“I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.”
Readers of a certain age will recognise that famous line spoken by Eric Morecombe alongside celebrity guest star André Previn, during the 1971 Morecombe and Wise Christmas special show.
I was reminded of that line again recently when I heard James Reed, Managing Director of High Street recruitment chain Reed, being interviewed on the Today programme on Radio 4:
“We have the right people, but not necessarily in the right job.”
The imbalances of the working world
It’s a pretty catastrophic statement isn’t it? I blame successive governments (of all political hues) and industry for the current state of affairs, as they have clearly failed to agree and deliver a coherent and joined up education strategy for industry, in such a way that demand and supply are more or less evened up.
The hospitality industry has been a case in point for many years, and thanks to COVID, has now worsened. Pubs and restaurants are unable to open due to lack of skilled staff and are being forced to pay up to £14.00 an hour for untrained workers. Expect to pay some pretty hefty prices when you next visit a restaurant in the West End.
The freight and logistics industry is also on the hunt for drivers who are in chronic short supply, whilst Uber is being held back from expanding in some UK cities for the same reason.
Just as these industries are crying out for labour, the steel industry is no doubt soon to shed large numbers. Whilst I would not expect former British steel workers to immediately re-train as baristas, chefs or delivery drivers, it does highlight the imbalances that continue to plague our country.
The current death throes of the steel industry are the latest in a long line of former industries which have been propped up with government subsidies long after the market had spoken, subsequently disappearing and taking with them enormous numbers of jobs. Think of the British maritime industry, coal mining, ship building and volume car manufacturing to name but a few.
Demand outweighs supply
If the market no longer wants those products (at least at a price the UK could afford to make them) then it definitely wants workers with digital skills.
I referred in an earlier blog to the 20,000+ vacancies that currently exist for digital marketers. I expect this demand to increase exponentially in the next few years, creating yet another ‘war for talent’.
Selbey Anderson, like our competitors, is now engaged in that battle to attract the best talent we can find.
However, I’m pleased to say that all of the agencies within the Selbey Anderson group are being successful in recruiting new staff. As our agencies are specialists, we are using specialist recruitment consultants to help us plug those gaps in the right way.
And whilst I would prefer that we didn’t spend the money with third parties – thereby allowing us to invest in our own business – it is the price we must pay to ensure we have the very best people at Selbey Anderson.
But at some point we will need to look to initiatives like apprentice and graduate schemes that we will set up and manage ourselves, which will enable us to diversify our talent pool and build from the bottom up; nurturing, celebrating and unlocking hidden talents from a younger age and from diverse backgrounds.
The war for talent has never gone away
In reality, the war for talent has never gone away and we will always have to fight to attract the very best, whatever the role. But as we continue our successful recruitment drive, our challenge changes from one of short-term acquisition to long-term retention.
As our economy evolves and embraces new technology, we will need to ensure that our people are educated and trained to reflect current needs, but also fulfil their own ambitions and those of our business.
Scale brings many advantages, one of which is the ability to fund initiatives that will help us create the very best working environment for our people: Providing a safe and inclusive working environment, giving all staff proper performance reviews, creating a culture of curiosity and development with initiatives like our Online College, and giving them the opportunity to grow with our soon to launch Tomorrow’s Leaders Programme.
My point here is that more needs to be done by the government and industries to level the playing field and provide support where it is needed, filling the void of legacy industries and supporting the demand for those that want to grow.
And for businesses that are looking to attract or retain the very best talent, you will need to find new ways of strengthening your workforce beyond tradition, and keep your existing people happy, engaged and motivated.
Simon Quarendon is a veteran marketer and communicator with a career spanning nearly 40 years. He has bought, built, sold, rescued, led and mentored just about every kind of creative communications agency in existence and run global accounts for the best in the world. Today, Simon runs the business end of Selbey Anderson, working across the group to make sure clients get the best and the agencies all prosper.