15 recruitment challenges for 2024 (and tips for overcoming them)
9 minute read
Whether internal or external, recruitment challenges are never-ending for UK HR teams. Our head of talent offers her expert tips for better hiring in 2024
If you’re a head of HR or head of talent in a growing UK organisation, you probably don’t need us to spell out the scale of the recruitment challenges that lie ahead for 2024.
Macroeconomic and UK labour market conditions are making it harder than ever for small and medium-sized organisations to find, successfully hire, and retain the right people in the right roles. In fact, two-fifths of UK employers currently have hard-to-fill vacancies, according to the August 2023 CIPD Labour Market Outlook.
Despite these challenges, data suggests that it’s a candidate-led market. Nearly half (44%) of businesses don’t reply to candidates within four weeks of receiving their application, found a March 2023 study by Resource Solutions. Meanwhile, Gartner’s global Voice of the Candidate Survey, released in May 2023, found that nearly half (47%) of candidates who had recently accepted a job offer were still open to further offers; that 50% of job-seekers have backed out of a job offer before starting work; and that a third (35%) of candidates received four or more offers during their last search.
But as well as these external recruitment challenges (which we’ll explore further later), which can be hard to solve on your own, HR, people and talent teams also face several internal recruitment challenges that are within their power to solve. Let’s dive into those now.
In this article:
- Budget constraints
- Talent retention
- Lack of in-house recruitment skills
- Long hiring processes
- Inefficient technology
- Poor employer branding
- Inadequate onboarding process
- Resistance to change
- Poor communication
- Competitive market
- Skills shortages
- Economic uncertainty
- Candidate expectations
- Demand for flexibility
- Online reputation management
Nine internal recruitment challenges you need to solve
1. Budget constraints
Limited budget is one of the top problems that every HR and talent team faces when it comes to hiring, says Ciphr’s head of talent, Lucy O’Callaghan. “And that covers everything from a limited HR or talent team, the benefits packages you can offer candidates, or even your ability to invest in recruitment software and advertising on job boards.”
Tip: Data and metrics are your friends here; gathering information about, for example, competitor salary and benefits and packages, or the potential pay-off of investing in more efficient technology, will help you make the business case for a bigger budget. Not sure how to demonstrate return on investment (ROI)? Our LMS ROI calculator template is the place to start.
2. Talent retention
It can be tricky to keep pace with hiring demands when your organisation is growing rapidly and there are lots of new roles to fill. But your job will be made even harder if staff turnover is higher than you’d like, and you’re not able to retain the talented people you’ve already hired.
Tip: Retaining existing talent is all about “ensuring people have a good work-life balance, as well as opportunities for growth,” says O’Callaghan. “You need to make sure you are listening to your people and acting on their feedback. If you have a fantastic employee who is feeling unfulfilled in their role, there are probably a dozen employers out there who’d be happy to hire them.” A brilliant employee onboarding process is also critical for long-term retention (more on that later).
3. Lack of in-house recruitment skills
Insufficient emphasis on in-house recruitment expertise “really does harm businesses’ growth potential,” says O’Callaghan. “If your organisation is planning to grow and you don’t have a specific in-house talent acquisition team, then your generalist HR or people team will be trying to do all the HR work, as well as hire new people – and we all know how much time it takes to find, hire and onboard great candidates.”
Tip: If your organisation is planning to go through a high-growth period, or hires high volumes of new starters, investing in your in-house recruitment skills is likely to be worthwhile. Build a business case for setting up your own talent acquisition team, with data about how this in-house resource will improve quality of hire, time to hire, and long-term talent retention.
4. Long hiring processes
Lengthy hiring processes are a perennial bugbear of candidates, notes O’Callaghan. In fact, the average time to hire has grown to nearly six weeks, according to the TotalJobs Hiring Trends Index Q2 2023.
