Six strategies to attract talent and remain competitive in 2024

Author: Paula Flores

Organisations are struggling to attract talent, but it doesn't have to be that way. Based on our survey findings, we explore ways to help employers address the skills shortage and stand out from the competition.

The UK labour market has remained fairly tight in the past year, which has made it very difficult for employers to attract talent. Simultaneously, organisations are experiencing what has been characterised as a "skills shortage" when recruiting, as mentioned by 76.7% of participants in an XpertHR recruitment survey.

Organisations also face challenges with retention as employees have higher expectations regarding issues such as pay, benefits, learning and development, and hybrid working.

The good news is that there are strategies they can implement to secure a more successful outcome.

1. Consider disclosing the proposed salary (or pay band) in your adverts

While many employers prefer to keep their cards close to their chest concerning salary data, there is increasing evidence of the benefits of transparency during the recruitment process for both organisations and employees.

Our recruitment survey found that, in a sample of 175 organisations, nearly half (49.7%) reported including salary information in all job adverts, and a further 29.1% include it in some.

There were striking differences by sector, with salary information being displayed in all job adverts placed by the majority of public-sector and not-for-profit organisations. By contrast, just a quarter of responding organisations in the private and manufacturing-and-production sectors did the same.

More importantly, organisations that did display salary information in adverts cited the following benefits:

  • saving time and managing expectations;
  • attracting the right level of candidate;
  • increasing the number of applications; and
  • addressing policy and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) questions.

In the UK, employers in the private and voluntary sectors that have 250 or more employees on 5 April in the reporting year are required to publish prescribed gender pay gap information.

Furthermore, the new EU Directive on pay transparency places an emphasis on employer obligations in relation to reporting the pay gap. More importantly, the Directive goes further, creating specific obligations for the employer when the gap is wider than 5% and cannot be justified on the basis of objective gender-neutral factors.

XpertHR conducted an analysis linking the survey data with published 2022/23 gender pay gap data to explore trends in pay gaps and salary transparency.

The results indicate that organisations that reported being transparent in all job adverts have a median gender pay gap of 8.9%, meaning that women earn 91p for every £1 earned by a male employee. By contrast, organisations that do not include salary information in any job adverts have a median gender pay gap that is more than 10 percentage points higher, at 19.3%.

2. Assess your organisation's recruitment process... and address the issues!

Attracting, screening, shortlisting and selecting a new candidate to fill a vacancy is one of HR's key tasks. But it is also one of the most challenging aspects of HR and, according to our recruitment survey, many organisations find that their process is not very effective. In fact, just one-fifth (18.9%) of respondents rated their organisation's recruitment as very effective in sourcing quality hires.

As our recruitment survey highlighted, one of the key issues is that only a quarter (27.4%) of organisations measure satisfaction with the recruitment process. Moreover, among organisations that do measure the candidate experience, a high number track satisfaction only with successful candidates. This information tends to be gathered once the candidates have started their new position.

Quite possibly, unsuccessful candidates who have nothing to lose will be more candid in pointing out flaws and issues in the recruitment process, compared to recent recruits who have just started a new role and are still in their probationary period, so don't ignore this rich resource.

3. Allow employees to customise their benefits package

With an increasingly diverse and multigenerational workforce, employee needs are bound to vary widely. After all, the requirements of a seasoned employee will likely be different to those of an employee at the beginning of their career, from pension contributions to private medical insurance and childcare vouchers. This calls for employers to be more flexible and to tailor the benefits they offer to individual requirements, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach.

In our benefits and allowances survey, many respondents told us they were reviewing their benefits package to make sure that the offering is not only "aligned with workforce demographics" but also that the "benefits we provide match with market trends".

Simultaneously, the approach taken in putting together benefits packages has evolved over the last few years, from a traditional to a more holistic one, which includes looking after all aspects of employee health - physical, mental, social and financial.

As a result, employee benefits have gained new life, with top consideration now being given not only to mental wellbeing resources but also to financial health, as employers review benefits packages to help employees navigate the cost-of-living crisis.

Offering flexible benefits allows employees to shape their own packages by choosing the benefits most relevant to their current situation and lifestyle, and then revising their options as their needs shift. One private-sector organisation commented that it was trying to focus "on what individuals value and ensuring we meet the needs of younger generations".

