Planning for the return of growth hiring
Four actions to take now to get one step ahead
Hiring strategies for business growth
The UK job market has been in reverse for over a year, with vacancy numbers falling every month since July 2022, this has led to a slight increase in candidate availability. Instead of seeing this as a negative, for businesses that have strong balance sheets this represents a true opportunity.
It has been proven that during an economic downturn, the most successful businesses continue to hire great, self-disciplined, self-managing people and take advantage of the availability of talent.
GDP growth will return and when it does, those companies with the strongest teams will outperform their competitors. We take a look at some strategies to grow and retain your teams as the economy improves.
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, such as in IT recruitment and 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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