It’s all over the national press: unemployment is at its lowest since 2005 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That means 55,000 more people in work in the last three months, meaning a record 31.6 million are now employed. Earnings are also on the rise, an increase of 2.3% on last year (without bonuses).
Good news for employees, but what is the impact on small and mid-tier employers?
For most businesses, recruitment has been that bit easier since 2008, with more candidates than jobs, and a pick of the bunch for roles not in shortage professions.
That is rapidly changing: there is higher competition for good candidates, more roles available, and most employers need to consider how attractive they are to jobseekers, not the other way around.
Here are our top tips for business leaders to ensure you are attracting excellent candidates, amongst increased competition:
1. Champion your culture
Searching for jobs is a laborious task. People want responses, to be treated fairly, to understand the process, and be sold the real job, not a rough approximation of it. Your employer brand can really make you stand out from the competition here. Make sure your adverts, your process, your website and all contact you have with candidates is consistent, is true to who you are, and tells a really good story about your purpose, your team and their potential journey with you.
2. Commit to what good looks like
If you are trying to hire great candidates, you need to know what good looks like before you start the process. Job descriptions can feel like a paper exercise, but if you aren’t clear what job you need someone to do, and more important the attitudes and behaviours of the person you want to hire, you are not setting yourself up for success.
At a Vistage members meeting this week, I asked the CEOs and MDs to describe their star performers. Words included, challenging, hardworking, driven, ambitious, self-starter, proactive. Only 1 in 10 of the words was anything to do with the skills someone had to do the job. Make sure your ‘good’ includes how they do things, rather than just what they can do.
3. Don’t let an administrator or an agency run it all
Recruitment is time consuming. We all know it is an added hassle on already busy workloads. But when we stand back, we also know the difference it can make between hiring someone excellent or hiring someone average (or less than). If we hand the most important decision about who joins us to a junior or a random third party, we are not in control of the most important decision we could make that week or month. To hire brilliant people, you need someone excellent involved with the process, who understands the business, the vacancy, your culture and your values.
Recruitment starts before the vacancy is identified, and the job description, person spec and advert are much more important documents than we give credit for. They are describing and attracting a new employee. In a market where unemployment is very low, it is worth getting your marketing team involved so that you really are an attractive proposition to an in-demand job seeker. You have to get this right.
4. Consider internal recruitment expertise
If you find recruiting new people to the team, consider getting an internal recruitment resource on a part-time basis. There are reasons some people make a career out of recruitment: it is a specialism and isn’t learned overnight. As part of our HR Director offering, we often run recruitment for our clients from the inside, because external recruiters are incentivised to fill a vacancy, not necessarily to find you the right person.
5. Run a brilliant recruitment process
Although hiring doesn’t seem a particularly strategic issue to be discussed at board level, whether your business is a high performing team, and meeting your business goals certainly is. Most business KPIs and measures are delivered (or not) by individual people in your business performing (or not). That is why the right people are so important.
A brilliant recruitment process weeds out the unskilled and the bad apples, it saves you time so that you increase your hiring percentage and decrease your turnover. It means you don’t have the embarrassment of putting a complete lemon in front of your precious clients. It may include behavioural profiling, structured interviews, skills testing. It may not require much of your time once there is a tried and tested process to bring the right people into the business. When you have that, the chances of hiring right, and meeting your business goals are that much higher.
If you are ever wondering if this effort with recruitment is worth it, just take a minute to reflect on your best and worst performers in your business at the moment. Recruitment is your moment to invest in getting more of the former and fewer of the latter. As a business owner, how can you afford not to get involved?
Ally Maughan is the CEO of People Puzzles, a strategic national partner of Vistage.
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