Recruitment: the biggest challenge for businesses right now

How can you recruit and retain the best people in a challenging economic environment?


When we emerged from the pandemic, business confidence was high despite the growth challenges. Labour shortages, combined with a shift in candidate priorities, has created an acute recruitment challenge for UK businesses that’s stalling recovery.

ONS data shows that there has been a record-high number of job vacancies in the UK over the last three months, with 1,318,000 vacancies on offer. And employers are desperate to fill them. But with so many vacancies, competition for top talent is heating up, and jobseekers are holding all the power.

What’s driving these labour shortages?

Employee expectations

The pandemic has changed the world of work, and employees are revaluating their needs. Through lockdowns and periods of furlough, many have chosen to change their employment, with the main driver being flexibility. The pandemic emphasised the importance of having a good work-life balance, and remote working is essential to that.

Remote working gives your staff the power to decide where they work, and flexibility is now high on the priority list for employees. In fact, Bloomberg reported that nearly 40% of staff would consider leaving their current role if their company took remote work away.

Employers should pay close attention to this change in attitude as it offers valuable insight into staff priorities and shows how  companies can react and adapt to attract the most valuable staff. 

Skills Shortages

Santander’s Spring 2022 Trade Barometer showed renewed optimism in the business landscape, with 76% of respondents expecting their business to grow over the next three years. However, the most important factor influencing businesses’ ability to grow over the next three years is attracting skilled staff.

More than two-thirds of firms surveyed (70%) were concerned about the skills shortage, especially in industries such as:

  • travel, tourism, and leisure
  • finance
  • property
  • legal.
  • ICT industries.

It’s no surprise that industries reliant on technological roles are looking at a serious skills shortage as we move into an ever-digital future. In 2021, there was a 50% rise in UK tech job vacancies advertised compared to 2020. And as of December 2021, tech vacancies made up 12% of all available jobs in the UK. When you couple this with the fact that there has been a 40% drop in the number of students studying IT subjects at GCSE level since 2015, the problem is clear.

So, with industries facing a lack of skilled staff, what can we do to tackle the problem?

Many businesses are looking to invest and grow their existing talent, with 41% of UK companies introducing upskilling or reskilling programmes to help keep existing staff and bridge the gap.

How can you make your business more attractive?

Given the challenges your business has faced over the last two years, you may struggle to be competitive, particularly when it comes to financial incentives.

So, it’s time to get creative with your employee benefits. Traditional office benefits such as gym discounts and free fruit aren’t as attractive to employees anymore. Instead, they’re more likely to value things like personal development training or access to mental health services.

It would help if you thought beyond wage packets, too. If you can’t increase staff wages, you could stretch their pay packets to support them without your business feeling the pinch. Some benefits may include:

  • Enhanced maternity and sick pay
  • Annual leave
  • Pension contributions
  • Additional annual leave.

You could even support employees with incentives such as sabbatical leave. This would let employees tick something off their bucket list without needing to quit their job. And, as corporate social responsibility becomes more important, giving employees paid days off to volunteer in the community or for a favourite charity could be a fantastic way to increase engagement and motivation while setting your business apart from the crowd.

What do you need to do?

  • Review your current employee pay and benefits. Can you make these more attractive to retain existing and attract new staff?
  • Can you provide training to upskill your existing workforce? Take a look at schemes like apprenticeships and skills bootcamps.
  • Plan for the future. Create a recruitment and training strategy well in advance to give yourself the best chance of hiring and retaining the right people.

Get expert recruitment resources for your business

Check out the links below to access a range of expertly written HR documents and templates.

Interview Handbook

Job Description Template

Offer Letter

Looking for more HR advice?

BrightHR is offering free HR advice for your business from trained experts Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

So, whether you need advice on drafting company contracts, recruiting and retaining top talent, or managing persistent absence, BrightHR’s free HR advice line for Santander customers has the right answers for you.

Call them on 0800 756 0830.


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