Recruitment issues continue in boom and bust
Where are all the workers? The British Chambers of Commerce would like to know. The organisation’s research 1 – from 6,500 UK businesses – showed that demand for workers stayed strong, despite the economy showing signs of pre-Brexit fatigue. In fact, the proportion of UK firms attempting to recruit in the second quarter of last year rose from 53% to 60%. It will be interesting to see how recruitment issues impact on businesses throughout 2020.
In recent years, there have been regular media reports about UK staff and skills shortages. It seems that no matter how challenging or buoyant economic conditions become, the right workers, in quality or quantity seem difficult to find. Recent research by GRiD (Group Risk Development) 2 revealed that 56% of HRs at larger businesses say that recruiting and retaining good talent is one of the biggest challenges they currently face. And that’s despite the digital revolution in recruitment processes: online CVs, LinkedIn, and numerous employment websites. With widespread smartphone usage, it’s not as if potential employees find it difficult to get in touch, compared with 20 years ago.
The ‘suitable staff’ shortage is always with us
These gaps in the job market are often described as ‘skills shortages’ when demand for specific workers exceeds supply. However, an employee’s technical expertise is one thing, but employers frequently require other qualities, such as good communication skills and the right attitude. Employers are really looking for ‘suitable staff’, a step beyond technical capacity. Of course, within every group of workers there is a huge range of ability, from competent to exceptional. In most cases, you could describe the gap as a ‘shortage of suitable staff’. And many would argue that these frequent shortages are simply a fact of life in a modern, dynamic market economy.
Group protection can provide an important edge
But what can be done about it? First and foremost, it’s beyond the capability and remit of UK employers to control economic policy and demographics. It‘s often a case of simply dealing with what’s within their span of control and going with the flow on issues over which they have little influence. However, it’s possible that many vacancies go unfilled because the employee benefits packages are unattractive. And that’s where the group protection industry can make a difference, by providing benefits with the potential to provide exceptional value at the right place and time. With group protection packages, staff receive a valuable financial lifeline during life-changing events, as well as helping them when they are sick, vulnerable or emotionally distraught following the death of a loved one. Research by GRiD2 cited the cost of group protection can be ‘as little as a quarter to one per cent of payroll’, so the overall cost of these benefits can be relatively modest, depending on the package chosen.
As workplace pensions are now firmly established with the success of auto-enrolment, the perception of a pension scheme as an ‘added extra’ is a thing of the past. Often, it’s what can be added to the benefits package that provides an important edge when it comes to recruitment. As a rough guide, a group protection package could include life insurance, income protection and critical illness benefits. In most cases, employees – on top of their other financial commitments – might find that independently paying for any of these benefits is a big financial stretch, so one or more of these benefits can add real value. An alternative is to offer benefits as part of a flex benefits package, in which the employee mixes and matches their protection needs.
Communicate the good news
Whatever group protection package is offered, employers should ideally communicate the value of these benefits, and any other benefits for that matter, to both potential employees and current staff. Their value can be substantial, and they can give employers an edge, so it’s counter-productive to hide the benefits away in small print in job advertisements. It’s best to shout it loud and then repeat the message as often as possible at the workplace: employees underestimate the potential value of their overall benefits packages and can leave an employer for a higher salary elsewhere, neglecting to calculate the true value of their existing benefits package.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that group protection benefits can turn the tide on staff recruitment issues, but they have the potential to provide a winning edge in the UK’s turbulent, seemingly never-ending recruitment wars.
Julian Nurse, Aviva’s Group Protection Customer Propositions Manager is an acknowledged expert in protection products, claims services, rehabilitation services, absence management and account management. He has over 22 years’ experience in technical and leadership positions in key Aviva businesses.