As the UK has moved out of recession, job creation has been exceptionally strong; however business growth has been accompanied by stalling productivity.  There has been a huge amount of industry chatter about the effect of the UK’s growing skills shortage on both growth and productivity.  Finding, attracting and retaining the right talent to deliver business growth within a construction industry that lost so many jobs is a huge challenge.  Here, Martin shares how we feel employers should approach recruitment to ensure they identify and attract exceptional talent when it’s in short supply:

1. Don’t over complicate the problem:

No matter how tight the labour market there will always be one person for whom your organisation’s people, culture, business practices and the appointment’s positioning presents the correct fit.  The hardest decisions lead to the best decision and the solution starts with a simple approach.

2. Take the right approach:

Limited talent supply and high skills demand logically suggests a requirement to work harder and smarter to find, attract and retain people.  But do you have capacity to deliver this?  By appointing a specialist search advisor, you can keep your approach thoroughly objective, discrete and considered.  Importantly, the recruiter needs to see beyond the financial objectives of the appointment, remain truly objective and advise both you and the candidate in terms of what is best for them long term.  This might seem simple, but fulfilling and delivering on this in practice is often poorly carried out by the recruitment industry.  Appoint a recruiter who you trust.  You need to allow them to get close to your business, which means getting close to your people.  For some, this poses an inherent threat, so it’s essential that you engage an advisor who you can trust to remain loyal and who will not poach from your existing talent pool for others.

3. Understand your industry:

Working harder and smarter to recruit, assumes that you understand how smart your competitors recruit.  Employ a recruiter who understands the industry or always do your research and take time to get to know how competitors compare as an “Employer of Choice”, so that you know what you need to do to be more attractive.

4. Define the role:

Take time to scope out the role and define what the right talent for your business is.  This requires an honest and thorough understanding of your business.  Allow your recruiter to meet as many of your key team members as possible, both up and down the reporting hierarchy, including exemplar peers to the appointment’s position.

5. Know the skills market:

Knowing the market and understanding the skills available are essential in identifying the right people for your business.  It’s important that you test the talent available for the appointment and having the network to verify this requires breadth and depth.  Discrete recommendations from both senior and junior colleagues as well as industry associates are paramount to uncovering talent in a tight labour market and may present opportunities for a transfer of skills from alternative sectors.  Remember that the best talent in the market may not be actively looking for a move, so traditional agency recruiters with vast candidate networks often cannot reach hidden talent.

6. Coach your candidates:

It’s important that any potential candidate feels that they have benefited from their engagement.  Your recruiter needs to both understand their needs and be able to empathise sincerely with them.  In our opinion, it’s vital to hold face-to-face meetings (there’s just no substitute, particularly in this digital age), which candidates need to leave feeling they have received independent advice – separate from the immediacy of the appointment that was, if you like, an excuse to meet up.  It needs to be a positive by-product of the meeting that leads the person to conclude “yes, I would like to consider the opportunity”.

7. Be honest, realistic and continue to invest:

Recruitment can be a time consuming and expensive exercise, so you want to make sure you do everything possible to secure the right talent for a long term solution.  Set the right expectations at the outset and don’t rush to make two ends meet when they probably shouldn’t.  If you take time to find and attract the right talent, the chances of retention are much higher.  You need to be relaxed that some candidates will conclude that this opportunity is really not for them – despite their “on paper” credentials.  Once you secure the right talent for your team, don’t forget to deliver what you’ve promised – practising being an “Employer of Choice” requires considerable ongoing thought, planning and investment to ensure that the right skills remain within your business.


Martin Mackenzie is director of Mackenzie England.  Based in central Scotland, serving the whole of the UK and working internationally, Martin and partner Pia pride themselves in being distinctly different; they explore all options to help their clients identify and attract exceptional talent.  They will always be straightforward and honest, providing you with independent advice and guidance.

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