Employers with better wage offering likely to attract talent more easily

08 February 2018 Consultancy.uk

Employers are likely to face a tighter labour market, particularly in technical fields, as access to talent becomes increasing scarce on the back of strong growth. Despite this, executives fail to upscale pay and conditions offerings to compete for talent, a key concern for prospective employees.

Following years of high unemployment rates resulting from the 2008 financial crisis, recent figures show that, across the G7, headline employment figures have reached heights last seen in the 1970s. The increase in employment levels, is starting to affect hiring, with companies increasingly finding it difficult to attract and retain talent.

A new report from people consultancy Mercer considers how companies are meeting the challenge of a tighter labour market. The paper, titled ‘Talent Trends’, is based on more than 400 business respondents, 1,700 HR respondents and 5,400 employee respondents.

Tight talent

This year’s report finds that the top priority for respondents continues to be to attract top talent externally, which most respondents (92%) admit is set to become more difficult as shortages make themselves felt. The development of leadership for succession comes in at number two, followed by identifying high potential employees.

Focus on developing workforce skills comes fourth, while supporting employees’ career growth, a key concern among employees, comes in at number five. Increasing employee engagement rounds off the top six – with low productivity being a hinderance for many employers.

When it comes to talent bottlenecks, various technical roles continue to be seen as under-supplied – with IT / technology roles and core operations roles noted as operating with the highest such discrepancy. Marketing and leadership positions, too, have relatively large levels of under-supply of talent. Administrative, finance and customer services roles, meanwhile, are most often noted as suffering from oversupply.

Organisational changes

When it comes to filling talent gaps, many of the respondent organisations say that they will seek to build capacity from within (70%), followed by 48% who said they will seek to acquire talent. Finally, 40% said that they will seek to borrow talent via outsourcing – with some reports predicting that the UK outsourcing sector could see 20% growth this year, on the back of a technological skills shortage.

Organisational changes

The vast majority of the organisation executives approached (93%) said that they plan to make design changes to their companies in the coming two years. Some of the changes can be relatively wide scale, including the flattening of organisational structures (33%), eliminating roles / departments (31%) and decentralising authority (31%). The most significantly reported shift (41%) of respondents, is moving support functions to shared services.

Outsourcing operations to low-cost locations is the least cited, at 16% of respondents, while outsourcing part of the business model and increasing regional control come in at 20% apiece.

Top factors for employees

Businesses face the need to  up their pay to access a dwindling pool of talent, however. Many employees continue to see fair and competitive pay as their primary concern. Employees have, in recent years, seen stagnating or even declining real-wage growth, as bargaining power decreased for low-level workers while management pay, particularly for the executive, remained largely unaffected – which, for instance, prompted the UK governments to introduce disclosure policies pay levels.

Given the higher-rewards higher up in an organisation, workers continue to eye promotion, and are on the lookout for leaders who provide them with clear direction. More flexible work options and career path information take seventh and sixth position respectively.

Unique value proposition

In terms of what is found to make for a unique and compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP), considerable differences are noted between different groups. The executives strongly believe that culture (50%) and brand recognition (40%) are strongly correlated, while pay/reward (14%) and benefits (10%) are of less interest. Employees, meanwhile, cited pay/reward (33%) and benefits (30%) as the most impactful factors, with culture and brand recognition at 22% and 13% respectively. HR is more in line with employee perspectives, at 38% pay/reward and 33% benefits.

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

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.