver support, advice and employment market guidance for a succesful, long term recruitment strategy.

For more hiring advice visit our insights, or get in touch to discuss your hiring plans.

Our 2023 Salary Guide focuses on the IT, HR, marketing and accountancy sectors, created from data analysed from over 3,400 organisations, 21,000 registered jobs, 350,000 recently active candidates, ONS data and other external data sources. Explore industry specific salary data and salaries for individual job roles, based on experience and location.

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