UK workforce monitor notes workforce projection mismatches

17 October 2017

Migration continues to be an area of acute uncertainty for the UK, as Brexit threatens to make the nation a hostile environment for European emigrants. A new report highlights the effects that decreased net migration may have on various employment sectors, as the UK’s population ages.

Migration continues to be a point of fierce contention across political and social divides in the UK. For business groups, access to labour remains an important aspect of migration trends, with relatively large numbers of positions in various sectors currently filled by EU-nationals.

A new report from Mercer, titled 'Mercer Workforce Monitor: August Update', explores changes in net migration into the UK, as well as wider trends likely to affect the market in the coming decades. The trends are mapped according to various models based on possible outcomes of Brexit negotiations.

Workforce at risk

One of the key scenarios considered by the firm is the 100,000's scenario. This scenario sees the number of people entering the UK fall to 100,000. The effect of this migration model, coupled with the UK’s ageing population, is a steady decrease of people under the age of 30, with a net decrease of -279,000 by 2030. The number of people over 50, meanwhile, will increase by around 1 million. The scenario reflects wider public policy, and is one of the more likely outcomes of Brexit.

Other models proposed by the consultancy include the base model, which would see net migration fall to around 185,000 per year from 2020 onwards. One final option to consider is the great EU re-migration scenario, in which Brexit related vitriol, policy uncertainties and other factors result in a vast number of EU member-state citizens leaving the UK – the net effect of this scenario is -50,000 people per year from 2020.

The study notes that the effects on different sectors vary, based on their foreign born and 50+ population profiles. Transport & storage has a high number of both 50+ and foreign workers, at 36% and 24% respectively. Health & social care is also found to be heavily reliant on older and foreign-born workers, at 36% and 18% respectively.

Workforce at risk profile

Public administration & defence is relatively insulated from dependence on foreign born workers, at 11%, although its older worker count is relatively high, at 34%. Accommodation and food is the most dependent on foreign workers, at 28% of total, the food industry in particular having a relatively poor profile under UK workers.

Risk profiles

Based on ageing and foreign worker numbers, various risk profiles exist for different sectors. In the group deemed to be in risk profile 1, the major concern is a reliance on both foreign born workers – whose numbers could diminish drastically post-Brexit – and slightly less on an aging populations. The industry may need to consider ways of retaining older workers, where possible if migration becomes problematic.

In the two sectors of the second risk profile, dependence on both foreign and ageing workers mean many incumbents are acutely aware of their precarious position, in light of Brexit. Careful management will be required to bridge potential gaps in the availability of workers. Risk profile 3 companies, meanwhile, will need to consider their access to younger workers – who will be increasingly in demand – or else look to continue to retain older workers.

Workforce growth by industry.

The research also considered the likely effect of two scenarios, base case and great EU remigration, on workforce growth between 2016 and 2030. The headline result is that a mass withdrawal of foreign workers back to the EU would see declines across almost all industries. Only ICT and financial services & insurance see modest growth.

Gary Simmons, Partner at Mercer, commented on the report, “Our latest report shows that there’s clearly an exodus of people from the UK’s workforce, either through retirement or emigration. It also shows that immigration is no longer filling the gap and the nation’s pool of younger workers is shrinking. This will impact companies in different ways. Organisations which have a younger workforce will have to think hard how to retain this group but also need to develop a fundamentally different approach in how they attract others types of workers – or get ready to pay huge salary premiums. Companies employing older workers who possess experience and deep organisational knowledge need to create working environments that capitalises on that but also equip them with new skills to ensure profitability.”



Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.