5 ways to combat 2022’s recruitment challenges when you can’t pay more

Written by Christian Vincent and Hannah Copeland on 15 April 2022

In 2022, recruitment and retention are fast becoming employers’ biggest challenges. With people continuing to leave their jobs for a multitude of reasons – including a desire for greater flexibility, better pay and a renewed sense of purpose – many employers are shedding staff faster than they can replace them, leading to a net workforce ‘leak’.

Consequently, while a focus on retaining existing staff is paramount, many employers are also frantically recruiting. But in 2022, organisations are finding that their current recruitment practices are no longer cutting it, and that what’s worked in previous years is suddenly failing to entice applicants. While you might have had 30 applicants for a role pre-pandemic, or even last year, now you’re lucky to get three or four.

Pay might seem like the obvious lever to pull. Indeed, in some cases, salary competitiveness is the crux of the problem, and many are busy conducting pay benchmarking exercises to determine if this might be where they are falling down. But what if offering higher salaries is simply out of the question? How can organisations overcome 2022’s recruitment challenges?

The reality is that in today’s working world, even if you can afford to pay more, higher salaries alone won’t completely eradicate employers’ recruitment woes. We are operating in entirely different circumstances than we’re used to, and as such, it’s time for employers and HR to rip up the rulebook, forget what they think they know about recruitment, and take a different approach.

Here are our five tips for improving your recruitment success rate in 2022.

1. Have no fixed rules – be dynamic

Employers often have set ideas about the process they need to follow when recruiting, established over many years. As HR Consultants supporting business with their recruitment efforts, we’re often told “this is how we do it – we advertise, we wait four weeks for CVs to come in, then we take a week for benchmarking, then we do interview one, interview two…”

In the past, this approach may have worked. Now, by the time you’ve gone through the motions, those who were interested at the beginning have long gone. In 2022, businesses can’t afford to wait around – they must interview people when they are available. If you feel somebody might be a good fit for a role, don’t be constrained by usual timescales and processes, act straightaway.

It’s all about keeping people engaged. In our experience, many organisations are experimenting with interesting and dynamic ways of recruiting, which can be as simple as a video call with all of the candidates to keep them warm and perhaps doing an activity together. As well as keeping them interested in the opportunity, thinking outside the box should help to create a situation whereby people aren’t just crossing the road for money – they like the ethos of the organisation and the feeling that you have created. Because of this, they may be willing to wait a week to see if they get a second interview.

Of course, if you find someone great early, shut down early. In the past, the traditional paradigm of recruitment was that you can expect to get 25% of applicants come through in the first day or two, 25% in the last day, and the rest in the middle. The last 25% are often some of the strongest candidates because they take the time to think about the opportunity, relate their skills to the job description, write up a thoughtful cover letter, then put in their application at the last minute.

Unfortunately, employers cannot wait for those people anymore because these individuals are now applying a little earlier in the process rather than fine-tuning CVs. Whilst there might still be people who do take their time and perfect their applications, the pace is generally much faster.

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2. Grow your own

This obviously isn’t an immediate solution, so won’t be a tap that businesses can switch on straightaway to solve their recruitment problems. However, considering bringing people in on apprenticeships, traineeships or internships, and offering them a career pathway that you can support them to achieve, will mean they are more likely to be invested in your business, invested in their career with your organisation, and less likely to leave, helping you to develop your talent pipeline.

In the best case scenario, you can bring people right up from apprenticeship level to higher level positions, reducing the need to recruit externally.

Instead of looking at vacancies, it’s about looking at where future talent will come from. When talking to companies about recruitment, we always ask “where is your planning behind it? Before you had that vacancy, what was your plan for filling that role?” Rather than being reactive (“oh no, I’ve suddenly got a vacancy I need to fill” – which you inevitably will at some point), be proactive instead.

Already, we’re seeing that many organisations are considering apprenticeships and other similar avenues or only recruiting bottom end (starting people off as administrators rather than officers in order to ensure they have the right management skills in time) and then ‘growing up’ where they possibly can. Of course, it takes a long time to get that pipeline working, so it’s a good idea to start now, even if the benefits aren’t immediate, as this will help alleviate recruitment pressures in the long run.

That said, there is a more immediate benefit of going through this ‘talent pipeline’ exercise: having clear career pathways and being able to show that you’ve thought about how people will work through the ranks is likely to appeal to candidates more generally and could be one way to improve your recruitment success rate.

3. Look at what you already have

On a related note, there’s a chance you may already have the transferrable skills within your organisation to fill your current vacancies – you just don’t know it yet.

Anecdotally, this is what one employer found when they used an AI system to input all of their employees’ skills and experiences into the system and remove details such as names and gender. By taking away all of the irrelevant data, they were able to pinpoint individuals who were suitable for positions they would never have been identified for otherwise, thus overcoming their recruitment challenges.

This was a win-win scenario in that it improved retention, solved the company’s recruitment issues and completely changed their way of thinking.

4. Let go of what you think you know, and reframe your expectations

How do you deal with a market whereby all the truisms of the past aren’t true anymore?

Traditional business thinking is “how can we differentiate ourselves from our competition?” and there are two ways companies can do this: you can either be better than them or different to them. In recruitment terms, this comes down to the age-old question of what makes you stand out from the crowd.

However, what happens if standing out isn’t enough anymore? What happens if despite months of interviews and trial and error, you just can’t find the person you want at the package you’re offering? Sometimes, this is just the reality of the situation.

Employers may need to recognise that what has worked in the past might not yield the same results in 2022, and be prepared to change their expectations and approach. This goes back to growing your own or, alternatively, accepting that you’re going to get a half-finished person who you may need to put in the work to develop.

In short, rather than obsessing over finding the perfect fit, look for someone who could become that with their existing skills.

5. Explore sponsorship licenses

Certainly in the commercial sector, we’re seeing that a growing number of companies are thinking about sponsorship licenses and recruiting outside of the UK. Whereas before this may have felt like too much work, we have several clients who are seriously considering this route in order to tap into talent pool in other countries where the UK’s has dried up.

This is becoming a more common consideration, particularly for those businesses who work internationally and are looking to bring someone into the UK, as this provides a way in. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s one potential solution to explore if you haven’t already.

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