For many HR leaders and internal hiring teams, 2018 was a year which was defined by technological transformation, legislative challenges and, of course, huge uncertainly in the face of Brexit. However, against a backdrop of such unprecedented change, HR functions have been working behind the scenes to identify and implement innovative solutions which deliver new and better ways to manage the workforce of today.

Late last year, Guidant Global surveyed 1,500 UK-based hiring managers to determine the hurdles they were facing in terms of recruitment – and the steps they are taking to overcome them. Unsurprisingly, 78% of all respondents admitted that they were finding it difficult to access the quality and volume of talent their businesses need to thrive amid ongoing chronic skills shortages, with 39% revealing that Brexit uncertainty had directly impacted access to talent.

When quizzed on their ‘wish lists’ for post-Brexit migration policy, 24% of those surveyed believed that clarity on immigration rules ‘at the earliest possible opportunity’ was crucial, while a similar number (23%) said that retaining free movement of labour within the EEA would be advantageous. A further 14% indicated that highly skilled workers should be prioritised, while 11% believed that the current Shortage Occupation List should be reviewed. One in 10, meanwhile, said that salary thresholds for Tier 2 visas should be reconsidered. While a white paper has since been published setting out proposed new laws before they are formalised, there will be no clarity until the final bill is published, despite the fact that retaining access to key skills will be crucial to future profitability.

While future migration policy is something that HR strategists have little control over, it is evident that many are capitalising on areas of workforce management that they can influence in order to bridge current and future skills gaps. For example, almost half of all business (47%) said that developing staff internally would be their greatest opportunity from a talent management perspective over the next three years. Other proactive measures that those surveyed plan on implementing, include taking a more global approach to sourcing and managing staff, and maximising the potential of contingent talent by flexing workforces to meet demand, which were favoured by 8% and 5% of respondents respectively.  

Using technology to plan and manage workforces more strategically was also identified as an area of opportunity for 22% of respondents. However, while technology was viewed as a key enabler, there was universal agreement that the role of humans in the hiring process is still crucial, with 58% saying a human touch was ‘important’ and 42% saying it is ‘vital’, and always will be.

Employers are also taking active steps to improve candidate and staff engagement with individuals from specific groups in an effort to overcome ongoing skills shortages, with 16% directing resources into this area. When quizzed on which demographics they are prioritising, 18% of respondents said they are focusing on emerging talent to boost future pipelines while 17% said they are directing resources into engaging female talent. A further 13% of hiring managers indicated that they are taking steps to tap into disabled talent pools while both BAME individuals and those returning from a career break were top targets for 12% of those surveyed. Other groups which hiring managers are actively seeking to engage include: individuals with a criminal record; those from lower socioeconomic groups; LGBT talent; and older workers. It seems that, at a time when it is now universally recognised that diversity of thought breeds innovation, forward-thinking organisations are now truly unlocking the potential of diverse talent.

Finally, when asked if they have any criticisms of recruitment providers they have worked with in the past, hiring managers identified myriad annoyances that they have faced when using external partners, including ‘poor candidate experience’, ‘profit-first approach’ and ‘a limited perspective’, which were identified by 19%, 16% and 15% of respondents respectively. Other faults that those surveyed flagged included a ‘quick-fix’ or ‘impersonal’ approach to hiring. Clearly, a significant number of recruiters need to up their game if they are to position themselves as a partner of choice in this increasingly competitive environment.    

While the chronic skills shortages which are impacting the UK labour market have been well documented, these findings demonstrate that smart businesses are putting in place solid strategies to mitigate against future talent gaps – and while it is clear that 2019 will bring its fair share of challenges, it will also offer opportunities for employers to challenge the status quo, think agile and manage recruitment in a better way.