While the shortage of HGV drivers has been grabbing the headlines, it isn’t the only sector struggling to recruit people.
A shortage of candidates means that job starting salaries are rising at record rates, according to a recent report by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC)
Rising demand for staff to fill vacancies resulted in the sharpest salary inflation rate in almost 24 years of data collection, according to the firm’s latest jobs survey.
At the same time, ongoing uncertainty over job security concerns caused a “severe drop” in candidates, with numbers falling at the second-fastest rate in the survey’s history.
The KMPG and REC search poits the lack of available candidates is being driven by concerns over job security due to the pandemic, a lack of European workers due to Brexit and a generally low unemployment rate.
But how is this candidate shortage playing out in Wales, and how is it affecting businesses looking to hire the talent they need to survive and thrive?
We asked a selection of recruitment experts and Welsh businesses about their experiences.
Dale Williams, chief executive of Recolution Group (which includes Yolk Recruitment, City Executive Search and Conexus)
”You might assume that post-pandemic, it would be easy for businesses to recruit the right talent. But we are seeing the balance of power shift with candidates even ‘ghosting’ potential employers and not responding to firm job offers.
“We are seeing fewer applicants for each role in our finance division, and unless clients move fast, they are missing out on candidates. The candidates we work with now often have up to five opportunities on the boil at any one time, so there is more choice for them.
” Candidates’ salary expectations have definitely increased, and the client doesn’t always mirror this expectation, so they are losing potential candidates where they aren’t competitive enough.
“Another factor putting off candidates is where employers aren’t offering at least some level of remote working. It’s almost an expectation now.
“There has been a definite increase in people interested in hearing about opportunities in the tech market, which has always tended to be pretty static in terms of active job applicants. However, the market generally feels more “fluid” at present. We are seeing more people considering their options post-pandemic and generally reassessing life choices.
In addition, the market has completely opened up due to remote work options, which has completely shifted salary bands and pay scales, which are no longer driven by geography.
“Tech has always been a sector that is job heavy, but candidate light. That is now being exacerbated by companies from London, Birmingham and Manchester swooping in to pick up fully remote talent in south Wales, often offering anywhere between £10,000 to £30,000 more than local employers can offer.
“The marketing sector is experiencing particular difficulties hiring. Specialist multi-channel digital marketing professionals with skills such as search engine optimisation, pay per click and eCommerce have always been hard to come by, but it’s even harder now. Candidates are aware of the shortages in this sector, so they are using the opportunity to negotiate significantly higher salaries and more flexibility in remote working.
“The market has become much more candidate-driven, and employers are struggling with the new reality.”
Geoff Tomlinson director of FSEW International Freight Forwarders
“There is a serious shortage of class one HGV drivers at the moment, with the UK Government reporting a shortage of over 90,000 drivers.
“This is far from a new problem for the haulage and logistics industry. Even in the heady days before Covid or Brexit, the UK already lacked around 76,000 drivers, according to Logistics UK.
“The workforce has been increasingly stretched over recent years, and while demand grew, the total number of drivers has remained relatively steady at around 300,000, according to the ONS.
The only significant growth has been among EU drivers, whose numbers surged from 10,000 in 2010 to 45,000 in 2017. This means European drivers have long been a vital part of the sector’s workforce.
“The situation became a perfect storm during the pandemic following a mass exodus of drivers from the UK workforce. ONS data shows total numbers fell from around 304,000 in Q1 2020 to 235,000 in Q2 2021, representing a net loss of 69,000. Logistics UK estimates we are now approximately 90,000 drivers short of where we need to be.
“Another factor is that the haulage industry is an ageing workforce, evidenced by the average age of HGV drivers being 55 years old. Less than 1% are under 25, according to the Road Haulage Association. Also, fewer training courses were on offer during the height of the pandemic – 20,000 compared with the usual 40,000.
“It’s easy to see how this complex web of factors has led to the current shortage of drivers. At FSEW, we generally employ around 70 drivers at any one time, and we have been as much as 14 short. Currently, we have a gap of eight drivers.