And this is partly down to hiring managers, who’ll want to be certain that their choice is the right one – and will therefore be asking candidates to complete competency tests and multi-stage interviews. “But candidates are turned off by long processes,” says O’Callaghan. “They would rather choose a company that has a two- or three-stage process and can decisively recognise the value of their skills and experience, than an organisation that drags out the process.”
Tip: Work closely with hiring managers to understand the job’s requirements and what they really need from a candidate; detailed job profiles will help here. Consider introducing early-stage screening tests that will help you narrow down the field, and only take forward the right candidates to interview.
5. Inefficient technology
If you have outdated or inefficient recruitment technology, or a poorly set up applicant tracking system (ATS), “all your processes are going to take longer than they should,” says O’Callaghan. “You’ll be doing everything manually, which means you won’t be as effective as you need to be.”
Tip: If technology is holding you back, it’s time to work on that business case for investing in an automated hiring system. If you’re ready to invest in an ATS and want help putting together your budget request, Ciphr is here to help: contact us now to speak to one of our experts.
6. Poor employer branding
“Here at Ciphr, we’ve noticed that an increasing proportion of candidates research us on sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn before submitting an application,” says O’Callaghan. “So that branding piece is critical: candidates want to hear about what it’s like to work at your company from an employee perspective, and what you do to look after your people.”
Tip: If you’re doing good work internally, shout about it. Work with your social media or marketing team to share successes and good news on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, X, or even Instagram, and invite candidates and staff to review your company on sites such as Glassdoor.
7. Inadequate onboarding process
“Onboarding doesn’t stop when the new starter has their first day – I like to say that it stops when they’ve been with the business for two years,” says O’Callaghan. “You need to make sure that each new starter feels treasured and looked after – not just by your HR team but by their line manager, too.” Everyone has a part to play in welcoming new starters to the organisation, embedding them in their teams, and making sure they have the skills and tools they need to become productive as quickly as possible.
Tip: New hire onboarding software can make a big difference here – helping to bridge that gap between accepting an offer and a candidate’s first day. Ciphr’s employee onboarding software helps you communicate with new starters before day one, and integrates with our central HR software for seamless admin set up. Going beyond technology, engagement and communication with line managers is critical here to successful induction periods and long-term talent retention.
8. Resistance to change
So you’ve been working hard to improve your processes to combat the recruitment challenges we’ve already discussed. But you’ve hit a dead end: employees, hiring managers, and C-suite leaders aren’t engaging with or supporting your plans. This is a tough challenge to overcome, warns O’Callaghan. “It is critical to get these people on board, or your success will always be limited.”
Tip: Data and evidence are your friends here. The more evidence you have at your fingertips to prove the scale of the challenges you’re facing, and the potential impact of the improvements you’re proposing, the easier it will be to persuade others to support your efforts. Be sure to spell out the ‘what’s in it for them’, too – make sure managers and leaders know that it’s in their interest to engage with your initiatives.
9. Poor communication
“Any misalignment between HR and hiring managers and senior leaders will cause your recruitment process to break down, quite quickly,” says O’Callaghan. “You don’t want any confusion or gaps in crucial information; if you have a great candidate in front of you, and there’s another offer on the table, the hiring team needs to be clear on the package they can offer, the reporting line, potential start date, and exactly what the role entails.”
Tip: This might be the final point in our list, but, for many, communication is a great place to start when it comes to tackling recruitment challenges. Get the information you need from the hiring manager upfront, and be clear that, if the relevant information isn’t provided, you simply can’t begin the candidate search. Engage with and convince hiring managers that you’re on their side – and that open, honest communication is critical if you are to hire the right person, quickly.
Six external recruitment challenges that’ll influence your strategy
1. Competitive market
The market for candidates with certain skills and experience – technical or software skills, for example – is extremely competitive. That’s one reason why the number of counteroffers is on the rise; the CIPD Labour Market Outlook August 2023 found that 40% of UK employers had made counteroffers in the past 12 months. Two-fifths (40%) of these counteroffers were for a higher salary, and 38% matched the competitor’s salary.
