It’s hard to imagine a more tumultuous time for politics, business and society than the one in which we find ourselves in right now. The implications of Brexit – the result of which seemed to surprise everyone, including those actively campaigning for Leave – are anything but clear. Angry, bitter, recriminating, anything but clear.
Early signs do not look entirely promising. The Institute of Directors reported last week that 25% of its members plan to put the brakes on hiring and a further 5% are going further and planning redundancies. On the Monday immediately post the Brexit result, Adzuna has 25% fewer new job listings than seven days prior. Worse still, according to CEB, there was a 700,000 fall in advertised vacancies across the UK or a 47% decline in the week immediately following Brexit.
However, whether it’s the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, hinting at a fall in interest rates and the possibility of further quantitative easing or the prospective leader of the Conservative Party, Theresa May, announcing an end to austerity politics, the general theme appears to be about making the best of things.
May’s potential next job follows an angry rash of resignations. David Cameron, Boris, Nigel Farage, most of the shadow cabinet, as well, mystifyingly, as, Roy Hodgson. However, it’s the one person who hasn’t resigned who is capturing the imagination. Jeremy Corbyn must be a confused man. Heavily backed with an unprecedented mandate by Labour activists, he is still reeling from a hugely unsuccessful vote of confidence from his party. Should he stay or should he go?
Regardless of Mr Corbyn’s decision, it’s a strange apparent contradiction, but a government needs a strong opposition. Having a party across the green benches presenting a credible alternative and constantly questioning those in power prevents government complacency and fuels accountability, with the electorate benefiting. Whatever the travails of the Conservatives, they are getting an easy ride from Mr Corbyn, who even now, amongst much Tory disarray, trails in the polls.
The construct of two apparently diametrically opposed entities actually having a symbiotic relationship applies in sport too. The end of the last football season saw Glasgow Rangers promoted back to the Scottish Premier League. This was four years after the club – one of the two giants of the Scottish game – was unceremoniously dumped down into the fourth tier of football north of the border, as a result of falling into receivership. And whilst many fans of their chief and usually bitter rivals will have been crowing gleefully about this fall from grace, for Celtic the club, this will have been a financial disaster. Celtic have won the Premier League on each occasion in the absence of Rangers, often with something to spare. The league, the competition, the attendances, as well as the two teams themselves, will benefit from Rangers’ promotion back to the top table. Even if neither set of fans are likely to admit this.
We see something similar in the world of retail. Since the advent of online retailing, the debate has long been around bricks or clicks –whether a retailer should deliver an online offering as opposed to physical stores or vice versa. The last two years have seen organisations combining these apparent opposites. Apple’s investment in its lavish stores has perhaps been the most dramatic example of this – although Dyson are following suit on Oxford Street as we speak. The manufacturer of iPhones is not necessarily looking for an immediate bottom line return (and allegedly it loses money through the stores), more an opportunity to deliver the Apple brand experience in a direct way with consumers.
And such a synergistic relationship exists increasingly between two very different sides of the talent acquisition coin – recruitment and retention. Admittedly, often owned within organisations by different stakeholders, there is a clear and supportive relationship existing between the two. Or there should be.
Whatever the ultimate implications of Brexit, there remain record numbers employed in the UK workforce and, at 74.2%, the employment rate is as high as it has ever been since comparable records were introduced in 1971. Organisations employing nurses, engineers, social workers, accountants, digital professionals, customer service professionals, amongst many other talent pools, are all struggling hugely to recruit.
And the implications of such struggles? The existing internal workforce feels stretched and stressed. Under-resourced, they are fire-fighting and getting by rather than progressing. They do not have the time for training, development or growth. And they do not have such time because of the inability of their organisation to recruit.
What they want to see is their organisation very actively and very visibly recruiting, bringing on board additional people so they themselves have the bandwidth to move onwards and upwards. Speaking with talent pools most days of the week, we are very aware that people want what they currently lack –personal progression and organisational growth. Tangible and visible recruitment is a clear demonstration of such growth.
Seeing real evidence of their organisation actively recruiting suggests they are working for an organisation that is growing and investing. They are also aware that the people arriving as a result of such recruitment activity will free them up from a relentless focus on operational plate-spinning.
However, there is an even closer relationship between recruitment and retention – the role played by the employer branding process. TMP spends a lot of time engaging with the internal talent pools of our clients. The insights they provide us via interviews, workshops and focus groups into the employee experience and the working reality they encounter every day allows us a view into a genuine and authentic world. Over and above such fascinating insights, they respond with real positivity when they realise that they have a tangible sense of involvement in and contribution towards shaping how their organisation and its careers are portrayed.
Their employment experience is predicated, then, on their ability to articulate such an experience positively via their employer brand. An employer brand which will, in turn, be instrumental in attracting new talent into their organisation and so accelerating the learning, development and growth of the existing workforce.
Sounds straightforward enough. Get recruitment right (and visibly so) and this drives engagement. Engaged workforces then act as positive advocates to facilitate further recruitment.
Is your organisation creating such a virtuous circle or is a vicious spiral a more apt description?
Neil Harrison | Head of Employer Branding | firstname.lastname@example.org