“As a result, we now have to offer significantly higher salaries to attract drivers. In addition, we proactively support people through class two and class one training rather than waiting for qualified candidates to come to us. What is clear is that we need urgent action across the sector if we are to tackle this critical driver shortage and prevent further disruption to crucial supermarket supply chains.
“Whereas we could previously fill a vacancy in around two weeks, it now takes around six weeks at least.”
Antony McCarthy, head of sales, Toshiba Tec UK Imaging Systems Ltd
“It takes a lot longer to recruit the right people, and there are fewer quality candidates in our market with the relevant experience we need.
“Whereas we could previously fill a vacancy in around two weeks, it now takes around six weeks at least. So we have found that we now need to instruct multiple recruitment agencies. In addition, we have to work much harder at promoting our vacancies ourselves, whether that’s internally, on our website or via social media.
“We are seeing candidates eager to take the first job offered to them instead of the best or most attractive proposition. This detracts a little from the attractive terms that we take pride in offering
“.We could move quicker, perhaps, although we feel this could devalue our interview process along with candidates’ preparation time and the level of insight we can give them into their potential new career.
“In a challenging and unknown period, where businesses will still be assessing the impact of COVID, you could also ask why someone who is doing well with their current company would change position and risk instability with so many restructures and redundancies taking place.
“In an unstable job market and with many candidates expressing a clear need for stability, potentially above all else for the time being, perhaps there’s no surprise that it is currently difficult to recruit.
“Working from home has become something that eight out of ten candidates are looking for as part of their next move, which works well for us as we offer a lot of flexibility.”
Bethany Willcox, senior recruitment partner, Alcumus
“At Alcumus we are fortunate to have continued hiring over the last two years.
We see that counter-offers are at an all-time high in our sector, so it’s a much more competitive market for good people with the right skills and experience.
“With an unprecedented number of live roles on the market in the UK at the moment, candidates often have several opportunities on the table at one time.
“This means they can be more demanding of potential employers and negotiate around the things that matter to them.
“For example, we have seen that working from home has become something that eight out of ten candidates are looking for as part of their next move, which works well for us as we offer a lot of flexibility. The ability to fit work around their home life has become more and more important to candidates too.
“Candidates are in the driving seat now, and we see them take much more interest in the broader picture. They no longer only care about their potential role and salary.
” They want to know what the business does in terms of its corporate social responsibility. They ask questions about sustainability as it relates to our business. They want to know about their longer-term career prospects too, but increasingly they care about the type of company they work for. That’s been the most significant change we have seen.”
Tim Partridge, principal consultant, office support, Yolk Recruitment
“We are currently seeing fewer job applications for office support. Traditional job advertisements are yielding next to nothing, and even when candidates do apply, it’s often impossible to get hold of them to discuss their application.
“Targeted headhunting and utilising LinkedIn has become much more successful than traditional advertising for us. Candidates are often interviewing with multiple employers, a trend driven by market demand and the ease of online interviews. With many candidates working from home, this means they can attend more interviews without asking their employers for time off.
“This is a double-edged sword for employers as it means candidates have more choice – and, in many cases, multiple offers to consider. Clients are regularly disappointed and missing out on candidates by not moving the process along quickly enough. I regularly encourage my clients to move as quickly as possible if they meet a candidate they like and to get a competitive offer in as soon as possible.
“The market has become increasingly candidate-driven, and employers are struggling with the new reality. I regularly hear comments such as ‘I thought people would be crying out for a job after this pandemic.’
Employers need to move with the times and become competitive in areas other than just salary. Candidates now expect flexible working options and holidays above the government minimum.
“Free fruit, mental health days and wellbeing packages are also coming up as important on applicant agendas. The employers that are recognising this and doing things differently are the ones securing the top talent.
“We need urgent action across the sector if we are to tackle this urgent driver shortage and prevent further disruption to crucial supermarket supply chains.”