Worker shortage leads to calls for employers to be more flexible

Recruitment issues

Suffolk employers have said they are worried about recruitment issues - Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Employers need to understand they are not still in the driver's seat if they want to overcome the current shortage of workers, says the manager of one Suffolk-based recruitment firm.

Local businesses have also revealed their concerns about staffing issues in a quarterly survey.

Michelle Pollard, managing director of recruitment firm Spider, believes there are several reasons why many employers are currently facing challenges to find staff.

Different sectors are experiencing a surge in vacancies for different reasons, with some not being able to attract workers and others have too much work to do.

Though a main factor for both of these is, unsurprisingly, the pandemic.


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Speaking about her own business which kept its doors open throughout the pandemic, Michelle said: "Other than a couple of months where things got a little scary with the initial lockdown, we're about to have the best year that we've had on record.

"That's because everyone is looking to recruit.

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"Lots of people took stock of what the lockdown showed them and lots of people just wanted to get a better work life balance."

Brexit has also played a factor, as seen with the lack of lorry drivers which led to fuel shortages across the country.

Although, this issue isn't exclusive to the United Kingdom and might not be as big of a factor as some would believe.

"The lorry driver shortage is right across the EU, not just in the UK," said Michelle. "Germany, France, they've got exactly the same problem that we've got here.

"Would we have had some of these shortages prior to the pandemic with Brexit happening? Yeah we would have done, because we still had lots of our migrant workforce. They went back to their homes during the pandemic and never came back again.

"There's not just one element that leads to this massive shortage, this are lots of different elements of the pandemic and it's lots of different issues from Brexit.

"We've been having a talent shortage for a long time."

Other areas of industry like digital marketing have enjoyed a boom following the pandemic as businesses had to rely on online traffic to generate profits during lockdowns.

While hospitality and retail has been suffering due to a lack of EU workers and student wanting to work there.

Michelle believes this is because: "They've wanted to go out this summer because their lives have been on hold this year."

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce

Paul Simon, head of policy & communications at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce - Credit: Suffolk Chamber of Commerce

The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce this week released figures from their quarterly economic survey, which showed a very strong third quarter in 2021 but also that businesses were worried about recruitment.

Suffolk manufacturers in particular reported some of their best figures since the beginning of the pandemic, with domestic sales improving by 55% compared to the second quarter 2021.

Paul Simon, head of policy & communications at Suffolk Chamber said: "In many respects, these figures are really encouraging - demonstrating that Suffolk’s businesses are accelerating out of the Covid-19 pandemic slump faster than many of us expected earlier in the year.

“However, the intensifying impact of recruitment difficulties and the looming challenges of systemic inflation threatens to choke this recovery, unless political and economic leaders intervene.”

The vast majority of companies in all sectors of the county’s economy reported very significant challenges in filling vacancies, with manufacturers at +91% and service companies at +87%.

“These figures correlate with the conversations we’ve been having with our members. Whilst labour shortages and raw material price increases might reflect a readjustment of the balance of the economy in the short-term, there are very real worries that both issues are in danger of being hard-baked into the system."

Solutions

Michelle Pollard believes companies being more flexible will encourage people to work for them.

She said: "There's a massive candidate shortage, the more flexible they can be with regards to those softer elements to a package is what employees will look for.

"They still think they are in the driver's seat because they pay the wages. Flexibility, compromise, collaboration and it's not just 'your way or the highway', this is a two way conversation.

"The companies that still have that hierarchy 'you will do as I say because I employ you', they will be the losers. The collaborators will be the winners."

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