Recruitment plan - the challenge of attracting and retaining the best talent
  • Cipd
  • FSB
  • St Andrews Business Club
  • HR Inner Circle
Recruitment plan - the challenge of attracting and retaining the best talent
  • Cipd
  • FSB
  • St Andrews Business Club
  • HR Inner Circle
The challenge of attracting and retaining the best talent
28 January 2022

Happy new year everyone – albeit a bit late I know!

As we start a new year, I’m springing into my blogs and really hope that you, my lovely readers, find them helpful and inspiring.

I’m starting the year trying to address an issue which I notice is affecting nearly every business up and down the country; the challenge of attracting and retaining the best talent.  Official data shows that vacancies have risen to a record high and there are now well in excess of one million vacancies.  In turn, this is driving up pay rates particularly in the hospitality sector where workers demand higher wages because of the lack of candidates.

My sources tell me that, no matter where an advert is placed, there is a significant reduction in the number of talented and skilled people applying for some positions.

So, I’ve been doing some research to try and give you some tips as to ways in which to “spice up” your attraction, and hopefully may help you address your workforce planning needs.

The three areas I will cover are firstly retaining current staff, attracting new staff, and planning ahead.

  1. Retaining current employees

The pandemic has had a major impact on all of us.  I know many friends and acquaintances have had a long, hard look at their lives and decided to resign, retire or re-train.  For example, we know that many of the furloughed workers chose not to return to work at all and have left the job market.  It is reasonable to anticipate that some of your current staff may well be thinking the same.  So how can you ensure that your staff feel valued, motivated, nurtured, and don’t want to leave?

A 2018 Gallup poll asked Gen Z and millennials what they looked for most in an employer and these two areas were the most important:

  • health and wellbeing and
  • ethical / socially responsible leadership

I think incorporating these areas into your strategic planning, will have an impact not only on retention but attraction too.

Firstly, health and wellbeing has been prominent in employers’ strategies for some years now, but the pandemic has certainly brought it to the fore again.  External influences include:

  • Employment tribunal claims citing menopause have risen significantly in 2021; knowing the demographics of your business can help to plan for, and address, such areas of wellbeing.
  • Mental health and stress is still the biggest cause of sickness absence within the UK workforce.  Addressing this proactively by training managers, encouraging an open and supportive workplace (remote or in the office) are really beneficial.

What is your business doing to enhance and address health and wellbeing of your staff?  You could consider carrying out a staff survey to ask your staff identify health and wellbeing issues relevant to them.  Taking this forward, you could then create a staff forum to engage with the results and create a plan to help turn this in to a positive for your business.  Engaging with your staff in this way will also be beneficial by increasing staff engagement; another really valuable way to enhance people’s experiences at work.

Secondly, the ethical/social responsible side of business.  The current news stories of those in political leadership lying and covering up their double standards, has led to many discussions about morality and integrity.  This is also true in workplaces where poor leadership, unsatisfactory work experiences, and/or a toxic work culture drive people away.  Training managers, addressing performance and conduct issues timeously and tackling poor work practices can help to address these areas; they certainly should not be ignored.

The ethical side of business is obviously close to my own values and, I feel, is another area where employers could create strategies to address topics such as the ethical and environmental footprint within their supply chains, production and distribution areas, as well as the consumables bought – cleaning/office supplies – with a view to verify environmental credentials.  Again, this could be published as an ethical/environmental strategic plan with specific and measurable objectives, which should ultimately be reported on publicly as to how effective this is.  I feel that this will be attractive, not only for current staff to engage with, but also for future talent.

Finally, if people do decide to leave, how do you treat leavers?  Off-boarding is an important part of a worker’s employment journey particularly if they have had to leave as a result of furlough ending or redundancies.  Have you considered the opportunities to re-employ these staff – perhaps they have moved to work elsewhere and now also have additional skills that are attractive to you? Your reputation as a business is important for this to work so consider always holding exit interviews and taking as much time with leavers as you do with joiners to your organisation.

  1. Attracting new staff

In normal times, much of what I have identified above will help with attracting new staff.  However, we know that there are many vacancies proving difficult to fill.  How can you be more creative in attracting talent? 

Here are some ideas:

Offer training/upskilling – by offering work placements, student placements, work experiences and apprenticeships, you are opening up your workplace to people who might not have considered a career in that area.  It may create a whole new world of opportunities for that individual; and it may well prove to be a positive way to enhance and diversify your staff team.  You could also include ongoing training and development perhaps working towards a recognised qualification.

Offer flexible working – this must surely be a given after the last two years of working from home and all governments supporting hybrid working!  I appreciate not all jobs can be carried out remotely but another benefit of offering more flexible – specifically home working – means that it opens up your job opportunities to a much wider talent pool.  This is particularly important for those who work in more rural or hard-to-reach areas, or who need to widen the recruitment net.

Offer more temporary opportunities – this could include work experiences or student/work placements as detailed already but could also include what I knew as a “Saturday job”.  Again, it could be a means to offer work to people who might not otherwise have considered a career with you.

Target former (and current) offenders – it can be too easy to judge people and categorise their abilities.  There is a huge potential within the prison system for employers to tap in to and train ex-offenders to become engaged and valued people within organisations.  There are opportunities to trial this through work placements.  You can access further information through Release Scotland - started by employers who want to make a difference – and The New Futures Network in England and Wales who help by working with prisons to field appropriate candidates to join your business on day release (known as Release On Temporary Licence or ROTL). It’s certainly an area worth considering.

Match your reputation with the reality – make sure that HR works closely with your communications and marketing department to ensure that company values and brand are embedded in every part of a workers employment experience with you.  Engagement via social media platforms is also vital, of course, especially addressing any negativity regarding your brand.

Social responsibility – as already mentioned having a purpose of self-fulfilment, of the organisation “doing good” and being an ethical brand can also be very attractive to people who hold the same values.  I feel this is something that isn’t always considered as part of any recruitment cycle.

  1. Planning ahead

A recent CIPD resourcing and talent planning survey highlighted the lack of planning within some companies to look ahead and consider what future workforce they need to meet their future operational and strategic planning.  Fewer than a third were collecting data to identify future skills requirements and even fewer were collecting data to assess their supply of talent.

This is a simple task to carry out; it does not have to involve specialist software, or HR qualifications, but it does take time, should be carried out thoroughly, and then kept under review.

I would firstly recommend considering what talent and resource you are going to need in the immediate and medium-term, future – reviewing the demographics of your workforce might be a good place to start as well as being aware of new markets, new tenders, etc.  Identify the skills, and numbers, that you are going to need to support new business, and where you will need them.

You will also need to consider the induction, training, and support for new staff, any equipment they may need, and ensure that you have the capacity to help new staff to become an integral, valued, and satisfied member of your team as soon as possible after they start.  You can capture your plan on a simple spreadsheet or whiteboard and share it with your team so that others can also contribute.  Keep this under review and constantly refer to it, planning ahead for when, and where, you will advertise for your new staff.


To conclude there is no one solution to this issue but I hope that some of these tips and ideas prove to be helpful for you and your business.  I would love to hear from you as to which ones you tried, what worked/what didn’t and any other ideas that I haven’t noted above.  Please let’s share our experiences and help each other in the world of work.

Thank you and good luck!


TAGGED IN: HR, Recruitment, Reputational Damage, HR Support
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