The best ways to attract talent in a challenging environment

Carlos Carriedo highlights some areas businesses should consider when trying to stand out as an employer of choice

From keeping up with 24-hour consumer demand, to staying on top of disruptive technology, business leaders today face new obstacles at every turn. And thriving in the face of these challenges is only possible with the right workforce. 

Earlier this year, our Global Spending and Outlook survey saw us speak to over 900 senior finance executives from companies around the world with annual revenues of $500m or more. In today’s business environment, despite political uncertainty, our research found that hiring of more than 10 per cent of the current workforce is expected by 23 per cent of UK CFOs: a bigger increase than seen in 2018 or 2017.

That said, despite demand, one of the challenges businesses face is the UK labour market, which is as competitive as it’s been in decades. Brexit is of course a key part of this, as the level of EU workers coming into the UK has dropped to its lowest since 2009, meaning a decrease in the talent pool available. Simultaneously, the ONS put the UK unemployment rate at 3.8 per cent this September: as low as it’s been since 1975. While near-full employment is a good thing for many workers, it means further stiff competition for employers to attract the best talent.

So how can HR departments get ahead with attracting the best talent in the face of the current labour market? Our research revealed some surprising areas it pays to consider.

Nurture your entire workforce

75 per cent of the business leaders interviewed said that freelance or temporary workers will either be ‘central to’ or an ‘important part of’ their company’s employment practices two years from now. 

To accommodate those with different circumstances, it’s vital to help staff get quickly stuck into the office culture. For managers, that might mean taking greater than usual steps to make staff feel included, such as asking them about their life outside work before meetings, while also accepting that they might have different priorities and working methods.

The benefits of business travel

Another attraction businesses can offer their employees is the opportunity to travel for work; research we conducted with YouGov showed that this is one of the most desirable fringe benefits companies can offer. Nine out of 10 business traveller respondents said that they enjoy business travel, with 71 per cent citing travel as the aspect of their work they like the most. Crucially, it is also a priority for prospective talent, with 61 per cent citing it as an important benefit when considering a new role.

Don’t overlook training 

Finally, businesses can also get ahead of their competition through providing their staff with training and development programmes. The American Express 2019 SME Pulse survey found that 23 per cent of UK SMEs name providing training and development programmes as one of their top two ways to improve skills and talent over the year ahead, and that 65 per cent saw it as a tactic they plan to use over the next three years.

As well as improving talent, development programmes help to keep staff invigorated and engaged, as they feel the organisation is invested in their personal development. This in turn leads to increased company loyalty, boosting retention rates. 

Through integrating flexible workers, improving businesses travel and offering training and development programmes, HR departments can help their businesses compete in an incredibly tough labour market, giving them a crucial advantage over their competitors.

Carlos Carriedo is senior vice president of global commercial services at American Express