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19th Jun, 2023

Craig Lewis
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Craig Lewis
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Senior Content Writer

When it comes to analysing what the next set of challenges those in the recruitment world will have to face there is no doubt it is a wide-ranging topic. 

From questions around inclusivity, hybrid working, the rise of automation or the four-day working week there is plenty for talent acquisition professionals to get their teeth into. 

"So, when I posed the question, what are the next set of challenges facing the recruitment world?" to Ken Brotherston, the Chief Executive of TALiNT Partners, I’m all too aware of its open-ended breadth. 

But Ken doesn’t miss a beat in answering. 

“We could talk about the structural talent shortages that are essentially present in Western economies for the foreseeable future - for the next generation,” he says. 

‘The problem of population pyramids’ 

“Globally,” Ken says, “we’ve got the workforce that we need, but they’re just in different places.” 

He said while talent shortages may be present in parts of Europe, “lots of young people are in Africa and South Asia”. 

Ken talks of population pyramids - graphical illustrations of the distribution of a population by age groups and sex. These illustrations typically take the shape of a pyramid when the population is growing, with lots of young people at the bottom. 

It is not the case in much of the western world, where these pyramids have become fat around the middle as their population ages. 

“That's one kind of very strategic issue,” Ken says, “but, as a result, you have organisations hiring for skills rather than experience. 

“This is the biggest challenge.” 

‘Hard-wired to look for experience’ 

Skills-based hiring is increasing. According to new research from global HR and payroll experts, Remote, skills-based hiring is up 63% in the past year. 

But the change remains evolutionary. 

Ken says recruiting for experience is “hard wired into the recruitment processes, both for employers themselves, but also for the whole recruiting industry. 

“If you look at how the recruiting industry is set up, it's set up to find people with experience to then put them in the roles that require that experience.  

“If that shifts to where they say, actually the experience isn't so important, it's the skills, that's a real profound shift.” 

There are significant benefits in hiring for skills rather than experience, including an expansion of the available talent pool, improved retention rates and the creation of a more diverse workforce.  

“The payback is significant in terms of your ability to find or to access labour, and indeed to access diverse labour,” Ken says, adding that the move to hybrid working and more distributed ways of working has helped facilitate the move. 

“Once companies learn how to deploy that effectively, its distributed workforce model gives them access to talent that they didn't have before.” 

‘The UK’s post-pandemic challenge’ 

Ken says the post-Covid situation in the UK, where many older people left the workforce during the pandemic and the government has even sought to encourage early people back to work, is “unique” to this country. 

“It's happening in some countries, but there's something about the UK that is unique in terms of its post-pandemic workforce not coming back into the labour market. 

“You've got a couple of groups, the older workers and then people who are essentially consigned off sick.” 

Ken says the most recent budget was “essentially a talent acquisition budget” focused on getting older people back into the workforce and helping women return to work through more nursery places. 

The needle is already starting to change when it comes to older workers, with challenges around the cost-of-living crisis driving many back to work – although Ken says the move may be being “more profoundly driven by the fact that people retire and then they realise they're retired a long time, and they're not quite ready to stop working.” 

He says this brings different, more flexible ways of working into play such as two- or three-day working weeks. 

“I think employers are really waking up to the fact this gives them access to a labour force that does have a lot of skills, but they also have a lot of experience and a lot of transferable skills. 

“They've got management experience and are less combustible perhaps than some of the younger colleagues because they've seen it and done it before.” 

How can recruiters address societal challenges? 

With population shifts, skills shortages and the aftershocks of a pandemic to cope with, it would be easy to be pessimistic about the industry’s ability to address what are huge societal changes out of its control. 

But Ken is confident the answers can be found: “Recruitment has always been a part of what's going on in wider society. 

“It's the oil that makes the job process work.” 

Many recruiters are now working on ways to help underprivileged people back into work, with Ken saying the trick is to “look beyond the criteria you used to focus on and to recognise that skills come in lots of different shapes and sizes.” 

But he admits such practices are not a panacea: “People from underprivileged backgrounds and particularly from deprived backgrounds, can take a bit longer to get up and running and be effective, but I think there's now a lot of evidence that shows they stay longer. 

“More generally, if you look at apprentices, they tend to stay longer with employers than graduates. 

“It might be over six, seven, eight years, but the return on investment is much higher if employers can take that longer term view - which historically they've tended not to do because they want someone to hit the ground running.” 

Our recruit, train, deploy solution works to help organisations overcome chronic skills shortages by attracting, reskilling and deploying new talent. Find out more here.

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