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Five top tips on how to beat labour shortages
Five top tips on how to beat labour shortages
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Five top tips on how to beat labour shortages

A perfect storm is hitting the UK’s economy and labour market, with a combination of a Brexit-induced exodus of EU staff, Covid-19 illness and self-isolation, and structural challenges in certain sectors meaning many businesses are struggling to get the staff they need.
08 nov. 2021
Supply Management

We’ve already seen garages running out of fuel as a result of a lack of drivers, while supply chain issues have also led to warnings of empty shelves in the run-up to Christmas.

Hospitality, logistics and manufacturing are perhaps the sectors worst affected but it’s an issue that is likely to hit many others. The CBI has predicted that UK businesses face up to two years of labour shortages, while the Open University’s annual Business Barometer 2021 report reveals 63 per cent of organisations are struggling with recruitment.

The following five tips will help you manage such shortages, in both the short and long term:

1. Make use of temporary labour

Temporary labour is an obvious way of addressing skills shortages, but such staff are in high demand. Thanks to digital recruitment, it’s now possible to access a wider range of staff than ever before, and to have greater certainty over their ability to do the job and that you are picking the best – and most reliable – candidates.

“With traditional recruitment, there’s usually a single human being going through the screening process,” says Steven Kirkpatrick, Gojob UK CEO. “That means that if you’re candidate 26, you’re relying on that individual having the same attention, interest and enthusiasm for your application as they have for the first one, nevermind the time it takes to manually get to candidate 26.”

Gojob can help employers make decisions five times quicker than more traditional methods, he adds, through its automated candidate sourcing and selection processes, and many go on to become full-time employees.

Gojob’s AI ‘Aglae’ uses artificial intelligence to help match candidates to roles, while effective vetting and induction processes – including the use of online simulation tools and 30-minute phone calls with candidates – means employers can make an objective assessment of a potential worker’s ability to do the work and their reliability, he says.

2. Create more attractive packages

It’s tempting to believe throwing more money at people will make them want to join your firm, and many businesses are doing just this. But such a strategy is unlikely to be effective in the long run unless it’s accompanied by other changes.

“One of the key focus areas right now should be the employee value proposition and retention strategies,” says Zoe Fakouri, principal consultant at Proxima. “While a lot of the talk in the media is about increasing salaries, there are other factors at play, such as culture, purpose, diversity, strategy, and development pathways which can potentially open up previously untapped talent pools.”

Other benefits can also help, such as employee assistance programmes, home working and flexible working. “Providing holistic benefits that are not pay-related will entice people and encourage them to stay,” says Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula. “The more the employer can do to support the employee, the better, as a happy and healthy employee will not only be more productive, but also a great advocate of the company to others.”

Ensuring existing staff feel they have career prospects and are developing new skills will also help to ensure they want to remain with an organisation. “Upskilling staff through training and development courses will help them to keep up to date with new and emerging technologies and the skills required in their role,” says Jenny Arrowsmith, employment lawyer at national law firm Irwin Mitchell.

3. Make the job easier

As well as incentivising staff, organisations in particular sectors need to do more to make the actual job more attractive, particularly in sectors that are associated with heavy physical labour, long hours and potentially dangerous working practices. “There’s little sense in trying to overcome a shortage of labour by putting those in your organisation at risk of exhaustion, coercion or lower health and safety standards,” says Jessica McGoverne, director of policy and corporate affairs at Sedex.

“Companies can also consider their internal practices – such as lead times, purchasing practices and communication with suppliers – to look at where they can alleviate the burden on their suppliers, or work with their customers to manage expectations and negotiate alternative lead times that protect workers from forced or illegally excessive overtime.”

The hospitality sector has realised the need for more fundamental changes to working practices, says Calum McIndoe, director of sales, UK & Ireland, at Infor Hospitality. “Unsociable hours will always be part of hospitality but split shifts need to be abolished and many business have done so already,” he says.

4. Make use of overlooked groups

One way of finding additional labour is to target groups that are often overlooked. This could include people with disabilities, ex-military, ex-offenders or those returning to the workplace after a period of absence.

Digital recruitment can also help put employers in touch with people who often feel shut out of the labour market, but who may be ideal candidates for manufacturing, logistics or warehouse roles.

“If you’re coming out of long-term unemployment or if you’re in a community that sits outside the norm, or where English is a second language, it can be daunting to go into a traditional high street agency and articulate yourself,” says Kirkpatrick of Gojob. “We’re finding people where they are, on their terms. Fundamentally, what we’re about is improving the experience of finding work for people that want to get into temporary recruitment, and to do that in a more socially inclusive way. Our algorithm Aglae detects the skills in people's backgrounds, even those that are not identified. Regardless of a degree or similar experience, Gojob can identify the skills and soft skills that make a job successful.

“One of the most striking things about getting people into work is that over 65 per cent of temporary workers are unable to afford to get to work. They are stuck at home, waiting for last week's wages so they put petrol in the car, while not being able to earn that day. Gojob fixes this issue by offering a 'Daily Payment' solution. Workers can draw down up to 60 per cent of that day's wage, that day. This means Gojob has broken this vicious cycle, making it easier to get people into work and, most importantly, keeping them in work.”

5. Invest in new technology

A longer-term strategy would be to invest in new technology and software that may reduce the need for employees, especially in relatively low-skilled positions, or help make the lives of staff easier. A recent survey by 6 River Systems, for instance, found the physical nature of warehouse work would put off 14 per cent of people from applying for a role, although 35 per cent of those currently or previously working in a warehouse said the use of robots with artificial intelligence and machine learning to make the work less physical would make it more attractive.

Organisations in the retail and ecommerce sectors are starting to make use of robots to help meet seasonal demand, says Jeremy Clouston-Jones, UK managing director of Element Logic. “During the current labour shortage, investing in these robots is a viable way to do more with an existing employee base, moving staff into higher-value activities that will ultimately provide more job satisfaction and increased profits,” he says.

Artificial intelligence can also help organisations make better and more accurate decisions, learning from its own experience. Gojob’s platform, for instance, ranks candidates based on their backgrounds and suitability to undertake particular roles, and this information can be updated based on feedback from interviews held with the candidate. “In a traditional recruitment model, if you have 300 candidates you’ve got to go through them all manually,” says Kirkpatrick. “Our recruiters have that list and can instantly see who is the most appropriate person for the job.”

Gojob has worked its way up to 18th place in the prestigious Financial Times FT1000 ranking. To find out more about how it could help your business manage labour shortages, go to gojob.com or find them on LinkedIn

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