What is the expression? - "I don’t make predictions and I never will…."

Well it's that time of year and we have been reminded to give our considered view of where things are going. So in no particular order:

1.  Talent Shortages

What we are hearing in our travels is, that employers are finding it even more difficult to fill their roles.  At least it’s on average, more difficult than it used to be and it has gotten harder over the last year.  Economies like the; UK, America, and New Zealand have held up fairly well over the last year.  As an example; a recent survey by the REC in the UK, showed 36% of employers now have no capacity to take on more work and that 84% expected to hire more staff within the next 3 months.  That shows there are plenty of jobs out there.  

However, according to much of the press, Europe is in big trouble.  We agree - much of Europe is.  Italy for instance, saw unemployment rise to a record 13.4%.  However at the same time, German unemployment hit a record low (just announced this week, of 6.5%). So it's not all bad news.  In the southern hemisphere, we are even seeing NZ outpacing Australia.  Just a few years ago this would have been regarded as a pie-in-the-sky thinking.  The US by way of another example, also consistently delivered a strong set of employment numbers throughout 2014.

We thus think; talent shortages will continue - in many markets - well into 2015.  And it won’t just be the professions or particularly high skill jobs where there are shortages. By way of illustration; Manpower recently published their 10 most difficult jobs for employers to fill in 2014.  The top 3 were:  No 1: Skilled Trades Workers, No 2. Restaurant and Hotel Staff (we bet that surprised you), No 3. Sales Representatives. 

So from what we are seeing; getting good staff is not getting any easier - in fact it's just the reverse...

2. Retention (Job Hopping?)

There has been a lot of chatter about this over the last few years.  Within the press, there have been some predictions (that frankly we viewed as outlandish), suggesting that vast numbers of workers would imminently change jobs.  However, whilst there has been a fair bit of hyperbole about this and the predictions are overdone (in our view anyway),   We do however, think it is fair to say that many more candidates are certainly looking over their shoulders and wondering if now might not be a good time to move.  Employers should thus carefully consider their employment brands and strategies for looking after and managing staff if they don't want to lose them now.  Especially since it is a lot less scary than it has been to make a job move.

Another issue that affects retention that we are seeing more of is: ‘job-hopping’.    From what we see, this is particularly true (as far as a gross generalisation such as this goes) of the millennials.  Otherwise known as Gen Y.  Basically, what we are seeing is that employment tenure is becoming shorter than it seemed to be in the past.  Frankly, there are probably several reasons behind these observations.  But the one we find most interesting and also quite persuasive is; that the social contract between employer and employee seems to have changed (at least for a sizeable number of people).  What used to be called ‘employer loyalty’ appears to less in evidence than it used to be.  What we think is happening is, that candidates having seen the job market improve are more ready than they were - in past generations - to up-sticks and leave.

We think many HR departments will increasingly regard this as one of their top issues in 2015.

3.  Employer Branding

We are very keen on this of course, and clearly we have an axe to grind in this area given our products and services.  However, we are certainly seeing more interest than there was a couple of years ago from employers keen to understand and develop their “employer brand”.  It seems many have worked out that just having a Linkedin page and Facebook presence has not really made that much of a difference - at least for their recruitment activity.  The more savvy employers have realised, that you need to really work at social networking to get a return from it.  There is also a greater realisation that social networking needs support from a solid employment/careers web presence as well as marketing support.

To provide some other evidence; as Linked-in’s latest report for the coming year shows:  “75% of global Talent Acquisition leaders say talent brand has a significant impact on their ability to hire great talent".

The lesson here is that If you are not taking steps to refresh improve and develop your online content and employer brand for job seekers, you are going to lose out.   

4. Quality not Quantity

As said above, we are seeing more ‘Talent Shortages’.  But as outlined in ‘Retention (Job Hopping?)’ above - we are also seeing a greater willingness of candidates to look around.   It sounds like a contradiction - more candidates looking around but also more talent shortages?!  But what we mean is that we are seeing two things: both a greater number of applications being made and also less useful ‘qualified’ candidates making them.  We are seeing this particularly from Job-boards. With Job-boards, greater numbers of candidates seem to be adopting a spray and pray approach i.e. applying for jobs where they manifestly do not meet the minimum criteria.  

