You just can't get the staff

The Greater Birmingham Quarterly Economic Survey Q3 2015 has been released and it is encouraging to note growth in both the manufacturing and service sectors.

Both areas commented that they expected their workforce to increase over the next three months but it is interesting to note that a large majority of firms advised that they had experienced difficulty in recruiting staff.

Recruitment difficulties rose marginally with 72% of firms reporting difficulties compared to 70% in Q2.

For manufacturers, difficulties were split between skilled manual and technical workers (60%) and professional/managerial staff (33%).

Service firms also reported difficulties recruiting for these categories of employee, however they also had measurable difficulties recruiting for clerical (18%) and un- and semi-skilled positions (20%).

So what's the problem? Is there a real skill shortage? Or are employers just not paying enough for the roles to attract the right people? Everybody knows that employers want their pound of flesh today - and the employees want paying for it.

Do you really want to settle for second best?

To a degree I can understand this for the skilled manual and technical workers and managerial positions, but for clerical and un- / semi-skilled jobs? I would suggest that there is a training shortage - i.e. employers don't want to spend resources on training anymore.

As an anecdote close to home, she who must be obeyed returned to work c. eighteen months ago after taking twelve months' maternity leave. She is still waiting for training despite her role changing twice in that eighteen month period. I'm not talking about some fly-by-night business, either - her employer is a leading, global property services firm. I doubt this phenomenon is confined to the West Midlands, by the way.

But what about the skilled workers, the technical worker and the professional and managerial positions? Could there be something else other than pay and training issues? Well, the more specialist a role, the smaller the available talent pool.

Let' say for argument's sake that you need to recruit a French speaking Logistics Manager, with at least four years' similar experience, to work out of your Coventry site. Let's assume that there are only nineteen people within twenty five miles of Coventry that meet those criteria and only three of them apply for the role. It turns out that none of them are perfect for the position.

You have three choices:

  1. Offer the job to the best candidate
  2. Re-advertise the position
  3. Look further afield


Offer the job to the best candidate: Not a bad idea, providing you have the resources with which to make up the shortcomings. If the gaps can't be filled through training, do you really want to take the risk? Do you really want to settle for second best?

Re-advertise the position: This is all very well and good, but doesn't change the fact that you don't have access to a great number of potential candidates locally and your advertisement didn't generate much interest in the first place.

Look further afield: If you accept that you are not going to attract the right talent locally, the natural step is to cast your net a little further. Tapping into that larger market yields a pool of 147 potential candidates, seventeen of whom apply for your position.

You have your winning candidate but she lives in Grantham, sixty six miles away and a 1h 30m drive each way. Naturally, she isn't going to do that every day and she wasn't expecting to (and in the interest of health & safety you shouldn't allow anyone to be put in that position) - so how is it going to work?

The sensible solution is by offering relocation support. Whether it be some short-term rental accommodation, removal costs, or a full-blown home sale and purchase package, is going to depend upon the position for which you are recruiting and how critically you need to fill it.

There is no getting away from the fact that providing relocation support will be a cost to the business - but so is recruiting the wrong person; the difference is that you can quantify relocation support and not so much the effect of improper recruitment so you don't really see the cost of the latter.

By offering relocation you are opening up the position to so many more candidates than if you try to recruit locally. If staying local isn't providing the results, go regional, go national, or even go global if you have to. Don't let the thought of relocation be a barrier - there are providers, such as Celsium, who can help you with any requirement, even as a one-off.

If you would like to discuss the benefits of providing relocation support or would like to talk to us about any aspect of relocation, please contact Stuart or Shelley.


About the Quarterly Economic Survey

Formed in 1989, the Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) is the private sector’s leading indicator of the UK economy.

At the regional level, the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) conducts the QES every quarter across the Greater Birmingham to assess how businesses are performing on a range of key indicators. The feedback from the survey helps to shape business policy priorities. Nationally, the results from QES are monitored by the Bank of England, HM Treasury, and the European Commission as a quarterly indication of business conditions.

Each quarter, around 250 to 300 firms from across the Greater Birmingham area are surveyed on business conditions and their attitudes towards government policy. The Greater Birmingham region consists of Birmingham, Solihull, Lichfield, Tamworth, Chase, and Burton. A vast majority of firms surveyed are SMEs.


Image by Jeff Kubina

Source: Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce