Hays UK jobs and employment blog


What does 2020 hold for employment? 5 ways to prepare your organisation for the unknown

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland



With all the turmoil and uncertainty, it can be a struggle to look past Brexit. But, from my own experience it can be important not to get too distracted by what’s happening that’s out of your control and look at the things you can influence directly. Your hiring strategy is one such element.

The findings of the Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2020 guide show that with employee turnover expected to continue at similar levels to 2019, most employers plan to recruit both permanent and temporary staff in the coming months and although these hiring plans are more targeted compared to previous years, employers will continue to replace leavers so some of the hiring challenges remain. Will your staff be looking for new jobs, what does the employment landscape look like and what do your teams want from their employer? 

Employers seek digital and soft skills

One prevailing theme is that employers continue to struggle with niche skills shortages and difficulties recruiting staff in a number of industries. Given that digital transformation is now an integral part of today’s workplace, the competition for talent with digital skills is particularly fierce. This is true across most sectors, but those niche shortages inevitably take a stronger hold in some industries, like IT.

But it’s not just technical skills shortages. Our findings also show that managerial and leadership skills are most sought after by employers, with many on the lookout for candidates with the flexibility, adaptability and problem-solving skills that will enable them to achieve their business objectives.

Whilst many are looking to develop these skills, some organisations are turning to temporary workers as a more immediate fix to the skills gaps they face.

Employees are prioritising pay transparency and progression

Employers are benchmarking salaries to ensure they can secure the talent they need. In the last year, salaries increased by 1.8% overall and most employers foresee further salary increases for their workforce in the year ahead. Yet despite these increases, almost two fifths of employees are unhappy with their salary.

This year, transparency about how pay rises are awarded has been highlighted as an important consideration for professionals, yet a significant proportion of employers say their organisation is not consistently transparent about how salary rises are set. Perceived gender pay gaps are also an issue that have the potential to impact employee retention in the year ahead.

A lack of career progression was a key motivator for employees to change roles in the last year, and – excluding salary – a good work-life balance was considered the most important factor when considering a new role.

Hiring plans for the coming year

So, what does this mean for employers? How should organisations plan for the year ahead in order to mitigate some of the challenges that may arise?

1. Be more transparent around pay:

Transparency around pay is an important issue for professionals, many of whom also perceive there to be gender pay gaps, which is negatively impacting on the attraction and retention of staff. Pay transparency can help to narrow pay gaps between genders, so put into action practical steps such as having clear promotion and pay structures as well as setting and publishing pay levels to improve transparency around pay within your own organisation.

2. Shift the focus to soft skills:

Competition from other employers is a rising challenge facing those who plan to hire in the year ahead. With management and leadership skills proving especially difficult to find, it is imperative that hiring managers adapt their recruitment strategies to find the professionals with the right skills. Although having the right technical skills will always be important, soft skills such as people management and leadership are often much harder to learn and should therefore be coveted when you find them in a prospective candidate. Hiring for leadership potential should therefore be a priority.

3. Promote career progression and work-life balance:

Developing career plans with your team is vital to help keep current staff engaged with your organisation. Promoting career progression opportunities can help make your organisation more appealing to jobseekers. Flexible working is also considered important to professionals, and so should be another key focus both in job adverts and in communications to your current workforce.

4. Prepare for IR35 reforms:

Engaging non-permanent contractors, including temporary workers, is the most common way employers are overcoming immediate skills shortages. From April 2020 reforms to IR35 legislation are coming into effect for medium and large sized organisations in the private sector. The reforms shift responsibility of determining the tax status of non-permanent contractors from the contractor to the organisation engaging them. Employers should prepare for the changes by identifying where their risks lie, engaging with an expert partner like Hays and then communicating to their contingent workers. Taking adequate preparation will allow you to continue to engage contractors to help keep your projects on track.

5. Establish a pipeline for the next generation:

Those employers that are concerned about fewer people entering their industry should consider broadening their search to find talent outside their usual pool of candidates and then put in place development programmes to help them learn the relevant skills. Employers should be looking to offer internships, graduate schemes and apprenticeships to make sure they engage with people looking to enter the workforce. Ensuring that the recruitment strategy actively targets and appeals to the next generation is essential.

Competitive attraction strategies remain vital. As much as Brexit and the prevailing caution might have tempered hiring plans, these gaps aren’t going away by themselves. Attracting candidates in the hard-to-fill roles remains a challenge and one that we need to tackle head on.

To discover how salaries are changing and what you can do to tailor your attraction and retention strategies, request a copy of the Hays Salary and Recruiting Trends 2020 guide here.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.


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