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Recruitment challenges: 2022 and beyond

The changing landscape of recruitment, post pandemic and Brexit

We are proud to be sponsoring Brighton Chamber’s forthcoming event, The Big Debate on Wednesday 16th November – further details can be found below. 

The Big Debate series centres around a topical issue. This time, the theme of the event is: ‘Where have all the people gone?’ which reflects the struggle to recruit and retain strong candidates. 

An expert panel will discuss their views on adapting the way we approach the complexities of recruitment in what is a tight labour market.

What is a tight labour market?

When the number of job vacancies outstrips available workers it is said to be a tight labour market.

The tight labour market is affecting a range of industries and staff shortages have become a serious problem for many businesses. 

Facing recruitment challenges in 2022

With more vacancies than there are high-quality applicants, this concerning issue is impacting many diverse sectors right now, including our own. 

Daniel Chapman, one of our partners here at Hartley Fowler, commented: 

“We are regularly looking for talented and professional people to join us; whether starting out in their career, recently qualified, experienced or with aspirations of becoming a partner. 

“In recent years, as is doubtless the case for many businesses, we have found it difficult to recruit for all levels and positions. It seems that applicants are either unsuitable or the strong candidates are highly sought-after with a number of prospects available to them. 

“In practice, this candidate-driven market has increased the price of job roles within the sector. As a friendly, close-knit team, in addition to recruitment, we seek to promote staff internally and to focus on the retention of high calibre members of the firm”.

Echoing our experience, people with specific skills and training are in the highest demand. According to data from PwC, this group is far more empowered and confident about asking for pay rises and promotions – and they are more inclined to jump ship if they are approached by a recruiter.

What is behind the current labour market issues?

Inevitably, significant global events as well as UK-centric factors have impacted the economy, the labour market and workforce attitudes. From COVID-19 to Brexit, we don’t need to point out that there are many complex and unsettling factors that have created a tight labour market in the UK. 

HR professionals and companies are experiencing real difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.

High vacancies and recruitment challenges in 2022

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of job vacancies in  March through May 2022 rose to 1.3m – a new record. This demonstrated an increase of 504,000 from pre-COVID levels in January to March 2020 (when it was 796,000), with most industries displaying record numbers of vacancies. 

Somewhat reassuringly, from July to September 2022, the estimated number of vacancies has fallen to 1,246,000. Despite three consecutive monthly falls, the number of vacancies remains at a historically high level.

The impact of Brexit on UK labour market struggles

Brexit has played a role in economic and labour market developments, including the new migration restrictions for EEA workers in January 2021. While the UK’s exit from the EU has exacerbated labour shortages in certain sectors, causes are more complex than Brexit alone. 

A report by ReWAGE and the Migration Observatory at Oxford University – ‘The end of free movement and the low-wage labour force in the UK’ – found that Brexit was not the only reason for labour market shortages. 

Recruitment difficulties and high vacancy figures have been attributed to ‘the pandemic, international sector-specific labour shortages, and an increase in early retirement’.

In fact, the report indicated that ‘inactivity’ among people over the age of 50 was the most significant influence in the decrease in the size of the workforce. Numbers are much higher than expected, based on pre-pandemic forecasts.

How the pandemic is reshaping labour markets

According to the House of Commons Library, by the beginning of 2021, employment and unemployment levels were starting to improve. However, economic inactivity – people not in work and not seeking employment – continued to grow, peaking in December 2021-February 2022 at 8.89 million. From January to March 2022, redundancies were below pre-pandemic levels and job vacancies were at record highs.

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has had a long-lasting impact – the aftershocks of such a significant global event appear to have contributed to a tight UK labour market.

Many are opting to retire early or quit senior jobs for an improved work-life balance. They are also seeking more job satisfaction and flexibility, with continued remote working. 

The media has christened it ‘The Great Resignation’. It is these professional people – who are potentially at the top of their game, in the most senior point of their career – who seem to be most likely to dip out. 

We have only just scratched the surface of this multifaceted subject. Discover more about current labour market issues and innovative strategies to boost recruitment and talent retention at The Big Debate. 

Key details of Brighton Chamber’s The Big Debate

Format: Four expert panellists will talk about the topic of recruitment challenges in 2022. There will be an opportunity to ask questions, network with like-minded peers and break off into discussion groups.

Date: Wednesday 16th November 2022

Time: 5.15pm – 7.45pm

Venue: Brighton Girls, Montpelier Road, Brighton, BN1 3AT

Price: Free to attend

The Big Debate is often oversubscribed and places are limited, so we recommend reserving your place as soon as possible. The event is attended by people from different businesses in the local area and you do not need to be a member of the Chamber to participate. Please click here to book your place.