Job outlooks put talent back on agenda for 2018

A flurry of end-of-year surveys suggest 2018 will see the focus on talent tighten due to falling net migration, record-high employment rates and robust recruitment, despite economic uncertainty.

Notebook entitled field notes
The latest outlook from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), released today, shows employer confidence about recruitment and investment in the coming months is falling.The representative body’s study of 600 employers found one in four did not know if they will hire or lay off staff in the first quarter of 2018. A third of those questioned also said economic conditions in the UK were getting worse. However, net recruitment remains positive.

Calls for clarity on Brexit

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: "Despite the economic malaise, the number of businesses planning to employ new people still outnumbers those planning reductions. This is good news against a deteriorating backdrop."However, confidence in the UK's economic conditions being negative for a fifth consecutive month paints a rather bleak picture. With 2017 coming to an end, it is worrying that so many businesses think mainly of challenges when it comes to next year's economy.”The REC is calling on the government to take action quickly to reassure employers their EU workers can remain in the UK and set out a “sensible post-Brexit immigration policy”."This could help turn the mood around, so we can ensure 2018 continues the successes we've seen this year in terms of high employment rates and continued job creation,” said Mr Green.
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Government needs to step up on skills

The REC’s outlook was preceded by analysis from the CIPD. Ian Brinkley, the professional body for HR and personal development’s chief economist, predicted yesterday the coming year will feature a continued squeeze on incomes, and a focus on migration and productivity. Complementing the REC’s finding that net recruitment is still expected to be in positive territory, Mr Brinkley suggested 2018 could be the year the UK runs out of people to fill key roles.“In 2017, we saw record-high employment but a big squeeze on household budgets,” said Mr Brinkley. “The next 12 months looks to be a case of more of the same,” he said. “With Brexit negotiations entering their next crucial phase, all eyes will be on the ability of the government to ensure employers can access the skills and workers the economy needs.”

Talent still high on employers’ agenda

David Willett, Corporate Director at The Open University, concurred in response to the REC’s findings, adding another voice to the call for more strategic and intelligent HR in solving the UK’s skills and productivity challenges:“Regardless of their hiring expectations, seven in 10 business leaders think they will struggle to find talent with the skills they need next year, with the skills shortage remaining a prominent issue. “In the ideal scenario, candidates would come with the experience and qualifications required, but a higher skills gap means employers may need to invest in training to ensure that their organisation is protected against economic, technological and political changes in the future. “With Brexit and growing opportunities stemming from automation and digitisation, it is essential that leaders focus on future-proofing their organisations efficiently – which means building skills from within, rather than paying over the odds for workers who are in demand.“The introduction of the apprenticeship levy and new degree apprenticeships offers high-quality, accessible opportunities to increase skills, giving organisations who embrace them the capability and flexibility to succeed.” Research commissioned research in The Open University’s Business Barometer found the skills gap is costing UK businesses more than £2 billion a year in higher salaries, recruitment costs and temporary staffing. 

CBI employment outlook for 2018

The CBI started this week of employment outlooks, again identifying UK employers’ robust record on job creation. The UK business organisation’s annual joint survey of employers with recruiter Pertemps found 51% of firms across the UK will grow their workforce in the year ahead. Confidence is highest amongst small and mid-sized firms (58%).Over nine in ten (93%) of respondents also reported that a diverse and inclusive workforce is important to the future success of their organisation – up on 76% in 2016. Nevertheless, the CBI/Pertemps study found skills gaps to be firms’ single most prominent worry. Nearly four in five (79%) respondents highlighted this as a concern – up from 64% in 2016.Access to overseas workers is a big contributor to this finding, with nearly half of respondents (49%) identifying uncertain access to labour supply – up from 35% in 2016.

UK's ongoing need for international skills

Neil Carberry, CBI managing director for people policy, commented: “Britain’s record on job creation is second to none and this year’s survey shows that this is set to continue in 2018. But with softening economic growth matched with high employment, the survey again emphasises the vital need to make progress on the Industrial Strategy and secure a good Brexit deal to improve productivity, support job creation and boost pay growth.“The survey also shows that firms are concerned about finding the right staff in the future and this is damaging the outlook for investment in the longer term. It’s essential that businesses work to address skills gaps with colleges and other providers – but with high employment rates, domestic training alone can’t meet all our needs."Firms will need to be able to access people from outside the UK to support future growth and deliver the Industrial Strategy.Last week’s Brexit deal is a good outcome if a final deal is reached, but the government must be clear that the position of EU nationals already in the UK is secure in all scenarios.”For related news and features, visit our HR section. Look out for the launch of 2018's Relocate Awards, entries open in January. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory