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UK skills gap is the most prominent hiring challenge facing HR leaders, new research from ECI Partners reveals

New research from ECI Partners, the growth-focused private equity firm, reveals that HR leaders believe the most prominent hiring challenge they currently face is a lack of technical skills and knowledge. Nearly a fifth (18.3%) of managers said this was their single biggest obstacle, highlighting the growing concern over the UK’s skills gap. The current labour shortages prompted by a range of factors including Brexit and Covid-19, appear to have further widened that gap.

HR managers also stated that a lack of industry experience and salary expectations were the next biggest challenges in hiring. Given the current inflationary market, it is likely that salary expectations will become a more significant challenge for HR leaders trying to keep pace with the competition over the next 12 months.

Despite these challenges, businesses believe recruitment will be critical to the growth of UK businesses over the next five years. More than three-quarters (78%) of HR managers believe that recruitment is a very important part of achieving their leadership team’s growth objectives over the next 12 months.

In fact, 51.5% of HR managers said they were looking to hire graduates in the next 12 months, while another 51.0% said they were hoping to hire apprentices, highlighting the importance of being able to attract the next generation of talent.

Change in recruitment processes driving the most success for HR leaders

To help overcome these challenges, managers are using a range of techniques and tools in their recruitment and onboarding processes, with a quarter (24%) of managers saying that the most success they have seen is from changing their recruitment process, potentially streamlining time to final interview or giving candidates more access to current team members.

Other ways managers say they have seen the most success in overcoming hiring challenges include:

Actions HR leaders are using to overcome hiring challenges
Increasing salary bands (23%)
Investing in new technologies (22%)
Adopting more flexible or remote working practices (22%)
Working with agencies (21%)
Improving their employee benefit schemes (20%)
Looking outside their usual talent pool (19%)


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Social media and technology

When it comes to changing recruitment processes, nearly half (45%) of managers said they now use social media platforms to help support their recruitment and onboarding, with the use of social media even more prevalent in smaller companies (57%).

Indeed, greater investment in technologies is evidenced by the breadth of technology being used by HR leaders. Four in ten (38%) managers say they now use onboarding platforms, 35% use applicant tracking software and 29% use candidate screening or psychometric platforms.

However, the use of AI and virtual reality has had a lower pick up among HR managers to help with recruitment and onboarding, with just 18% and 15% of managers saying they have used these types of technology, respectively.

To read more about the research, please click here.

Stephen Roberts, Partner at ECI Partners, comments:

“Our research clearly shows that recruitment will be integral to the growth of UK businesses in the coming years. However, a current skills and labour shortage has clearly hit the plans of HR managers looking to help their organisations achieve that. Many firms are struggling to find enough of the right candidates to fill new roles as demand across industries surges following the pandemic.

“Given the inflationary environment, businesses are trying to respond by raising salary bands to meet new expectations from workers, but these are not the only tactics firms are implementing to reach the candidates they need. Whether it’s adopting technology, such as applicant tracking software or artificial intelligence; using social media to reach a younger cohort of potential recruits; or looking outside their usual talent pool, businesses are being more creative and inclusive to fulfil recruitment plans and reach their growth objectives.”

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