With a strengthening economy, businesses, entrepreneurs and SMEs are becoming increasingly eager to attract new talent. Yet the media frequently highlights the perils faced by HR managers in attaining skilled staff. The FSB’s latest Small Business Index showed that almost a third of small businesses in the UK reported skills shortages that were detrimental to business growth[i]. This concern was reiterated by EY, finding that although 83% of entrepreneurs have taken on new staff, only 23% feel they have the correct talent[ii].

With such a growing emphasis on the lack of skilled staff in the workplace, employers need to consider alternative recruitment avenues that may be necessary to strengthen the workforce and increase business success.

Since the government abolished the default retirement age in 2011, government figures show an increase in the number of over 65s still working, which has soared to 1.1 million this month. With such an influx in the number of retirees returning to work, there is a well-equipped pool of talent with years of industry experience, ready to fill the skill gaps.

However, it‘s not just retirees who may offer employers with an additional, highly experienced talent pool. As a growing number of people are looking to improve their work-life balance, or to pursue other interests, career breaks have become more common in recent years.  Often, employers fail to fully recognise those candidates who are, for example, rejoining the workforce after having children or taking a sabbatical.

These employees can offer a fresh, recharged and motivated outlook. They come back to work with an open mind and the determination to succeed in positions they can confidently fulfill. Yet it is not uncommon for employers to have reservations in re-employing ‘returnees’ or older staff, assuming the break from work and external commitments reflect a lack of reliability, stability and the insight necessary for success. There is a perception that only a young workforce can offer the talent, innovation and tech-savvy qualities that are important in the modern workforce.

The knowledge and expertise of employees returning to work, coupled with modern workforce offerings such as remote working, can truly support productivity and business success. Giving employees and employers the opportunity to break away from the traditional 9-to-5 office regulations, means staff can work irrespective of time or location, enabling them access to flexible working patterns where needed more flexible working patterns employees may require.

Highly skilled employees, who may now prefer part-time hours or have other commitments, will then embrace a culture that maintains a work-life balance that pleases them, while ensuring companies can address skill gaps and access the best candidates.

There is a huge pool of talent ready for HR to utilise, which is easily facilitated by modernisation and advancements in organisational culture and technology. If organisations are driven to attract motivated, skilled and knowledgeable staff, they need to re-evaluate the current recruitment process and seek out the widest range of candidates, who may understand the business, to retain an advanced skill base. Only then can organisations reap the rewards of a highly productive workforce.


[i] Federation of Small Businesses (23 June 2014). FSB uncovers a growing skills gap as small firms' confidence hits an all-time high. http://www.fsb.org.uk/News.aspx?loc=pressroom&rec=8662

[ii] EY (8 September 2014) UK entrepreneurs see bright future, but looming skills shortage poses serious threat to their growth plans. http://www.ey.com/UK/en/Newsroom/News-releases/14-09-08—UK-entrepreneurs-see-bright-future