Recruitment Matters- March/April 2022

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Prioritise wellbeing in the new normal p3 B I G TA L K I N G P O I N T

The skills of the future p4 L E G A L U P D AT E

Recruitment Issue 96 Matters March-April 2022

Digital right-to-work checks here to stay p6 Q&A

New opportunities to close the gender gap p7

Labour shortages

Workforce planning must take priority


he UK’s jobs market is as tight as it has ever been. We have a record number of vacancies – 1.3 million at the last official count – and demand is still rising. Meanwhile, the REC and KPMG Report on Jobs shows candidate availability continuing to fall month-on-month. Our labour shortage problems are not going away any time soon. This situation is not new, although Covid has made it worse. Recruiters and their clients have been warning about shortages in sectors ranging from driving to healthcare and IT for many years. But there has been insufficient forward thinking and training to avoid the crisis. It took the pandemic to expose the extent of the problem and prompt the government to acknowledge the scale of the issue. We must ensure that it does not happen again. It’s time for workforce planning to be taken seriously by both employers and politicians – and the REC’s campaigns team is shifting its focus to this issue. At the top level, this will require cooperation between the government departments of Business, Education and Work & Pensions, among others. Working with industry bodies, these departments must take a long look at where the shortages are, and put measures in place to make sure that enough people are being trained to take on the vacant positions in the long-term. This will involve attracting young people into these vital roles, but also encouraging older people to come back to work and retraining workers who are looking for a career change. It will mean making many sectors more diverse and flexible, bringing in and building up

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talent from all walks of life. And the business world will have to play its part as well, with recruiters in the role of trusted advisers. Leadership teams who say their people are the most important part of the company must now back that up by raising staffing up the agenda and making workforce planning the key element of their business strategy. The REC will continue to push this as a priority with government and business in the coming months.

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Leading the industry

the view... Business is booming, but take the time to prepare for more challenging days to come, says

Neil Carberry,

REC Chief Executive


ate last year, the economy bounced back to prepandemic levels – and the buoyant mood among recruiters certainly backed that up! We’ve come a long way in the past two years. Omicron had less of an impact than previous Covid strains, and we expect decent growth in 2022. Certainly, the first few weeks of the year proved very positive. But while the sun shines, we should recall it also rains. In times like these, leaders should be cautious and prepare for when the boom slows. I’m no pessimist, but we cannot know what October 2022 will be like. The odds are that it won’t be the same as January. Our JobsOutlook survey of clients identifies three headwinds, aside from Covid. Labour shortages still constrain activity and Brexit has added barriers to trade. But the major worry for every business leader that I speak to is inflation; we are all watching its effects closely. Employer confidence in the broader economy is dropping, but I hope some of this concern is transient. There are reasons for optimism – most employers still plan to hire and invest in their companies. Inevitably, leaders must think about the future sustainability of their business model. Clients are dealing with rising costs across the board, from energy and supplies to wages and taxes. Staffing companies can play a valuable role here as advisers on all aspects of workforce planning. Clients will need that more than ever as they try to adapt. And we also need to look after our own houses. Chasing salaries up, and tolerating huge price rises from suppliers, could fundamentally damage firms’ ability to adapt to change. We need to train more consultants, not just fight over the pool of good people we have. The REC will be working on a range of initiatives to support you with that, from apprenticeships and new material on careers in recruitment to advice on handling suppliers. Your counsel will be indispensable to clients in the months to come – but make sure you practice what you preach at home. If you want to keep up to speed with all things recruitment then follow me on Twitter @RECNeil



