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Recruit and retain - ten tips for employers

07 September 2018

Most employers struggle to find and keep people with the right skills, but have they worked out how best to look?

Over the past year, 90% of employers struggled to recruit people with the right skills, while 75% said recruitment took, on average, one month and 24 days longer than expected.i

The survey, which was conducted by Capita, adds to existing evidence that finding the right person for the job is hard, slow work. Nor does the challenge end when you’ve found them – the next difficulty is hanging on to them.

Recruiting staff used to be just a question of salary for the mainly male workforce. But the last 30 years alone have seen a sea change, and the workforce now includes a far greater proportion of people of retirement age, women and people with disabilities than was the case in the 1980s.ii

This increasingly diverse workforce has an equally diverse set of needs. How businesses meet those needs ultimately dictates how successful they are in the people market.

So what do businesses need to be aware of when they’re searching for key talent? Unum, the employee benefits provider, has four principal recommendations.


  1. Social media
    Prospective employees no longer just give the company website a quick read when researching a potential employer. Instead, suitability and fit will often be based on a thorough investigation of social media and other sites such as, a recruitment specialist that allow employees to anonymously give feedback on their employer. With such instant visibility, it’s vital that businesses both respond to customer feedback and are seen to be living by their values.
  2. Interview
    The mistaken belief that the business holds the power during job interviews can lead to complacency. But the employer is very much on trial too, especially in a recovering job market. The candidate is likely to have other interviews scheduled, so employers also need to impress. Someone who stands out for one employer is highly likely to excite others. Highlighting exactly what’s in it for the prospective employee – company culture, autonomy, flexible working, learning opportunities, your commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), etc. – is crucial. Moreover, it’s often in these areas that smaller companies can shine.
  3. Fit
    Before making a choice, employers should consider a person’s personality as well as their skillset. Regardless of their experience or qualifications, a sociable, extrovert employee is unlikely to be happy where silence and silo working is the norm – and their colleagues certainly won’t be. There is little point in picking the best-qualified person if there’s a strong chance they’ll be walking back out of the door in six weeks’ time.
  4. Mind the gap
    Sometimes, for whatever reason, businesses are unable to fill a role. But with a little candid soul searching, this can be turned into a positive experience. Why did they fail to attract the right people? It could be the way the business markets itself, its online presence, or its failure to stand out as an employer of choice. Asking tough, sometimes unpalatable questions can be the catalyst for change.


Once someone is in place, the hard work of making sure they stay then begins. Unum offers six recommendations on how to keep employees happy.

  1. A competitive salary
    It sounds obvious but, to remain attractive, it’s important to benchmark salaries against competitors and the wider industry – and to make that benchmarking a regular occurrence.
  2. Empowerment
    Very few people like to be micromanaged. A culture of trust that allows managers and staff to get on with their jobs – and importantly, to make mistakes and learn from them – goes a long way.
  3. Recognition
    Thanking employees for a job well done makes people feel valued. And while this could include a financial bonus, small gift, or even a half day’s leave, you should never underestimate the power of a simple thank you.
  4. Working relations
    Disliking their immediate manager is a significant reason why people look for another job – almost one in five (18%) according to a 2017 report by Glassdoor.  An aggressive management style or a blame culture is likely to ruffle feathers. Managers promoted from within can also just be left to muddle through the switch from being ‘one of the team’ to being the leader. Management training can help, such as classroom-style learning, e-learning, mentoring and coaching.
  5. Working practices
    A flexible approach to work can be a deal-closer. Businesses that allow their employees to work from home or work flexible hours  especially where people have childcare or elder care to consider – can enhance loyalty. Personal development is also important to many employees, so it’s worth developing a strategy that includes a commitment to staff training and development opportunities.
  6. Choosing the right benefits
    According to Capita’s Workplace Benefits, 76% of employees are more likely to stay with an employer that offers a good employee package, while 74% say they are more likely to take a job for the same reason.iv

Different benefits are likely to appeal to different demographics. While younger staff may prefer gym membership or retail vouchers, older workers may value life insurance or dental cover.

Whatever the size of the business, the right benefits package – whether employer or employee-funded – can help increase employee loyalty and morale, as well as bringing fresh expertise and innovative ideas through the door.

In short, sometimes a failure to recruit and retain says as much about the employer as it does about the jobs market.


This article does not necessarily reflect the views of St. James’s Place.

i,iv Capita - Workplace Benefits – Employee Insight Report  2018
ii The Modern Workforce report, Cass Business School on behalf of Unum, 2013


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