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Managing in a world of chronic staff shortages

Managing in a world of chronic staff shortages

Virtually all sectors of the economy are being hampered by the shortages, notably manufacturing, logistics, healthcare and social care, retail – and even refuse collectors are in short supply in some parts of Britain.

In fact, for the first time since records began, ONS Labour Market figures show that there are more job vacancies than unemployed people in the UK.

The stats show there is currently 1.3 million unfilled vacancies, four times the number at the end of the first coronavirus lockdown in Summer 2020.

The shortage of labour is inflicting terrible short-term damage on the businesses concerned. Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey recently warned these labour shortages are driving up prices and wages, as employers are compelled to concede to pay demands, thus contributing to the Bank’s struggle to bring down inflation.

What’s the issue?

Of course all this has a wider impact, slowing growth and hampering national economic recovery. The reasons are many and varied, but the biggest contributing factors are the pandemic and Brexit.

Up to 450,000 people have left the workforce since 2019. Many were made redundant at the start of the pandemic and have since opted to retire.

The number of people on the long-term sick list has grown also, including many, sadly, suffering from long Covid.

Meanwhile, Brexit led to the exodus of 200,000 EU citizens, many of them workers in the key sectors of retail, healthcare and agriculture.

What can you do, if your business is affected?

The obvious answer is offering higher wages, but of course this is not always possible, especially in the current economy. Other types of benefits can work out cheaper than pay increases and still help attract new employees – and retain your current ones.

You can consider setting up a bonus scheme, offering rewards annually or every 18 months, to encourage employees to remain loyal. And performance-related bonuses encourage productivity as well as loyalty.

For others, work-life balance is as important as salary, so offer flexible working, including reduced hours for no loss of pay and working from home. Flexibility is especially important for parents of younger children and carers who need to juggle work with responsibilities at home.

Where you can, offer more on-the-job training. This will enable you to recruit less-well-qualified staff. Hiring an apprentice might also be an option. When it comes to training them, you pay just 5% towards the cost. The government will pay the rest (95%) up to the funding band maximum. They’ll pay it directly to the training provider.

Finally, but importantly, make sure you invest in employee retention. The last thing you can afford to do is to lose experienced workers while recruitment is difficult. Remember, the same things that attract new employees—better wages and/or benefits, training opportunities and flexible working arrangements—also increase staff satisfaction and retention rates.

If you believe your business is insolvent, or approaching insolvency, speak to one of our business rescue and insolvency experts, call us on 01455 555 444 or email [email protected] and we can call you back.