Disability workforce reporting Shazia Ejaz, Director of Campaigns at the REC


s part of the National Disability Strategy, the government recently consulted on the introduction of mandatory disability workforce reporting for large companies. The intention is to ensure greater transparency around levels of employment of disabled people with a view to making workplaces more inclusive. In principle, that is the right thing to do, but there are some aspects of the consultation that could have serious implications for the recruitment industry and we need to consider these. The government proposes that reporting would apply to “large companies” – those with 250 employees or more. However, it’s unclear whether the definition of “employee” would include an employment business’s temporary workforce. If so, this will affect the number of recruiters this requirement applies to. Smaller agencies may also struggle to manage the administrative process if temporary workers are included. If the government moves forward with these proposals, individuals may have concerns about the way their personal data is gathered and used. If mandatory reporting is introduced, individuals should have the opportunity to opt out of the data-sharing process to protect their personal data freedoms. The way in which any data gathered for this purpose is used also needs to be transparent. The introduction of disability reporting should not be a tick-box exercise. An external body, either government-led or independent, should be set up to ensure that the reporting data is analysed effectively and can lead to changes if necessary. Disability workforce reporting is potentially a useful tool to drive equality, diversity and inclusion, but only if the reporting requirements are implemented in a meaningful way. The consultation, which the REC has responded to on behalf of members, is now closed and we will have to wait until June for the government’s response. We will keep members up to date with any developments in the meantime.

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Leading the industry

the intelligence... Prioritising staff wellbeing in the new normal By Atanas Nikolaev, Research Manager Over the past two years, the global pandemic has impacted our working lives in myriad ways. Often, this meant accelerating trends that existed before the pandemic. Levels of hybrid and remote working and use of new technology were already increasing, but Covid-19 acted as a catalyst for their rapid adoption. Indeed, the speed of these changes was a shock to the established order. Employers across all industries were forced to adapt quickly to the changes that followed the pandemic outbreak in early 2020. Many businesses adopted hybrid or fully remote working as an immediate response. But, after a while, the new normal (as it was quickly labelled) felt more stressful, lonely or isolating for many employees than the old. The speed and scope of change created a huge amount of uncertainty and stress for workers. An Ipsos Mori survey of nearly 13,000 employees across 28 countries revealed that more than half of working adults (56%) feel increased levels of anxiety around job security or are stressed because of changes to their routine or organisational

$2.5 trillion The global cost of lost productivity because of ill-health, absenteeism and high staff turnover

56% An Ipsos Mori survey

revealed that more than half of working adults feel increased anxiety around job security

practices (55%). A further half (50%) struggle with work-life balance, while more than two in five employees (45%) are affected by family pressures such as childcare. With two in three employees (66%) saying they feel unable to switch off and three in four (74%) feeling stressed, according to a Cigna report, workers are increasingly looking for more wellbeing support from their employers. The same survey showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) said the things they wanted support for most were finances, living conditions and health provision. In recent years, more businesses than ever have increased their support for the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce. This approach benefits the business as well as staff. The global cost of lost productivity because of ill-health, absenteeism and high staff turnover has been estimated to be around $2.5 trillion (£1.8tr) per year – increased support for staff should help to decrease that.


of employees say they feel unable to switch off.

Many businesses started offering, or increasing the number of, support schemes for staff during Covid-19. EY enhanced an already comprehensive suite of wellbeing offerings by adding daily group counselling sessions for staff and their partners, including specialist support for caregivers and people with disabilities. The firm also gave employees access to a free mobile app that supports them with their emotional resilience and improving their sleep habits. Meanwhile, the Financial Times partnered with an employee assistance provider to offer bespoke webinars on a variety of topics. The media company also mobilised its internal network of mental health ambassadors to ensure that staff were supported by their peers. As the country comes out of the pandemic, many of the changes that businesses have made during Covid-19 will stick. It looks as though increased hybrid and remote working will be one of those – so it’s important that firms also continue to support their workforce’s mental health while staff adjust to the evolving new normal.

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The future of skills

big talking point

Skills evolution What skills will you and your clients need in the coming years – and where will they come from?


hat will your workforce look like in a year’s time? What will it look like in five years’ time? In periods of immense disruption, it’s hard to look ahead by a few months, let alone years. But this is critical when organisations’ need for talent and their ability to source it is shifting dramatically. From one perspective, this looks like good news for recruiters – increased need for skills means more demand for their services. But of course, if there is a serious shortage of candidates or they don’t have the skills to meet clients’ needs, it can turn into a serious problem. This does mean that recruiters get a ringside view of shifting trends. It’s not hard to see the skills most in need now, but spotting those likely to be most needed in future involves analysing the causes of shortages and watching evolving workplace patterns. Recruiters see changes as they happen on the ground, but they need also to consider the wider picture and match anecdotal evidence to macro industry research. “There are two key types of skills that we’re envisaging becoming more critical in the years ahead,” says Kate Shoesmith, Deputy CEO at the REC. “There are the technical skills that people need to do specific jobs and there are the transferable skills, sometimes referred to as ‘soft’ or ‘people’ skills. These have always been important, but the pandemic has accelerated changes to how we manage and work with other people.” 4

Transferable skills are crucial for people to be resilient in a rapidly changing jobs market. But while our training systems have been set up to teach technical skills, many transferable skills have traditionally been learnt on the job, with junior staff members learning from colleagues and managers about how to behave in meetings, how to ‘read’ a room and ways to win others around to their preferred strategy. Now that many people are unlikely to return to the office full time, where will this learning come from? These are important questions for employers, recruiters and education providers, Shoesmith says. All parties must work together to build the skills base we need in the future. And since transferable skills can be enhanced and improved at any stage in a person’s

career, this is an opportunity for more experienced workers as well as people just starting their careers. “Leaders who know they haven’t finished learning and are aware of the need to evolve constantly tend to be more effective,” she points out. The skills to manage ‘new normal’ offices effectively will be more crucial than ever, because managers play a key role in corporate culture, motivating staff, identifying what new recruits want from jobs and how their wishes can be accommodated. “Managers need to engage with all parts of the workforce as never before,” Shoesmith adds. “It is concerning how many older, skilled and experienced people are opting out of work altogether or moving to less-pressured employment,

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Statistics Top three digital skills needs 43% of UK digital leaders want to hire cyber security professionals. 36% of UK digital leaders want to hire big data analysts. 33% of UK digital leaders want to hire technical architects. Harvey Nash 2021 Digital Leadership report.

50% of all employees will need reskilling in the next five years. Employers expect to offer reskilling and upskilling to just over 70% of their employees by 2025, however, only 42% of employees are

taking up employer-supported reskilling and upskilling opportunities. WEF Future of Jobs 2020

while younger people are delaying entering the workforce.” These older people may be lost forever if organisations cannot tempt them to stay. “The pandemic has caused people to reassess their lives and many are feeling burnt out,” Shoesmith says. “Employers need to think about how they can tempt these people to stay and pass on their skills – this is likely to mean considering flexible working, parttime, job shares and sabbaticals, and demonstrating a supportive, innovative and inclusive culture.” Recruiters also have a part to play in this. They can help clients to understand how to promote their culture externally. They can also encourage candidates to identify their transferable skills, and think broadly about the opportunities available and how to demonstrate skills learnt in previous roles. This widens the talent pool and increases development possibilities for individuals.

Tech hot spots When it comes to technical skills, it is no surprise that technology skills are the most in demand and the shortest in supply. This has been true for years, but the shortage is particularly acute now that many offices have gone virtual and almost all businesses have started offering products and services online. There has been a digital revolution creating even more demand for those who can design, implement

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and develop these new technologies ‘‘and ensure that they protect their customers’ data. Bev White, CEO of Harvey Nash, has tracked these needs via her firm’s 2021 Digital Leadership report. One sign of change is that this annual research report has broadened its scope from chief information officers to all the senior executives now responsible for some area of digital development. “The context is far broader now,” she says. “The same three skills were most in demand in the UK and globally and we expect these to continue to dominate in the near future.” Top of the list is cyber security skills. “I looked at open roles in cyber security globally recently and there were over 3.5 million vacancies,” White says. “This supports the report by DCMS at Christmas that showed 10,000 roles currently advertised in the UK.” She sees this as a huge opportunity to get new people into IT roles and to increase diversity in the sector. “I believe we will see a real shift in the next three or four years,” she says. “Previously, only 12% of senior tech roles were held by women, even though lots of women came into the profession at entry levels.” Companies must identify what they need to get the job done, not what they’ve had before, she advises. They will have to look further afield and offer flexible working that will tempt back people who have left the sector. This

