Improving Retention Strategies for UK Employers

Improving Retention Strategies for UK Employers

As with many markets globally, recruitment in the UK is challenging, with demand for employees considerably exceeding the supply. It’s crucial that companies know how to navigate the complexity of the current recruitment environment and translate those recruits into retained staff.

Understanding trends in the recruitment industry is instrumental to addressing the current issues faced. Companies also need to know how to drive loyalty among workers, including temporary ones. In addition, organisations must build an engaged and talented pool of professionals that want to keep working with them. Below, we consider the challenges and solutions to these issues to help organisations prioritise their time and effort appropriately to meet these challenges.


The UK Recruitment Market

According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, job vacancies increased to a new high of 1,288,000 between January and March 2022. This represented an increase of almost 500,000 when compared with the same period in 2020. 

Suffice it to say, the UK labour market is tough for hiring talent at the current time, but some sectors are considerably tougher than others to fill vacancies. For example, the health and social care sector currently have 215,500 vacancies. Other sectors heavily impacted include retail, hospitality, professional activities, and manufacturing. Previously, as of October 2021, the number of job vacancies in the UK had already reached a level not seen in the past two decades.


What Are Organisations Seeing

What all of this means is that the UK is seeing “acute skills shortages” and companies are finding it very challenging to hire staff that are sufficiently skilled for the roles available. It is believed that somewhere between a quarter to a third of these vacancies have been brought about as a result of lower levels of migration. In some ways, this has directly resulted from Brexit and the pandemic. In addition, trends towards a greater number of younger people studying and lower numbers of older people in the workplace have exacerbated the problem. 

For jobseekers, it is a buyer’s market, and candidates can pick and choose who they want to work for. A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development showed that 46% of companies have vacancies that they categorise as ‘hard to fill.’


Trends In The Recruitment Space

This is translating into a number of trends in the market that are impacting recruitment, making it harder still. One such trend is candidate ghosting. Research shows that the number of candidates that ghosted an employer had risen to 28% by February 2021 – an increase of 10% when compared with 2019. Employers argue that the figure is much higher than this, with 76% stating they had experienced ghosting. The problem is not just limited to not stating a lack of interest. Some candidates do not turn up for interviews, and 7% take this one step further still, not arriving for their first day at work. Figures show that 48% of employers in the UK have faced retention difficulties with their workers, and this is a strong trend impacting recruitment practices.

Given that demand for labour is so much higher than supply, candidates are also in a better position to object to lengthy hiring processes by withdrawing their applications. If there are too many rounds of interviews, prospective employees may simply pull out. Hiring processes that take too long between interview and job offer also lead to ghosting. This is at least in part because candidates get other offers during that time. 

To combat this, companies should take the time to go through the steps of the hiring process to learn how a candidate will feel. These touchpoints and breakdowns matter when ensuring a smooth process and to help resolve candidate drop-off.

Other patterns seen in the UK recruitment market are a greater level of interest in remote working or other forms of flexible working. Research shows that 85% of those in the workforce would like a hybrid approach of both home and office working. This has in part been brought about as a result of the pandemic with workers realising the benefits that such an arrangement can bring to their work-life balance. Many employers are responding by improving flexible working arrangements and advertising these when hiring.


How To Increase Employee Retention

While the recruitment market is challenging, there is a great deal that companies can do to improve their ability to place talent. One important option is focusing on quality over the number of applicants for a role. What an emphasis on quantity over quality actually does is it increases processing costs and lowers responsiveness. While achieving the ideal of one perfect candidate for a role is a bit of a pipe dream, it is still closer to what recruitment should focus on, rather than numerous candidates that are only partially suitable. Making time to really understand what the perfect candidate looks like can go a long way towards achieving success with recruitment, as well as candidate retention. Being clear on the outcome required is integral to success, as is understanding that more is not necessarily better.

Part of this is about understanding what a candidate is actually looking for, but it also requires the capability to drive candidate engagement. The experience of the candidate throughout the recruitment journey will directly impact this. There is a lot to be said for streamlining recruitment processes through the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms. Yet, at key touchpoints throughout the process, humanisation is essential. Organisations must humanise the recruitment process appropriately while automating other elements to help keep candidates engaged.

Working through the process, there are key touchpoints when human intervention is needed. At the outset of the candidate journey, automation may help streamline the initial paper sift to identify optimal candidates that might fit the bill. However, next, a human needs to review the CVs to see if they are actually a potential fit. After this, having an actual conversation with a candidate to see what they actually want and understand how they feel is essential. This builds a human connection between the recruiter and the candidate which aids in driving candidate engagement. 

Also, after interviewing with a candidate, it’s wise to follow up to ask their thoughts about the hiring process. This can not only help hiring managers empathise with the candidate, but will give recruiters insights on what the candidate is seeking, and in turn, help identify the right role for the candidate or anything in the hiring experience that could be adjusted. Being personal and engaging with the candidate ensures a positive candidate experience in the hiring process and helps with future candidate engagement.


Find The Purpose Of Work

In the UK recruitment space, understanding why people are showing up for work is ever more critical. This is usually about a lot more than just remuneration. To some extent, the rising inflation and cost of living crisis in the UK is currently experiencing impacts where candidates want to work – since many candidates might seek out other jobs where they will be paid more. However, there are other factors that may tip the balance, such as the capability to work flexibly. Again, talking with employees or potential candidates about what they want helps companies understand what is important and what benefits to showcase to the world.



In short, the recruitment market in the UK is very tough, with demand for workers exceeding supply, and some roles very hard to fill. In this market, workers can pick and choose where they want to work, and this has led to issues for companies. Improving recruitment strategies can help address these sorts of challenges. 

If you’re looking for help on how to be successful in this difficult labour market, Recruitics can help!

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