Last week, on a barmy summer-like evening we gathered with a group of our members at Starstruck Space in Soho for a campfire session focused on recruitment and the apparent skills shortage. Read our writeup of the session below:

Robert Kenward opens the session with a controversial statement. There is not, he says, a talent shortage, but instead a shortage of realistic expectations from employers. He asks the attendees what makes them think there is a talent shortage. Some cite more dropouts than usual in the application process, lack of specific skillsets, nervousness around the events sectors and the ease of zoom interviews meaning candidates can afford to throw their net more widely as they apply, amongst others.

All of the above, Robert says, employers can control more than they currently think they can. The pandemic has shifted work away from the centre of many people’s lives. There is no ‘back to normal’ and it’s estimated that around 100,000 have no intention of coming back into the events industry following the pandemic. Job seekers are more comfortable asking for the salaries they think they deserve and expect greater flexibility than they ever had before.

The key to engaging with potential employees is personalisation. Rob reminds us that the people in your businesses are choosing to be there. “Use that resource,” he says, and find out what employees like about working there, and what works for them. These answers might surprise you and give you insight into what candidates might want, and what benefits you can offer as an employer. If you can’t answer the question, “Why would someone leave where they are now, and come and work for us?” then you have a bigger issue.

One size never fits all, Robert acknowledges. We’ve seen this with remote working – people with home offices and gardens have thrived whilst people living in shared accommodation using a desk for an ironing board, have struggled more. Even within one business, different departments can have entirely different ways of working and therefore different needs. Robert cites an organisation who offer benefits on a ‘pick and mix model’. They have a longer list of employee benefits, and employees can choose a certain number of the benefits that are useful and applicable to their life and needs. This offers genuine flexibility and a sense of agency and choice to employees, whilst still offering equalising boundaries that promise structure.

Of course flexible benefits can create concerns for employers, especially when working with clients in a service sector. How do we empower employees to push back against clients and ask for more realistic deadlines? How do we educate the client on the impact they can have on work/ life balance? This can be difficult, but Robert recommends asking for specifics from clients, to help get an understanding of when a request is genuinely urgent. Reframe your thinking he says. Instead of thinking of pushing as saying no, think of it in the following way: “I’m not saying no, I’m trying to understand how I can say yes to you.”

When it comes to strategy Robert says that recruitment is often seen as a “knee-jerk reaction”, when really it needs to be embedded in your businesses strategy the same way marketing is, for example. “Have your plan in place before you need to recruit,” he says. He recommends looking inwards first. The process of recruiting someone and getting them inducted into the business can take about three to five months. So ask, is there anyone already in your company who you can train in that period to get them ready for that job role? Only after looking internally, should you get in contact with a recruiter, and make sure they are the right fit for who you are looking to recruit and how you are looking to do it.

In a recent PWC survey, 92% of candidates said they have had a bad experience of the hiring process, citing ‘never hearing from the place they’ve applied for’ and ‘unnecessarily drawn out hiring processes’ as two of the key problems. Robert recommends that every company should have an accessible and easy to find careers page, featuring testimonies from current employers. If you can make this process easier, you are already doing better than most of your competitors looking for talent.

To finish the session, Robert shares with us his six point recruitment manifesto:

  1. The pay gap is real. Replace ‘what is your current salary?’ with ‘what salary are you looking for?’ Sticking with the former means marginalised people end up continuing to earn less.
  2. All job adverts must have a salary banding. It’s the right thing to do and saves you time because you don’t meet with the wrong candidates.
  3. Don’t be a dick. Reply to all applicants. See sending responses to people as business development – if they are right for your company in the future they might not apply. And if you’re getting lots of applicants who are way off, then the problem may well lie in your job advert.
  4. When using contingency recruiters, if employers insist on giving the role to multiple agencies, ensure all agencies only submit applicants on the same day. Employers need to give recruiters boundaries.
  5. Protect your brand. Make it a policy to now allow recruitment agencies to submit a candidate’s CV without prior written email agreement. Quality over quantity when it comes to recruitment!
  6. Don’t prepare to fail. Make three months 100% rebate standard for all external recruiters. If recruiters won’t agree to this, then it might be because you’re not giving them a good enough brief. Give your recruiters a briefing session. Ask recruiters what they’d want for three months rebate; probably a bigger fee which might be fair all round. Employers control more than they think they do!

Thank you so much to Robert for sharing his insight with our members. It was invaluable and useful session that shed light on recruitment in today’s landscape and how employers can find the right people. We ended the session with a drinks reception, where attendees could network and reconnect with industry peers. Thank you to everyone who joined us!

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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