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Why the candidate-short market presents opportunities for all

Why the candidate-short market presents opportunities for all

With the UK experiencing its lowest levels of unemployment since 1974, there are opportunities for even entry-level roles to earn well, especially in skilled fields. Research from Indeed reveals that demand for IT engineers has grown faster than any other job over the last year, with job ads for these roles growing by a third since April 2018. Demand for mobile developers has also grown significantly.

In a recent press release to publicise the research, Indeed's UK Managing Director Bill Richards said "While the tightness of the labour market means employers in many sectors are having to reconsider how they attract talent, all this competition is great news for jobseekers" adding that a tight market with good salary opportunities for skilled entry level staff means "for jobseekers the message is clear – no matter where you are in your career path, opportunity is there if you feel like a change."

This is as good a summary of a candidate-driven market as you'll find. And while it presents opportunities for candidates, it also requires employers to have a good look at themselves.

Despite being in a strong bargaining position, many candidates are, understandably, nervous. Nobody likes to make potentially career-defining decisions during times of uncertainty, and with the UK's position in European and global markets impossible to predict, candidates will not change jobs lightly. This has brought about a rise in wages.

But of course, candidates don't just move for money. Given that millennials or those even younger now comprise about half the working population, hirers need to pay close attention to the trends those generations exhibit. Flexibility and growth opportunities are important to them, as we've dealt with before.

An employer can typically expect to keep a new employee in place for about two years, though some millennials will stay in a role for longer. What employees today also seek is the freedom and flexibility my generation may have dreamed of but rarely spoke about, at least not with our employers.

A four-day week?

I was recently very taken with an article in the New Scientist about the rise in demand for a four-day week. The article cited a variety of research suggesting that working four days out of five could reduce carbon emissions (from travel), improve mental wellbeing and create a more level playing field for the genders at work by reducing the care deficit which has put so many women at a disadvantage in their careers for generations.

The article cited that more than 60% of people in the UK would prefer to work a four-day week, which could in turn create more jobs. However, whether this would be a purely and straightforwardly positive move is a complex issue: not all authorities agree on the potential impact of a four-day week and its impact would be difficult to assess until everyone tried it!

A four-day week may not be feasible for most employers, but many who could offer staff increased flexibility do not, because they're stuck in a culture-rut they have not properly challenged. Consequently, they are losing out on talent because their expectations don't align with those of a new generation of workers seeking greater freedom in their lives. As millennials progress up the seniority ladder, we will start to see more flexible, open cultures that cherish personal time, learning and growth opportunities.

I'm not suggesting I'm all in favour of a four-day week; to be honest, I don't know. I need to see more evidence and more research. But I'm certainly in favour of balance. I'm still experimenting with flexibility in my own business and do not profess to have got it right yet, but I am becoming increasingly aware of the premium I place on trust. When I find people I trust to be sensible about their work and their responsibilities, any lingering concerns about working hours seem to vanish into the ether and I'm pretty sure that a lot of business leaders are like that. Find the right people and working hours become something of an irrelevance. They certainly should be.

Opportunities for all

Indeed's data makes it clear that this is a time of opportunity for employees. But it can be a time of opportunity for employers too. Everyone stands to gain from this candidate-led market if they take the right actions. For jobseekers, there are opportunities to earn more, or negotiate hard. There are also opportunities to retrain and earn well right from the start – something that is not always the case.

But employers can gain too. It's a good time to look at what you offer, whether you can hear what the market is demanding and what you can do about it. As an employer myself, I know none of this is easy, but we're at a point where employers must evolve to stay competitive.

I'd be interested to hear whether you've experimented with flexibility, and what impact it had for you or your business, and from candidates I'd love to hear just how important flexibility is to you. What's your wish-list from an employer?

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