Why Headhunting?

January 24, 2020

Why headhunting is going to be the only way to source skilled leadership

With a 3.8 % unemployment rate in the UK (Office for National Statistics), recruiting top talent is becoming harder. The shifting business environment that we are seeing requires highly skilled employees with the adaptability to support organisations to become more agile.

According to a recent survey by The Open University, organisations spent £4.4bn on recruitment fees, increased salaries, temporary staff and training as a result of skills lacking in the UK employment market during 2019 alone. Although this was down from £6.3 billion in 2018, many organisations weren’t in such a luxurious position and were seen to be over stretching their workforce, limiting productivity and impacting employee motivation.

As we know, the skills shortage has been well publicised over the recent years, especially with regards to its effect on productivity. The same Open University report, stated that 68% of organisations surveyed struggled to find talent with the skills that they required in the last 12 months alone. This has damaging consequences for both businesses and the British economy, as the absence of the skills required will impact organisations growth potential, efficiency and significantly impact bottom line.

Even with the drive in AI and technology usage, the decline in the number of baby boomers in the active workforce alongside a future population decline (which will impact the impending workforce numbers).  The skilled labour demand is easily expected to out way supply, with a predicted skilled labour global talent shortage by 2030.

At a time when organisations are going through significant change due to political and economic events, alongside the impact of new technology, strong managers and leaders are required to navigate change and uncertainty successfully. Therefore, it’s concerning to see that of those looking to recruit in the last 12 months, more than 47 % experienced issues filling managerial roles whilst 20% struggled to hire qualified leaders.

If we look at these statistics and take into account that most organisations are seemingly trying to hire from a similar talent pool (we need to remember that this is a limited pool in itself), it comes as no surprise that 55% of those surveyed agreed that their organisation has struggled in the past 12 months as a result.

It’s my expectation based on the above that headhunting will only become more common place in the skilled worker employment market.

If we look back to previous years, in many sectors headhunting was previously only used at a C suite level. But more recently, headhunting passive talent in the market has become a regular occurrence across the board. Its soon to be one the most effective methods of attracting and enticing skilled workers.

Although we have seen a significant drive towards the use of social media in hiring, we are entering a market where it’s about accessing the top talent in the leadership market. These individuals represent the best possible people that exist in the passive candidate pool (are in a role but could potentially be enticed to move). However, these will be the individuals that are vital to the success of a business and therefore will be on high demand; both in their current organisation and externally in the market place.

So how do we reach them?

Previous attraction methods such as messaging via LinkedIn that we all used to enjoy receiving will need to become more innovative to obtain any initial buy in. If these potential candidates are busy in their day job (and for the most part happy as well), it’s unlikely they will be checking LinkedIn daily to check their inbox for mail regarding a new role.  I’ve heard from organisations trying to source directly that response rates from InMails are in decline and that’s with many of them taking their known brands to market.

The traditional headhunt approach, of actually talking to potential candidates or by creating innovative, storytelling messages (by using video etc.) is appearing to get better response rates.

By being specialists in our field, we have the knowledge, expertise and methods to access this passive talent pool.

With our relationships that have been built upon since our establishment in 1996, this not only gives ourselves a significant advantage, but as a respected, specialist HR recruitment business, we find that HR leaders are open to taking our calls which clearly benefits our clients in their talent search.

We understand that some roles can be harder to source or than others. Yet, it’s crucial that an organisation is positioned in a compelling way, and finding a provider that can tell your story when approaching potential candidates is key. Even during challenging times for our clients, we have supported them in hiring new leaders by getting ‘under the skin’ of the organisation and sometimes this includes sharing the warts and all. The number of times I hear daily ‘I don’t want business as usual’, means that these opportunities can be extremely enticing if ‘sold’ in the right way.

According to an Open University report, across the UK, nearly half (47%) of employers reported that the last position they struggled to hire for was a senior, intermediate or junior manager, while one in five (20%) had difficulty in filling a leadership role. This suggests that many organisations are lacking the skills they need in order to successfully seize opportunities. This is therefore about finding and enticing the right talent for today first and foremost and then identifying those with strong potential for future development.

Ultimately whilst headhunting talent is only part of the short-term solution in the war for talent, HR leaders are also going to be focusing on training and development as a crucial part of the puzzle, providing a long-term solution to address the skills shortage, building the skills that they need from within and ensure that UK business remains competitive in the global market place.