The UK job market has had a turbulent 18 months. Successive lockdowns, furlough and Brexit have all put a strain on the UK economy and this has had an impact on jobs. 

Sectors like retail have seen people leave their jobs in droves. While other industries, like haulage, are undergoing their own recruitment issues due to a number of factors. 

As we put the pandemic behind us and restrictions start to ease, employers across the country can begin to hire staff again and plan for growth. This has led to an influx in vacant positions across all sectors in the UK and for the first time since records began, the UK has over 1 million job vacancies (data from the Office for National Statistics). 

Where did these vacancies come from and how can a slick onboarding process help your company thrive in a candidate-driven market? We’ll answer these questions in this article.     

Why are there so many vacancies in the UK? 

The increase in the number of job vacancies in the UK can’t be tied to one specific reason. Multiple changes have all happened at once, which has led to this situation. 

The pandemic caused employees in sectors like hospitality to leave and find more secure, less volatile work. Brexit has also led to a reduction in the number of people looking for work as foreign migrants have returned home, leaving more jobs vacant in the UK. 

As well as the points above, many UK firms are looking to increase the number of staff on their books to fulfil seasonal demand in the run up to Christmas. Retail, hospitality and the food sectors are the biggest employers of seasonal staff and this increase in demand is further adding to the number of vacant roles on the market.    

All of these factors are feeding into each other and causing the number of vacant job roles in the country to grow rapidly.

What does the CIPD suggest – crunching the numbers

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that vacancies across the UK rose to just over 1 million between June and August 2021. This is the first time this milestone has been hit since records began in 2001. 

This equates to an increase of 269,300 vacant roles or 35.2% from the previous quarter, with all sectors in the UK job market seeing an increase in the number of vacancies. 

The figures also show the amount of people in monthly payroll employment increased by 241,000 in August alone, a return to pre-coronavirus levels. Unemployment also dropped by 0.3 percentage points since the previous quarter. The last quarter also saw the number of temporary workers in employment also increase to a five-year high of 1.63 million. 

These figures paint an encouraging picture, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll see that not enough employers are hiring people on permanent contracts. This was the CIPD’s key suggestion for reducing the amount of vacant jobs the UK currently has.

Employers are still concerned about the increased uncertainty surrounding Brexit and Coronavirus, but so are employees. Trying to fill the increased demand for jobs in the UK with zero hour contracts or temporary workers won’t solve this issue in the long run. 

Gerwyn Davies, a senior labour market advisor for CIPD said “Candidates want more than a job; they also want some level of security after such an uncertain period. Rather than sitting on the fence, we need employers to bite the bullet and make more permanent hires where they can, to give candidates confidence and to fill the huge number of vacancies out there.” 

In such a candidate-driven market, competition for the best employees can be fierce. People have the ability to ‘shop around’ for a role they like as employers become more and more desperate to fill roles.

When competition is this intense, a robust, engaging and enjoyable onboarding process can make all the difference for employers looking to hire and, most importantly, retain staff. 

How can onboarding help businesses secure the best employees in this competitive market?

When there are more jobs on the market than employees, securing the best talent for your business can be really tricky. 

You need to make sure that a candidate is given the best experience during your hiring process, otherwise they’ll likely head to an employer that’s treating them better. This goes for every stage of the process; from your initial outreach, interviews, practical tests and eventually job offer. 

One stage of the hiring process that is particularly important, is the onboarding process. This is the point where you bring a new starter into your organisation. You might think the hard work is done, you’ve hired them after all, but this stage can be crucial in reducing turnover in your business and setting up your employees for a successful and happy working life whilst they’re at your company.   

What is the onboarding process? 

Onboarding is the process of officially introducing a new employee to your company, its culture, processes and tools. It’s a chance to formally welcome a new starter into your business and for many employees it’ll be their first proper impression of what your company is all about. 

Remember, first impressions count.  

Onboarding processes vary massively between companies. In some businesses the process can consist of presentations and meetings, where a new hire passively learns about an organisation’s policies and procedures. Another company might take a more laid back approach and fill their onboarding sessions with games, Q&As and evening drinks. 

There’s no set time for an onboarding process, some can be done in a day whereas other companies might take a week to onboard new staff. No matter what approach a company takes to their onboarding, the main objective is to make sure new starters understand the company, their role in it and what their job is. How a company does that is up to them. 

