7 talent challenges in 2020 & how to solve them

A new year and a new decade is upon us. But how do you see 2020? The year of Brexit? The year of reformed employment legislation? The Year of the Rat (according to the Chinese zodiac)?

2020 is of course all of these things. And whilst the latter could indicate a year of wealth lies ahead, your business may have to overcome the challenges presented by the first two in order to prosper. These are just two factors which will influence your ability to attract, engage and retain talent within your organisation in 2020.

Read on to find out more.

Acquiring talent in a candidate-led market

The impact of Brexit has been felt by many companies since the referendum in June 2016 – long before the UK’s official exit from the European Union on 31st January 2020. The uncertainty that hung over the UK in that time has undoubtedly impacted recruitment decisions across many industries, both inside and out. Businesses have been cautious about investing in projects and resource, and likewise, candidates have been cautious about seeking new job opportunities. A survey by Glassdoor found that around two thirds of employees say they’re not planning on looking for a new job until the job market looks more positive.

acquiring talent

With this in mind, recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult. And that means it’s even more important to make sure your talent attraction and acquisition process is strong – not only so you entice people to work for you but so you keep them engaged during the application process and avoid drop outs – see our 3 tips to engage & retain the best candidates in the recruitment process article.

So in 2020, how does your talent acquisition process stack up against your competition? Take our talent acquisition health check to find out.


Keeping up with compliance

This year sees the introduction or amendment of a number of laws affecting contractors, and perhaps none are more prominent than the reforms to IR35 or ‘off-payroll worker legislation’ taking place in the private sector. From 6 April, responsibility for determining the IR35 status of an off-payroll assignment will shift from the limited company contractor providing the service to the end client receiving it. And the risks of not handling the legislation changes correctly are potentially huge:

  • Financial: fines of over 50% on top of contractors’ pay for incorrect determinations
  • Operational: delays to critical projects due to loss of resource
  • Legal: potentially put your company in the firing line for litigation with HMRC or workers


  • Reputational: damage your reputation and restrict the flow of off-payroll talent into your business


On the same date, amendments to the Agency Worker Regulations (AWR 2010) also come into effect. These amendments surround the ‘Swedish derogation’ exemption, which means that employers are exempt from providing equal pay and conditions to agency workers who are employed under a permanent contract of employment through the temporary work agency and are paid by the agency for periods in between assignments. From 6 April 2020, the Swedish derogation exemption will be removed, meaning that once agency workers have satisfied the 12-week qualifying period, they will be entitled to equal pay and conditions to those workers who are engaged directly by the employer.

And if they weren’t enough to contend with, from 6 April 2020, all new employees and workers will have the right to a ‘statement of written particulars’ from their first day of employment. As you may know, currently, the terms only have to be provided within two months of employment commencing (for employees who have been continuously employed for more than one month) and this does not apply to workers (which will include many PAYE/Umbrella contractors).

The challenges presented by these big legislative changes are best overcome by being as prepared as possible in advance of the new tax year to ensure your hiring processes remain compliant in the long-term. For more information on how to prepare for the IR35 reforms, or to undertake an impact assessment, visit our IR35 hub.


Creating a compelling employee experience

Under the continuous pressure of hiring the people your business needs quickly, your business may not have invested much time, or indeed money, into the employee experience or your Employer Value Proposition (EVP).

Stakeholders within some businesses may even see it as a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a crucial part of your ongoing strategy. But here’s why they are wrong: a positive employee experience improves your bottom line. Fact.

Research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that enterprises with a top-quartile employee experience, not only achieve twice the innovation and double the customer satisfaction,


but they also have 25 percent higher profits than organisations with a bottom-quartile employee experience.

But if you’re still not convinced, you should be aware that other companies are. According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends survey (2019), 84% of respondents rated “employee experience” as an important issue and 28% identified it as one of the three most important issues their organisation faced in 2019.

With recruitment becoming more challenging in 2020, it’s all the more important to have processes in place to assess and enhance the experience you offer throughout an employee’s career at your company; from job application stage, all the way through to the leaving process. After all, aside from seeing a positive financial difference to your business, a good employee experience can only stand to improve your ability to attract and retain staff.

If this is a challenge for your business, the first step to address it is to identify which people or what functions can have an impact in creating a desirable and sustainable employee experience. It will most likely require a multifunctional approach; HR, Marketing, IT, Facilities and Finance may all have valuable roles to play. The second step is to discover where improvements could be made to the employee experience and to evaluate whether the current experience is reflective of your business’ identity. You can then come up with a plan to bring your EVP to life.

If you need some inspiration, here’s how we helped a global high-tech leader in aerospace equipment define their EVP and enhance their candidate experience.


