Bridging the skills and pay gap

Bridging the skills and pay gap

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A recent survey by the Open University revealed that UK employers have had to pay “well above market rate” to attract employees over the past year as a skills shortage intensifies. Addressing the problem is costing companies more than £2bn per year according to the distance-learning university.

A number of factors exacerbate the issue, but analysts point to the fact that unemployment is at its lowest rate, coupled with uncertainty around Brexit affecting skilled EU nationals. The result is a diminishing pool of available talent, placing businesses of every size under pressure.

Businesses are having to take longer than usual to find the right staff and are paying more in recruitment fees and temporary staff costs in order to plug gaps. So all the more reason to ensure that once the right people are found, they are nurtured and valued and given as much opportunity as possible to develop into company champions.

The problem for many firms is that the recruitment net cannot be cast too widely. If they operate from a fixed location they have to be realistic about how far candidates will travel and the likelihood of the candidate relocating. Those organisations working to a more flexible agenda can recruit from further afield. Essentially, if a company is well used to its staff working from remote workspace rather than commuting to a central office, then there is no geographical limit to its search for employee talent. As long as staff are working from a professional and productive environment – and management structures are in place to monitor remote performance – then skilled employees can be located anywhere.

Retaining the best people is always important but, given the current climate, this challenge takes on even more significance. There is no set-in-stone plan to ensure staff retention but there are undoubtedly a number of factors that contribute. According to Paul Spector, a professor of organisational studies and organisational psychology at the University of South Florida, the nature of job satisfaction can be classified into nine facets: pay, promotion, supervision, fringe benefits, contingent rewards, operating conditions, co-workers, nature of work, and communication. And as various industries differ, so does the weight and significance of each facet for each employee and worker.

In our own research, the influence of workplace flexibility on today’s job-seekers is revealed as key. Having the flexibility to work near to home and to self-manage working time is no longer seen as a perk. Rather, skilled staff expect this level of freedom and will quickly dismiss offers from businesses that are less agile.

A Regus survey among 3000 UK professionals found that when faced with two similar jobs, more than nine in 10 professionals would select the one offering flexible working. Furthermore, more than half agreed they would “actively change job” if one with more flexible working was offered.

The increasing importance employees are placing on flexible working can be explained by a number of factors, but one of the most important is undoubtedly the long, draining and expensive commute experienced by so many professionals. Indeed, a recent study by Moovit, a transport app used by 2.5m people in the UK, revealed that Britons face the longest commutes in Europe. Giving people the option to avoid this daily grind and to develop patterns of work that better suit their lifestyle is undoubtedly attractive, and flexible working is proven to result in a workforce that is happier and more productive.

The competition for the best in employee talent will only intensify. Already, businesses are re-evaluating working structures in order to attract the best people. The model that requires employees to commute to a fixed location and work at the same desk for a set number of hours is rapidly looking like an outdated practice from yesteryear. In its place, companies are looking to maximise the opportunities presented by the UK’s world-class flexible workspace infrastructure, allowing the best employees to have a say in their own work routines and enabling them to be the best that they can be.