could open doors for people from other parts of the world and those who have disabilities or neurodiverse conditions that made it harder for them to commute to a physical office. “Recruiters have a clear role helping organisations to identify the skills they will need in three or four years’ time and looking at their long-term talent strategy and training. Can they upskill their existing staff or retain people by moving them into different functions?” she asks. This will necessitate a closer long-term relationship with clients. The skills crisis poses problems, but the opportunities are huge. Recruiters must think hard about the skills they need to help secure their future – and, even more importantly, they will have to work closely with clients to improve their workforce planning. Recruiters can help businesses to search more widely, finding candidates with transferable skills and the potential to succeed in more than one role within the business. The industry will also play a valuable role in advising clients on how to hone their candidates’ skills and build up a talent pipeline by nurturing their staff ’s ability to develop on the job. Ultimately, in a tight labour market where skills are scarce, businesses will need to invest more in training staff to get the exact skills they need. In the long run, this could prove a much more sustainable way to hire and will help the economy to succeed.

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Employment law

legal update Permanent digital right-to-work checks By Karen Afriyie, Legal and Compliance Adviser, REC


n 30 March 2020, the government introduced a temporary, adjusted right-to-work (RTW) check regime, because of disruption caused by the pandemic. This temporary regime enables employers to conduct checks via video calls, and to accept scanned copies of original documents. It has been well-received across the board. Following the positive feedback and calls from all sides to have the regime extended, as well as lobbying efforts from the REC, the Home Office (HO) has confirmed that it will be putting a permanent digital RTW regime in place from 6 April 2022. This new system will replace the temporary, adjusted regime, which will end on 5 April. The HO’s policy paper published on 27 December 2021 announced that employers will be able to use certified Identity Service Providers (IDSPs) to conduct digital identity checks for UK and Irish nationals. Under the new regime, candidates will be able to upload images of their personal documents to an Identification Document Validation


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Technology (IDVT) provider, instead of presenting physical documents to a prospective employer. The new regime will align with the Disclosure and Barring Service’s (DBS) proposal to enable digital identity checking in their criminal record checking process, through the introduction of its Identity Trust Scheme. The cost of using IDSPs will be met by employers and will vary depending on the level of service supplied by the provider. The government has advised that costs could start from as little as £1.45, but could rise to between £50-70 per check. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport also produced guidance on 17 January 2022 explaining how organisations can become certified Identification Validation Technology service providers under the new rules. This new regime is likely to present issues for recruitment businesses which may conduct thousands of RTW checks

per week. The fees could result in high and unnecessary costs for businesses, particularly when there are other systems, such as the Employer’s Checking Service (ECS) for EU nationals, that can be used for free. The REC’s Campaigns team will be lobbying the HO on the costs of this new regime and calling for these to be reduced significantly.

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Gender gap


The Chair of REC explains why Covid-19 could create more opportunities for women

Sarah Thewlis, Managing Director, Thewlis Graham Associates and Chair of REC After years of focusing on the gender pay gap and equality at work, how much progress have we made? I’ve seen many changes over the years since I joined the workplace and many of these have been positive. The impact of the Covid pandemic was interesting – it helped us to move further away from a culture of presenteeism and enabled many more people to work from home, but the statistics also highlighted the high percentage of childcare that is still done by women – 17% of women left their jobs in the first lockdown to care for their children, compared with 10% of men.

What more can employers do to improve gender equality at work? They need to grasp the issue of flexibility for women and men. Childcare is still a major barrier. More women are going to university and qualifying, but they still

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do most of the childcare. Managing flexibly means thinking more about how you can gain high quality output than about input. The pandemic has provided an opportunity to make this work better, but it needs careful management. There are times when we need people to work together in offices, but also many when it is fine to work from somewhere else.