We offer very effective solutions to get around this for clients with our systems.  But we certainly are hearing a lot of complaints about it from other employers and agencies,.  But even we ourselves are not completely immune. HR Compliance issues make processing candidate applications carefully and sensitively increasingly more of an issue.   So, if you really don’t need hundreds of applications and unless you have a very effective recruitment management system this all just adds to your workload.   

We suggest you gear your systems, employment brand and online presence to setting the right expectations and making it easier for candidates to 'screen themselves out'.  As an example, we suggest it might be in your best interests not to make it too easy for a candidate to apply.  Sounds heretical doesn’t it - surely the easier the better?  But stay with us.  What we are saying, is that for example: changing your system and reducing your information requirements to enable  candidates to ‘easily apply’ on a mobile from the pub.  Might not give you either: (a) the best candidates - after all if it is that easy they won’t really get a full flavour of what the job is about, and, (b) it might well mean you spend more of your time having to wade through lots of CVs of very poor candidates.   An alternative approach, is where you let candidates quickly and easily “Register an Interest”.  If they want to “Apply" then you make them complete your screening questions and provide their CV and covering letter.  This two stage approach allows you to capture a fleeting interest from a candidate.  But does not downgrade the “Apply” process and the information you need to make a meaningful assessment. We are seeing more employers realise that by; focussing on Quality applications and not just Quantity - they are getting better outcomes than they had had preciously.

5. Mobile

You hear so much rubbish talked about mobile…  Yes its important, and in some markets, especially for more entry level roles enabling candidates to apply using a phone can be critical.   However as suggested in the example above in "Quality not Quantity”; overly streamlining an application process so a candidate can apply just by using a few clicks whilst they are in the pub or on the tube won’t necessarily give you the best outcomes.  It's not as easy as that - sadly.  Think how you use your own mobile?  Do you even keep your CV on it, or in a format that can easily be downloaded on a phone?  If it was you.  Would you not expect to tailor your CV to the vacancy in question (after all - this is what all the career coaches we come across recommend candidates do)?  Also would you be happy completing even a very basic application form on your phone? 

We suggest you will find that those candidates who are happy to do all this on their phones will have suitably equipped devices and will thus be happy to “Apply” using similar forms and processes to those using a PC/Mac - or a tablet.  What we are saying here is; don't throw out your application process - or downgrade it - just to allow people to easily apply on a mobile.   Stick to your guns over the information you require to process an application.  As outlined above in "Quality not Quantity” we suggest a more sensible approach is to let candidates “Register an Interest” quickly and easily on their phone.  But we also suggest you still insist on getting a good set of information when a candidate Applies - by all means make the forms a bit more mobile, or at least tablet friendly.  We have all sorts of things we can do with our systems to aid mobile users and build mobile friendly sites.  However, it is not just about capturing interest.  That is just only one part of the recruitment cycle.  You want candidates who can commit.  And that means they understand your expectations and what the role fully involves.   Your application process and forms come in to play here. We suggest you don't need to compromise your standards in the application process just for mobile users - at least not for most employers. 

Do make your sites mobile friendly where you can, and allow candidates to quickly ‘Register' with very basic items of information.  However you should require them ‘apply’ with the same / very similar set of information as others using a PC/Mac.  Being able to adequately screen at the application stage is essential to any well run recruitment process.  You may lose some candidates by not dumbing down your application requirements.  But we suggest you won't tend to lose the good ones - at least that is what we and others too seem to be finding.   

So that is it, for our view of predictions for 2015. No doubt colleagues and associates will have their own take on things.  However we would all like to thank every reader for their time and for those who are partners or clients for their business over the last year and wish everyone a very happy 2015