Belfast Telegraph

Ask what you can do for your prospective hires

Attracting top quality workers is essential
Attracting top quality workers is essential

By John Moore, managing director, Hays Northern Ireland

It has been encouraging in the first quarter of 2018 to hear of so many organisations in Northern Ireland - both SME and large-scale - announcing they have increased their revenues and annual profits, and as a result intend to grow their business.

But just as often as the good news stories emerge, we also hear many of these firms state that skills shortages could potentially hamper those growth ambitions.

So how do you fix this problem?

The first step has to be to accept that solving skills shortages is impossible in the short-term. After eight years of private sector growth we can't just manufacture more experienced or more newly-qualified candidates overnight.

Competition for people with the right experience is fierce and so, like it or not, some firms are going to be grappling with a chronic lack of the type of quality staff needed to achieve their business growth for some time.

The next big question is, how do you make sure that it isn't your company?

Recruitment professionals are renowned for claiming that you have to commit significant investment to solve a recruitment problem and true to form I'm going to start with this subject.

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I've been working with Hays for over 20 years and I've never seen such a big gap (9%-12%) between what candidates say they are earning and what they'd need to be offered to move.

Perhaps this isn't surprising as employers take steps to retain their staff and candidates wait for the "right opportunity" which allows them to catch up on below-inflation wage rises during the recession.

Yet employers remain reluctant to meet their demands - concerned about the impact it will have on their existing staff if they find out that the bank has been broken to attract a new recruit.

Make no mistake, a lack of competitive remuneration will limit your pool of applicants and hires.

This bridge is painful to cross but employers must cross it at some point or not only will their recruitment problems persist, but they also risk losing existing staff as well.

The Hays UK Salary and Recruiting Trends 2018 report showed that 42% of candidates are considering moving jobs this year.

But, with the modern professional across all sectors now looking beyond salary when choosing their place of work - to things like culture, career progression opportunities and non-monetary benefits - there is another solution.

Sell what makes you special. If you can promote what - aside from the money - makes your job exciting, the less reliant you need to be on high salaries to attract staff and the greater your chances of retaining them.

This sounds like a sensible - even obvious - approach, but a surprisingly high proportion of employers find it hard to identity and articulate what is both exciting and unique about working for them. Essentially, you as an employer need to ask yourself the question, "why, aside from money, would somebody leave one of your competitors to join your company instead?"

If you find it hard to give a compelling answer, you're not alone.

But time and effort invested into answering this question will pay off better than anything else you can do.

I recommend you engage as many relevant people as possible in the process.

Ask your existing staff why they joined and what they most enjoy about the role.

Ask yourself what keeps you engaged. Ask what needs to improve to make it an even better place to work.

Ultimately, you'll probably find that what many staff appreciate and are most engaged by is not solely a competitive salary and full order book, but the things that genuinely make you different.

Solve the question of "why I should work for you" and you won't have to throw quite as much money at a recruitment problem.

John Moore is managing director of Hays Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph