Managing the hunt for talent

In this piece in association with HSBC, we hear the views of UK business leaders on how companies can tackle the challenges of talent management

Throughout the UK, the competition for skilled workers in a variety of sectors is getting tougher. Companies are having to widen their search and become increasingly innovative in their recruitment strategies.

There is an acknowledged disconnect that sometimes exists between the needs of the business world and the knowledge and ability of graduates. Often people come out of university with excellent theoretical understanding but not necessarily the ability to transfer that to the commercial world.

Work with education

‘In many cases, there is a mismatch between what educational establishments are providing and what companies need when it comes to skilled staff,’ says SA Brain CEO Scott Waddington, who is also the Welsh commissioner for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

‘There is, though, an onus on companies to pick up some of the slack. They need to engage with schoolchildren at a younger age and get them thinking about what they want to do and what career opportunities are out there.’

Companies are finding different ways to engage with education and for some that means a direct relationship with a university in order to produce graduates with a very specific skillset.

One of those companies is semiconductor manufacturer IQE, which operates in a very specialised industry and faces the challenge of introducing talented graduates with experience in R&D to the world of mass production.

As finance director Phillip Rasmussen explains, a joint venture with Cardiff University is helping to bridge that gap.

‘We’re global leaders in what we do and finding talent is very difficult; we have to produce it ourselves. By working with Cardiff University we are able to give students experience of working in a business environment and so produce our own conveyor belt of talent.’

Adapt the interview process

Beyond the challenge of the skills gap, companies also need to consider how they go about sourcing the talent that will help them grow and they are finding new ways to ensure the recruitment process is fit for purpose.

For John O’Hanlon, CEO of motor retail group Ridgeway, that has included ‘speed dating’ and judicious use of social media. When the company underwent a significant recruitment drive recently it used LinkedIn and Twitter to reach out to potential applicants that it may not otherwise have been able to access.

It is the next stage of the process that was possibly more unusual, though, when Ridgeway held a ‘speed dating’ evening with a shortlist of 60 applicants.

‘It was an opportunity for the applicants to interact with numerous senior managers in the business and get a real sense of our culture and what we are all about,’ explains O’Hanlon.

‘It was a big time commitment but the difficulty in finding the right talent means that every second we spend getting the right person is worth it.’

Creative recruitment

It is also about being creative in your recruitment strategy so that you can ensure you have access to the talent that will best suit your business, as Lyndsey Simpson, co-owner of talent management outsource specialists The Curve Group, explains.

‘You need to go and find the next generation of talent not just put an advert up and select from those that come to you,’ she says.

‘In manufacturing you can engage people through competitions. For example, you might run a competition for apprenticeships asking pupils to build something that relates to your business so you know you’re taking on talented people as apprentices.

‘If you are a services company, you are always on the lookout for people with excellent interpersonal skills. So encourage all your people to spot local talent and if they see a shop assistant or a waiter that interacts very well with customers, give them a business card with ‘you’ve been talent spotted’ on the back and a number to call to discuss joining your business.

‘It’s an unusual approach but gives you access to people that wouldn’t necessarily respond to adverts.’

The value of apprenticeships

One way of developing a talent pool that meets the specific needs of a business is through an apprenticeship programme. It is an approach that does not necessarily work for all companies but it can help to bridge the skills gap.

‘Certainly for a large business, you need a balance between graduates and apprentices,’ explains John Morewood, head of emerging talent at HSBC.

‘Our apprenticeship programme has been very successful and we find we have a much lower attrition rate among apprentices than we do among those that have not been on an apprenticeship programme. Apprentices are also giving graduates a run for their money. Apprentices and graduates are going head to head for the same role. Talent is not the preserve of one educational pathway.’

Matt Wells, founding partner of Congregation, a full-service consultancy offering strategy, training and recruitment services to clients, is in no doubt as to the value of apprentices.

‘I believe that not having an apprenticeship scheme represents a risk,’ he says. ‘Employing apprentices means you have an element of control regarding their knowledge development, this allows you to shape what they learn around the practical needs of the business.’

Finding the talent that will help drive business growth is not an easy task. But taking an innovative approach to recruitment, working with education and exploring options such as apprenticeships can all help to bridge the skills gap. Thankfully there are resources out there to help you if you feel lost of overwhelmed.

That’s why HSBC has launched the Elevator programme which offers insight, information and a chance to win £150,000 to take your business to the next level.

The Elevator Talks

A unique series of live-streamed events featuring top business leaders and experts. Each talk will focus on a key theme to spark business growth, and will feature insights, inspiration and an opportunity to interact with our speakers.

Whether you’re getting your business off the ground or looking to take it to the next level, The Elevator Talks will surely help you on your way.

The Elevator Guides

Essential reading for anyone wanting to take their business to the next level. The Elevator Guides will offer practical tips and advice to help you overcome barriers to growth and achieve your business ambitions.

Our guides will explore some of the fundamentals of launching and growing an enterprise, from the secrets of business planning to unlocking innovation and perfecting your pitch.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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