Can legislation and regulation do more? Lord Davies’ work on increasing the number of women on boards is instructive. Quotas make a difference, but it also put pressure on people in the FTSE 100 who didn’t want to end up on his “naughty step”. We need better measures to gain data to see whether there is progress in all sizes of organisation. Having to declare the gender pay gap is useful because it creates a need for employers to say what they will do about it. But we also need to encourage smaller

organisations to collect data – most people don’t work for FTSE 100 companies.

What part can the recruitment industry play in this? The shortage of job candidates gives employers and recruiters an opportunity to think differently and more creatively. Recruiters should be discussing flexibility and asking what competencies are really necessary for the role. They need to tell employers that they are unlikely to get the “perfect” candidate, but that they could employ this person and support them with training and development. During the pandemic, recruiters have been amazingly creative, for example placing people in different industries, encouraging them to move sideways and to recognise the versatility of their competencies. We need to use all this now to help clients and candidates seize new opportunities.

We must also put our own houses in order – there are a lot of women in our industry, but many of the senior managers are male. We must hold up a mirror and ask what we can do better.

What key challenges do you see ahead? The next issue is how we upskill middle managers to manage a flexible workforce from a distance. This requires a mature relationship with staff. During the pandemic, managers have had to admit that they don’t know all the answers. We need to build on this and encourage managers to talk openly to staff and learn what individuals want and how they work. It’s a reciprocal relationship – we’ve seen how valued employees will go the extra mile when they are needed. It’s also the only way we will encourage people to bring their whole selves to work and benefit from real diversity of thought in our workplaces.

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Mastering management T

he most important asset to any recruitment business is its people. In an increasingly competitive market, how will you develop talent and retain top quality managers? We have teamed up with Expressions Partnership to bring you the REC Management Academy, a progressive programme aimed at anyone who is responsible for leading and managing people within a recruitment business. Being a great recruiter and managing your own desk requires a different set of skills and behaviours to managing a whole team of people doing this role. Far too many managers are given the job title without the appropriate tools,

Recruitment Matters


The official magazine of The Recruitment & Employment Confederation Dorset House, 1st Floor, 27-45 Stamford Street, London SE1 9NT Tel: 020 7009 2100

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development and support they need to fulfil the role to the best of their ability. You might be surprised to hear that “accidental managers” – those without any development or training – cost the UK economy between £86 billion and £89 billion every year. The REC Management Academy aims to provide managers with all the skills they need to be the best they can be. Managers will gain the confidence and competence to lead their teams so they can contribute to the overall aims and objectives of the business. The course will cover a wide range of topics, including effective communication, techniques to motivate staff, ways to

manage change and how to delegate authority effectively. It is delivered over eight months to accommodate the requirements of the day job and to enable progressive learning. Participants will receive unlimited over-the-phone coaching in addition to attending interactive workshops. They will also be encouraged to network with other people in similar roles. They will receive the best support to demonstrate return on their investment of time, effort and money. The next REC Management Academy course begins on 20 April 2022. Find out more about it and book your place on the REC website.

Membership Department: Membership: 020 7009 2100, Customer Services: 020 7009 2100 Publishers: Redactive Publishing Ltd, Level 5, 78 Chamber Street, London E1 8BL Tel: 020 7880 6200. Editorial: Editor Ruth Prickett. Production Editor: Vanessa Townsend Production: Production Executive: Rachel Young Tel: 020 7880 6209 Printing: Printed by Precision Colour Printing © 2020 Recruitment Matters. Although every effort is made to ensure accuracy, neither REC, Redactive Publishing Ltd nor the authors can accept liability for errors or omissions. Views expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of the REC or Redactive Publishing Ltd. No responsibility can be accepted for unsolicited manuscripts or transparencies. No reproduction in whole or part without written permission.

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