War for talent and skills shortages are HR’s biggest problems, report reveals

8 May 2017 By Marianne Calnan

Employers worry Brexit will usher in ‘era of visa restrictions and stricter immigration controls’

Tackling skills shortages and succeeding in the war for talent remain at the top of the HR industry’s agenda, a survey published today has found.

According to Navigating the future: HR 2020 from law firm Eversheds Sutherland and market research company Winmark, 67 per cent of HR leaders believe the war for talent will be one of the most pressing issues for their workplace in the near future.

Just over half (57 per cent) said they were worried about what skills shortages meant for their organisation.

“Having the best talent can determine how successfully a business responds to market changes and economic instability,” said Diane Gilhooley, global head of Eversheds Sutherland’s human resources and pensions practice. “Securing talent has always been a key priority for business and Brexit places this issue in the spotlight once again.

“Employers are waiting to see whether Brexit will usher in a new era of visa restrictions and stricter immigration controls and are mindful of the potential impact on global recruitment.”

Other concerns flagged by the study were remote working and anywhere or anytime delivery, which just under half (46 per cent) of respondents said were likely to have an impact on their organisations, along with demographic changes (44 per cent) and global workforce mobility (32 per cent).

The report also found that all three regions taking part – UK, continental Europe and Asia-Pacific – agreed the war for talent, skills shortages and remote working respectively remained their top three challenges.

This study is not the first time skills shortages and the so-called ‘war for talent’ have been picked out as key workplace issues. Temporary staff numbers declined at the fastest rate this March since January 2016, with permanent employees suffering a similar drop, a survey from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation found, meaning employers are increasingly competing for a dwindling pool of talent.

Another study by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) revealed that almost a quarter of 2015 vacancies (209,000) were caused by the widening skills crisis, while 14 per cent of employers reported skills gaps in their workforces. In 2011 there were just 91,000 ‘skills shortage vacancies’.

This week’s HR 2020 report also revealed lagging productivity is increasingly expected to influence workplaces, with a third of respondents saying they expect the issue to impact on their company, compared to 23 per cent in 2015’s survey.

A similar story emerged around the pensions reforms, with nearly a third (30 per cent) of 2017’s respondents citing it as an issue they believe will have an influence in their workplace, compared to 22 per cent two years ago.

Despite this, just 10 per cent of respondents said pension reforms were an HR priority, compared to 22 per cent in 2015’s report.

The focus on apprenticeships had also increased significantly, with 41 per cent of HR leaders stating that it is now a priority for them, in contrast to just 17 per cent in 2015.

HR professionals also appear less concerned about the potential impact of the rising number of contingent and flexible workers. In 2015, 29 per cent said it was a trend likely to affect their organisation, compared to only 17 per cent of those surveyed this year.

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