You might say, well, great products, money, premises, and an exciting reputation. An all singing and dancing factory, tech, A.I. and an order book full to overflowing are all desirable, but what’s missing? People, of course.
Without staff and the right staff at that, a business is finished before it even begins.
That might sound like a dramatic start, but the UK is experiencing some tough talent shortages. Actually we are experiencing a profound shortage of labour at this very moment for a number of reasons. It’s impacting the whole supply chain from haulage to slaughter, farming, processing, hospitality and beyond. No matter what foodstuff you highlight there are issues around recruitment.
In Aberdeen, a seafood processing company, John Ros Jr, cannot fulfil its order books as a consequence of shortages in staff, post Brexit. Their Chief Executive, Christopher Leigh is blunt in his assessment: The UK needs a labour force, and it needs it now, he says.
European workers have returned to the mothership and left the UK high and dry post Brexit.
Leigh is convinced that without government intervention solving this crisis will be impossible. Government attitude has been sanguine towards the issue suggesting that UK companies are simply slow to increase salaries. Government aid to help exports offer plentiful opportunities, but sadly they[MM1] are being squandered as without staff to process and send out orders there’s an inevitable issue. Leigh feels the situation is reaching crisis proportions and urges the government to step in before it’s too late.
Investment in recruitment, training, career development and retention are topics that are becoming ever more critical.
Companies like Amazon are offering golden handshakes in an attempt to attract employees and hoovering up talent. Yet there are even more issues depending on the locality of a company. Take the other end of the country as an example. Companies and organisations in Cornwall are finding that the eye-watering hikes in the cost of living, property and gentrification of the county have demonstrated that even when you find talented staff they may not actually be able to afford to live in the locality or stay in the job.
Geography is increasingly important
For example, a friend of mine has just relocated from Yorkshire to Cornwall to take up a professional position and is ruing the day he accepted the job. ‘With rental prices at an all-time high and most accommodation being let to AirBnB even finding a home is a challenge. ‘I’ve left a house with no mortgage and am paying almost £1200 pcm for poor quality accommodation. The idea of buying a property is difficult as prices are considerable. According to Rightmove, Cornwall, has an overall average price of £330,188 and is similar in terms of sold prices to nearby Somerset (£343,691), but even more expensive than Devon.’ He told me.
With salaries not keeping pace, recruitment and retention is going to be challenging and that is an understatement.
Regular readers will know that recruitment is my niche and I have worked within it for more than 20 years. It is obvious that a number of factors around finding talent is going to affect productivity and growth. A talent shortage is a significant risk for companies. Within the food and drink industry the number of shortage areas causes a talent risk because there is already a lack of expertise in appropriate skills. Things that might have worked in the past are now irrelevant and insufficient in these specifically challenging times. Risk managers will need to rethink their strategies and work collaboratively with HR and independent recruiters.
Finding out just what areas are causing problems and understanding what specifics are causing a roadblock is a start.
Talent analysis and data collection will be important. Asking pertinent and honest questions to current staff, leavers and new recruits will also create a more nuanced picture of what solutions need to be created. If talent search becomes riskier then a shift towards further professional development may well be an answer. Thinking laterally about who is hired with a focus on potential rather than the complete initial package could be helpful. Developing collaborations between training providers and business might well reap rewards.
In addition, those looking for the ‘finished product’ may well need to cast their net much wider and think beyond the traditional talent pool search. Benefits will also require further thought. Relocation packages may well have to be more bespoke rather than a flat 10% of salary depending on where candidates are coming.
Certainly, I have found that for specialist positions we are having to cast our net far and wide.
This poses its own challenges not dissimilar to my friend in Cornwall. When for example, you look at the cost of living in different cities there are plenty of calculations that need to be done. Barcelona and Paris, have considerable salary differences. Salaries are much higher in Paris, yet if someone were to take a 20% pay cut then relocate to Barcelona the reality is that they would be significantly better off. Trying to convey this to the passive candidate is no easy feat. Yet with an understanding of the market dynamics and the ability to promote one’s client and the opportunity can be achieved with thought and expertise.
The upside to the client in this particular instance is being able to reduce salary costs without compromising on quality of hire, no wonder we are seeing several major players across the industry re-siting parts of their business to less expensive geographies. It’s a very exciting time to be in recruitment within the food and drink industry.