Utilising a flexible workforce

There are currently 5 million self-employed people in the UK, according to the latest labour market figures from ONS, and this flexible way of working looks set to rise, despite new tax legislation coming into effect in April for limited company contractors. And whilst more and more people are opting for the flexible lifestyle that contracting offers, benefits can also be gained by those looking to hire additional resource. Aside from offering a temporary solution to a fluctuation in workload, contractors can add a new dimension to your business, by bringing a fresh perspective to your business challenges, using their experience from a variety of assignments.

flexible workforce

Even if your preference is to make a permanent hire, when it comes to hiring niche skills, opening up your recruitment to include contract workers will widen the talent pool available to you, giving you the greatest chance of sourcing the best talent.

But if your experience of hiring contingent workers is limited, or you’ve struggled to attract or manage temporary resource effectively before, it can seem a daunting prospect to make contingent working part of your overall workforce strategy. Read our ‘12 key pillars of a flexible workforce solution’ guide for some useful tips. Alternatively, see how we help UK Power Networks keep the lights on with an effective contingent workforce programme.

Another way of plugging a gap in resource is to outsource a complete package of work. Rather than having to hire and manage multiple contractors to take on a project, you can instead outsource the entire project to a company which will pull a team together and deliver the outcomes you need based on an agreed timescale and budget. The other benefit is that the responsibility for delivering that piece of work is taken on by the outsourcing company, mitigating your risks of not delivering. If you aren’t familiar with how to go about creating a ‘statement of work’ – see this handy guide from our Statement of Works provider, Gattaca Projects.


Adopting Gen Z into the workforce and making the most of baby boomers

A new generation is entering the workforce and it’s time to adjust your approach to recruitment and employee experience to capitalise on the skills this valuable talent pool can bring to your business. Born between 1996-2010, Generation Z is the first truly digital generation. Estimated to be 36% of the workforce, Gen Z can be characterised by a pattern of communication preferences and predictable behaviours which you can tap into.

Firstly, they care about which company they work for: a company with a strong social purpose is the kind they’ll be looking to build a career within.


Secondly, when they’re looking for work, they’re likely to check out all of your online platforms to evaluate your business; but forget Facebook, this age group is more interested in YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. Reading online reviews on platforms like Glassdoor will also inform their decision making process about whether to take a job at a particular company.

With these behaviours in mind, you may need to adapt your approach to talent attraction if you want to appeal to this candidate pool.


Retirees as resource

At the other end of the spectrum are the baby boomers. Another valuable segment of your workforce. These are the people born between 1946 and 1964 who are now in their early 50s to mid-70s. And whilst retirement used to mean the end of your working life, now it is more fluid, giving people the option to keep a hand in the working world whilst also experiencing the traditional benefits of life post-work.

Certain industries like engineering are known for their ageing workforce and the skills gap it has deepened as too many engineers leave the bottom of the funnel and not enough new talent comes into the top. 

But with retirees willing to take on part-time work or fixed term projects, all is not lost. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest growing demographic in the workplace are those aged 65 or older. So if your business hasn’t previously considered utilising this talent pool, it could be time to have another think.


Embracing AI & robotics to increase hiring efficiencies

Did anyone ever put their hand up for more administrative work? Unlikely. And yet it’s estimated that managers spend 54% of their working day undertaking administrative tasks (Harvard Business Review). When it comes to the hiring process, administrative tasks can take up a lot of time. From writing job descriptions to sourcing candidates, interviewing to job offer, onboarding to payroll, there are lots of stages to the process which could benefit from at least some automation.

From virtual assistants which respond to voice commands to set up meetings, 

ai and robotics

to more intuitive software that helps you better track applicants throughout the hiring process; there’s a lot of technology out there that could free up your time. It’s just a case of knowing which technologies to invest in to ensure you’ll get a return on investment.

Don’t know where to start? Evaluating what technology could benefit your business is part of our permanent and total workforce solutions. Schedule a call back to find out more about our services.


Combatting the talent recession

In 2020 there are a number of factors contributing to a talent recession – many of which have already been referenced in this article; Brexit, an ageing workforce, the increasing adoption of technology. The list goes on. And in certain industries, the effect of this recession is particularly profound. The fast pace of technology adoption over the past 20 years has left a shortage of digital skills behind, with organisations in Fintech, Engineering and Defence struggling to obtain the critical resource they need within cloud, AI & robotics and cyber security. A survey by ESG found that 53% of organisations are experiencing a problematic shortage of cyber security skills; a percentage which has risen since from 42% in their 2015-16 survey.

talent recession

In UK infrastructure, investment in huge, long-term transformational projects like HS2, Thames Tideway and the Heathrow expansion keeps coming, which is great for engineering professionals and construction workers but not so good for the organisations hiring for such projects who are competing for talent. To put it into context, EngineeringUK estimates that 124,000 engineers and technicians are required every year to meet current and future demand for ‘core engineering’ roles to 2024.

Whilst there’s no simple solution to a skills shortage, opening up your recruitment strategy to new pools of talent can certainly help, as can taking a ‘total talent’ mentality to your workforce planning. This means looking at the whole lifecycle of talent within your organisation including new hires (both flexible and permanent), internal mobility, redeployment and development, robotics and artificial intelligence, skills gap analysis, workforce planning and even alumni support.

For more employment insights, click here.

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