How can a slick onboarding process help you secure and retain the best staff 

A well organised onboarding process gives you the best chance of securing high quality staff in a candidate-driven marketplace. Even though the onboarding process happens after an employee has accepted a job offer, there’s nothing stopping you from mentioning it during their interview stages. 

In fact, showing your candidate you’ve planned out their entire journey from interview to being a business-as-usual member of staff will demonstrate to them you’re a company that knows what they’re doing.   

A slick onboarding process can also help you secure and retain staff in the following ways:

It shows potential employees that you know who you are 

A thorough onboarding process that covers everything from company tools to company culture shows candidates that you are a business that really knows itself, its missions and its goals. 

When you bring on a new starter and confidently convey your values and ethos to them, it helps them feel at ease in your business and gives them a good understanding of the ‘why’ behind what your company does. If a new starter has a good handle on this early in their working life with you, they’re going to be more engaged with your business goals and integrate into your teams faster.

The top candidates in your market likely don’t want to spend time working in a company that has no idea what its strategic goals are. They want to know how they’ll be making a difference from day one. Show them that early in your onboarding process and they’ll be happy, productive employees before you know it. 

It shows potential employees you know what you’re doing 

A slick, efficient onboarding process shows new starters and potential candidates that you know what you’re doing in business. It shows them you can be organised, you know your internal processes inside out and the communication within your business is clear and direct. 

There’s nothing worse than starting a new job only to find you’re waiting around to meet team leaders or your new starter presentations are delayed or cancelled. Things like this can really rock the confidence of new starters and high calibre candidates will probably start looking for another role the second they see any mismanagement from their new employer.

High calibre candidates want to work in an efficient, professional environment which is organised and enables them to do their best work. Demonstrating these qualities in your onboarding process is the best way to prove to candidates you’re a company worth taking seriously.    

It puts new starters at ease and stops them being a flight risk 

We’ve briefly touched on this point previously, but it can’t be overstated. The onboarding process is likely the first proper impression a new starter will get of your company, so it’s important that you make a good first impression. Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking  and the onboarding process is there to help alleviate those nerves. 

If the process is doing the exact opposite, it could lead to new starters leaving the company. This is especially true for high calibre candidates as they won’t stick around in a business they get the impression it isn’t well-managed or organised. 

What role does technology play in the onboarding process?

Technology can make the recruitment, selection and onboarding process much easier for HR teams. With better tools at their disposal, HR departments can screen candidates faster and increase the speed of their internal processes with automation and access better resources. Below we’ve listed the ways technology can help improve the onboarding process for HR teams: 

Better communication 

HR software allows for better communication and sharing of resources from within its platform. Your HR team can have all the details for a candidate in one place which makes communication about a candidate a lot easier. 

Some HR platforms also let users automate emails which means you can have emails sent to candidates automatically at certain stages of your onboarding process. This avoids miscommunication and keeps new starters in the loop in regards to what they should be doing during their onboarding.  

Provides easy access to resources for new starters 

Keeping all your onboarding documentation in an easy to access online portal is a great way to make sure new starters have all the information they need. Storing this information digitally means HR teams don’t need to worry about printing off documents or handing out worksheets. They can just direct people to the HR portal and let new starters work through the information from there. 

This is especially good for video content like onboarding and instructional videos. Having a central storage location for these means they can be shared across a company quickly and easily.  

Automates processes for internal team 

Trying to manage the onboarding process for several new starters at once can be stressful. It can be easy to forget which new starter has completed which task and who has received specific onboarding documentation like contracts or information packs. 

HR software can help automate these tasks so HR team members have a clear picture of where each new starter is in their onboarding process. It can also send reminders to team members to make sure they don’t forget to check in on new starters and follow up with any tasks given. 

Some HR platforms even allow the new starters themselves to check off tasks given to them by a HR team. This further reduces the manual work a HR team needs to do as they can set up an onboarding checklist for new starters and reuse it for every new person that joins their company. 

Are you ready to up your onboarding game?

Do you want to improve your onboarding processes? Are you worried other companies may be securing the best staff because their hiring procedures are better than yours? If these questions are on your mind, Phase 3 can help. We’re a HR technology consultancy that helps HR teams and businesses improve their HR and Payroll processes. If you’d like to find out how we can help, you can contact us here.