Tip: Keep staff retention on your radar; you’ll want to keep those highly skilled employees feeling engaged, happy, and challenged in their work, and believing that they have a long career ahead of them at your organisation. It’s arguably easier (and cheaper) to keep an existing employee happy than to find a replacement.
2. Skills shortages
One factor that’s contributing to this highly competitive market is skill shortages; more and more employers are vying to hire the same sorts of people, causing the talent pool to shrink. “So it’s up to your HR or talent team to convince candidates that your organisation is the right employer for them,” says O’Callaghan.
Tip: Focus on cultivating (and communicating) your employer brand, and creating a great candidate experience, so that, when a candidate comes to decide between the various offers they have on the table, they will pick yours.
3. Economic uncertainty
Economic fluctuations have impacted organisations’ commitment to ongoing hiring, with some postponing hiring decisions until they have more certainty about their annual performance. But, warns O’Callaghan, economic uncertainty is also influencing candidates’ willingness to switch roles – with some preferring the surety of their existing role, rather than taking a leap of faith and moving to a new employer.
Tip: If candidates (especially senior ones) have any concerns about the long-term stability or commercial performance of your company, be sure to address those head-on and reassure them of your company’s position. With, potentially, fewer people actively looking to switch roles, there’s an even greater case for having a dedicated talent team who can spend time seeking out so-called ‘passive candidates’, who might be convinced to change jobs for the right role and reward package.
4. Candidate expectations
Against the context of a cost-of-living crisis, one of the main reasons why individuals are seeking new roles is the pursuit of a higher salary. “There’s definitely pressure to offer competitive packages, especially for highly skilled roles,” says O’Callaghan.
Tip: Be clear with hiring managers upfront about their full budget for vacant roles (remind them, that their budget will need to account for payments such as National Insurance and pensions, for example). And if their budget doesn’t match the going rate for that type and seniority of role, you might have to have a frank conversation about the calibre of candidate they can reasonably expect to apply for the role.
5. Demand for flexibility
“More and more candidates are seeking flexible working hours or locations as standard: they expect companies to flex to meet their needs, not the other way around,” says O’Callaghan. Even a company that is used to remote or hybrid workers may find it tricky to accommodate all the different ways that employees may wish to work flexibly.
Tip: Get creative: what could you offer to candidates (and existing employees) that would really make you stand out in the market? Here at Ciphr, for example, we offer employees the option to work remotely, from anywhere in the world, for up to four weeks a year. “This option distinguishes us from other employers, and gives us that edge when it comes to attraction,” says O’Callaghan.
6. Online reputation management
We’ve mentioned employer branding and perceptions on social media and review sites like Glassdoor already, but it’s worth considering them as external recruitment challenges, too, because how candidates perceive your organisation is, to some extent, outside of your control. “Candidates will scrutinise your online presence: your social media channels, review sites, and your website, just for starters,” says O’Callaghan. “They want to know what it’s like to work there, how the organisation is performing, and how you look after your people.”
Tip: As we’ve mentioned, your HR team can work with your marketing team to share positive news and stories through your social media accounts and on your website. You can also work with sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed to boost your profile, and understand more about the people who interact with your page. Underpinning this all, however, should be a continued focus on delivering a great candidate experience.
Recruitment challenges won’t go away anytime soon – but we’re here to help
The scale of recruitment challenges facing UK organisations in 2024 and beyond is vast – but, especially when it comes to the internal challenges, they are all difficulties that can be overcome with a bit of intelligent planning, process monitoring, continuous improvement, and buy-in from employees at all levels. Smarter technology, such as an advanced ATS and specialist employee onboarding software, will help, too.
Ciphr is an expert in helping HR teams in UK organisations make the most of their tech stack so they can make a positive impact on employees and to their companies’ bottom line. To find out how we could help automate and speed up your hiring processes, contact us now to arrange a bespoke demo of our solutions.
Or if you’d like to hear how our own head of talent Lucy O’Callaghan overhauled Ciphr’s hiring processes, watch our on-demand webinar: