Taking a new approach to attracting talent

Head and shoulders shot of Phil Taylor

Since emerging from the pandemic, the UK labour market has presented us with more challenges in recruiting professional services staff than I have witnessed during my 25 years in the profession.

With many people rethinking their careers, many opting out of the traditional job market, and reports of skills shortages across many professions, we have seen more roles than ever appearing on the Government’s Shortage Occupation list. We have seen record numbers of job vacancies across the UK, hitting 1.3 million in May 2022 despite a slow-moving economy, creating more opportunities for skilled workers to change jobs. Alongside this, there is increasing competition amongst employers to attract and appoint new staff.

Today, I’d like to share details of a solution that my team has been working on in recent months to mitigate some of these challenges.

In the spirit of Professional Services Together, we collaborated on a ‘Recruitment Hub’ pilot with colleagues in Estates, IT Services and Research Services, to trial a new approach to professional services staff recruitment. The results have had a positive impact in reducing the amount of time it takes us to attract and appoint new staff, and also greatly reducing the amount of recruitment exercises that fail to appoint suitable applicants.     

Our new approach involves increasing the pace and agility of our recruitment process. The average recruitment campaign now takes just five weeks from the time the advert was posted, to the moment our preferred candidate accepts our job offer. This is a significant improvement on previous practice and has been achieved through precisely planning the recruitment campaign, ensuring shortlisting and interview dates have been secured in the hiring manager and their panels’ diaries, and making it clear to applicants when the interviews are taking place by including the dates in our job adverts.

Ensuring the style of our job adverts speaks directly to the applicant has been equally important, outlining the three or four most important requirements of the job, and showcasing the benefits of working at the University to encourage more quality applications. When a job vacancy is known to be on the Government’s Shortage Occupation list, such as IT professionals or Engineers, we have made it clear that we are as keen to hear from international applicants as we are from local applicants, outlining the support available with their visa application from our experienced Staff Immigration Team. We have also experienced positive results by making good use of social media platforms, with LinkedIn in particular providing a highly effective way of promoting our job adverts to applicants with the relevant skill sets.

We’ve received some really encouraging feedback so far, with a number of colleagues commenting on the positive impact this pilot has had on their team’s operations. To build on this success, we’re now working on a plan to embed this approach as standard within the UAS HR Recruitment team, by bringing together the resource and expertise needed to expand our recruitment capabilities.

I am conscious, however, that colleagues across the wider University are also experiencing similar challenges with their professional services recruitment.  I am, therefore, pleased to share news that we are establishing a new Community of Practice (CoP) open to recruitment professionals across the University. This will allow us to share the lessons learnt from our pilot, and also bring together all the good practice already happening across our departments and faculties. Together we can collaborate to identify further new solutions as we strive to attract and appoint talented professional services staff.

Further details of the CoP will be shared in the coming weeks, and I look forward to continuing discussions with colleagues in this forum.

More about Professional Services Together and Communities of Practice