XpertHR Benchmarking - HR Metrics

Nearly eight in 10 organisations assess their benefits by benchmarking against competitors. Can you afford to miss out? Check out the XpertHR Benchmarking - HR Metrics tool where you can see these and many other metrics to boost your employee value proposition.

4. Have a properly designed wellbeing strategy

Wellbeing and mental health at work is a subject that has risen to the top of every organisation's agenda. Societal developments have placed a greater emphasis on a more all-encompassing understanding of wellbeing, and organisations have started integrating it into their KPIs and strategies. Our global wellbeing survey found that employee wellbeing is a key priority for most organisations, with around two-thirds (68.7%) indicating that wellbeing is either a business priority or important within their organisation.

It also found that half of organisations (49.8%) carry out a wellbeing survey annually. Despite this, only 31.3% of organisations have a documented wellbeing strategy, and only one in five organisations track the relevant data changes when a new initiative is implemented.

In our absence rate survey, respondents highlighted that "Stress-related absences are increasing and more absences are becoming longer term", as well as mentioning that "Indications are that workloads and work-life balance are impacting on employee health". With the average cost of absence, including stress-related absence, per employee in 2022 standing at £643.60, preventative measures are vital.

Having a well-defined strategy as well as communicating and even publicising it could help to attract a more engaged workforce while strengthening your organisation's employee value proposition. In fact, a strategy will, more likely, make headway with employee wellbeing, as it will embed wellbeing into an organisation's culture, helping to avoid ad hoc activities or tick-box exercises, which are less likely to make a change.

5. Promote your organisation's DEI policies and data

DEI policies and procedures continue to gain momentum not just because of the need to comply with legal requirements, but also due to the interest DEI has raised in society as a whole in recent years. Yet many employers are falling short when it comes to meaningfully advancing DEI initiatives.

Our global DEI survey found that while almost half of responding organisations (49.4%) have a documented DEI strategy, when it comes to funding, only about one in five organisations have a separate budget that is exclusively dedicated to DEI.

Showcasing just how relevant this matter is, the findings highlight that organisations that do not promote DEI in any areas of the talent lifecycle (19.5%) are less likely to report improvements in labour turnover, employee engagement and NPS.

Data transparency regarding DEI is another area likely to have an impact not just internally, but also outside the organisation. In fact, our survey found that organisations that are transparent with their DEI data may see a positive effect on their reputation and ability to attract talent, as around a quarter (23%) of organisations reported releasing some DEI data to the public.

Organisations are unlikely to make headway with DEI through one-off initiatives. An approach that involves investigating the challenges specific to your organisation, and then sharing that information, as well as the progress you make on DEI, will help to show people that the organisation is committed to making progress over the longer term.

Bar Huberman, content manager, HR strategy & practice, XpertHR

6. Offer (true) flexible work

The pandemic forever changed the way flexible work is seen, and the rigid confinements of the office-based nine-to-five, five days a week, may be over for many. Offering flexibility, providing options as to where and when employees can work, is increasingly prized. However, what flexible or hybrid work looks like varies from organisation to organisation.

In a poll conducted in an XpertHR webinar presented by Gary Cookson, nearly 40% of those who responded said their employers are now operating a mandated 3/2 or 2/3 split between office and home, with a requirement to work either two or three days in the office each week, and the balance remotely.

Respondents in an XpertHR absence rates survey stated: "Hybrid working has resulted in a decrease of absence" and "Hybrid working has positively improved absence figures. Employees find it easier to turn on the laptop at home even if they are feeling under the weather."  While employers need to ensure that employees get the rest they need to recover from illness, flexibility is still welcome.

As Gemma Dale, experienced senior HR professional and Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, states: "Hybrid work has the potential to enable inclusion where HR and leaders focus on making hybrid work a force for positive change." Offering flexible working opportunities, including opportunities to work remotely for some or all of the time, can therefore open up new avenues for parents, carers and talent with a disability. So, for organisations competing for top talent, this may just be something worth looking into.

Related resources

Equality, diversity and inclusion (2): The business case

Podcast: Gender pay gap reporting - an international view

Promoting workplace gender equality: Five innovative health-related policies

Managing retention (2): Effective recruitment practices

Webinar: Hybrid working - how to personalise the employee experience

Flexible working (4): Measuring the impact on your organisation