What is the state of the UK job market?
According to the ONS: “The number of job vacancies in October to December 2021 rose to a new record of 1,247,000.” No one could have failed to notice that currently, the job market is candidate led across all business sectors. Barely a day passes without articles in the media highlighting the fact that employers across the UK are struggling to recruit experienced staff to fill urgent roles that need to be filled as quickly as possible. However, employers are saying they have seen a significant drop in relevant applicants whether that be via agencies, company websites and advertising on job boards directly.
Within accountancy practices, the sector for which we recruit, there are a phenomenal number of open vacancies, many of which, have been open for at least three months and suitable applications are extremely low. People are changing jobs; however, the shortage of active candidates is currently acute, which is putting a lot of pressure on businesses.
When an employee accepts a new role and resigns, they are usually on at least on one months’ notice, therefore, unless the employer can recruit a replacement quickly, which is unlikely in the current climate, there is a gap between that person leaving and a new team member starting. This causes an increased workload within the team that subsequently, has to absorb the work to ensure that clients will have a continuous service and their work completed to deadlines.
We are currently seeing a massive shortfall of quality candidates with the right experience coming through for our audit, accounts, bookkeeping and tax roles at all levels and when we do have suitable candidates progress to offer stage, they are getting multiple offers and they have to decide which role is right for them.
What are the driving factors for a candidate in choosing a role?
This is not all about salary, although fair pay is important. Candidates are looking at a range of factors in their decisions; increasingly it’s hybrid and flexible working patterns that are sought, good benefit packages and a great working environment with a people-centric culture. People want to be happy in their work whether they are working from home, in the office or a mixture of both and they want to see a clear career path and the opportunity to increase their potential.
Since the pandemic hit the UK and during the lockdowns, working from home (WFH) has been at the forefront of keeping us working, ensuring that the economy remains buoyant, and it has worked well for the most part. The majority of firms embraced this as a necessity (although some have been reluctant) and employees have enjoyed an element of freedom and flexibility that WFH provides.
Is WFH truly Utopia?
You need only read a few posts on LinkedIn about remote working to be aware from the comments that many people see no down sides to the move towards WFH and indeed, would like to see it be the full-time norm. However, there could be unintended consequences that would be detrimental to individuals and ultimately the employer.
We are now seeing candidates looking for roles that are completely home based and the demand for hybrid working is increasing as many people see it as the norm. However, full time WFH isn’t the panacea for all involved. For example, not everyone has a home environment that is conducive to being productive and many people miss the change of scenery and personal interaction that the workplace provides.
One example of this is someone known to us that was working on an ironing board during the lockdowns due to lack of space for a desk in his home. Also, we have probably all experienced the interruptions to our important Zoom meeting with the Amazon driver ringing the doorbell, which starts the dog barking, children seeking the parent’s attention, which we laugh off, but when you have a group of busy people arranging diaries to be on the meeting, maybe we will stop seeing the funny side and the novelty of humorous interruptions will wear thin.
And what about junior team member who are training? Within the accountancy practice sector, those in more senior roles have benefited from having hands-on training and mentoring on a daily basis early in their careers, whilst studying for accountancy qualifications. Unfortunately, with these senior, experienced, and qualified employees working from home, the interaction with the trainees, can be diminished and could see good people leaving the profession due to a lack of mentoring and support.
Whilst WFH is a novel, appealing concept, there is a real danger of the loss of cohesion, friendships and empathy between co-workers that could result in feelings of isolation for some, if time spent in the workplace is minimal. There could also be a disconnect, not knowing what’s happening within the firm, feelings of being in the dark and not ‘in the know’ and this helps neither the individual, the wider team, nor the company as a whole. Further to this, people who feel that they are isolated and out of the loop as an employee, may also suffer a deterioration in their mental health, which could lead to reduced productivity.
A Job Seeker’s Paradise?
With a record 1,247,000 vacancies in the UK, candidates are spoiled for choice with the odds stacked in their favour, and when they do decide to actively search for a new role, strong candidates are likely to receive multiple offers. Given that firms are acutely aware of the shortage of available candidates, once a candidate has accepted the right offer and the hand in their notice, they are often offered more money, promotion and enhanced packages to stay.
It’s a shame that an employee needs to secure a new role before being offered an enhanced package and this is something that all employers should keep in mind.
Whether an employer is trying to retain staff or attract new talent, one thing is clear; the employer needs to ensure that there isn’t greener grass to graze with another firm and that when attracting new talent, your ‘pasture’ needs to not only look inviting but have substance to sustain the needs of your team members. We shared an article from The Guardian on LinkedIn that highlighted this and can be read here.
Added to the importance of staff retention, companies need to be more aware of the pitfalls when recruiting. Time really is of the essence in the current climate. A good candidate can register on Monday and have a new job by Friday and if the hiring managers don’t move quickly with a good offer, they will lose out. Hesitate at your peril, it’s a candidate’s market and you may need them more than they need you.