There have been many articles in the media recently about the UK`s staff shortages and the prognosis is that these talent voids are more likely to increase.  Is the impending staffing crisis real or fake news?

Almost 1 year ago to the day I read an article written in in the Financial Times about an impending crisis that could have bigger ramifications on white collar professionals’ careers since the economic crash of the 1990`s.  The article sites rationalisation/cost reductions in head office areas as being a large contributory factor, as well as the projected ending of the Furlough scheme, to the loss of jobs and increased unemployment1.

Fast forwards 12 months and I read another article, by the Financial Times, this time, conversely, warning of impending staff shortages in the UK.   With more than 210,000 professional vacancies advertised in the first half of 2021 compared to marginally higher for the whole of 20202

The articles report opposing conditions in the space of a year, and could it be that those companies who laid staff off in 2020 are now about to feel the pain in 2021?

The trends over the past year within Able Bridge Recruitment, point to a rise in vacancies and this will probably result in an increase of migration of talent between industries due to greater career opportunities.  The numbers of accountants and human resource professionals seeking work, at the moment, does appear to be dropping, however the numbers of vacancies are not.  Graph 1 shows the number of accounting vacancies and HR vacancies in July 2020 compared to 2021.  Figures for the numbers of job seekers is difficult to collate but with unemployment reported (by the office of national statistics), to be at 4.8%, it is relatively low.

The number of candidates sighting redundancy as being a reason for seeking a new role through Able Bridge Recruitment has also declined with many candidates suggesting that they were previously looking for a job in late 2019 and early 2020.  These candidates decided to put their searches on hold until the job market had a bit of certainty. 

In the 20+ years that I have been recruiting, there have been shortages of talent in certain areas that have never been resolved. For example, I began my career recruiting for professional lorry drivers in the early 2000`s where there was a shortage of drivers.  In the 2020`s/21`s this is still the case.  The same can probably be said for Nursing staff, Teachers to name a few.

Currently the human resource profession (when speaking to my clients), is experiencing a shortage of qualified learning and development professionals in Scotland.  This could be a result of a lack of talent in this area or could be because it is a relatively new discipline within the HR function.  Payroll is another function within HR/finance where the skill set has always been in short supply. 

If you speak to general accounting practices, a headache that they always face is the recruitment of staff generally, however this is exacerbated when they seek qualified client managers/senior managers.  This is partly due to the sector having a “brain drain” as staff typically receive training and qualifications and subsequently move into industry.

There is no doubt that there are talent gaps in certain areas of the economy.  How this will play out is going to be as difficult to forecast this year as it was last year.  To assume that the majority of companies that have felt the need to make redundancies, are now feeling the pain of rehiring is an oversimplistic view and not a reflection of the true picture of the employment market.

Whilst the employment market is often over simplified, to refer to a potential lack of resource in any sector shouldn’t be treated as “fake news”.  I think that the mere suggestion of a company struggling to potentially recruit exceptional talent is something that any team (or department head), should take very seriously. 

Obviously, when we move into a market that has a shortage in skill set, employee retention is important. If this is not possible, Able Bridge Recruitment would be more than happy to talk to you about finding a solution to any recruitment dilemma you are facing.  Similarly, if you are a candidate seeking a career move, please do not hesitate in reaching out to us in either Edinburgh (0131 202 3215) or Glasgow (0141 7397080).  Additionally, we can be contacted by email


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