It’s not hard to spot the signs of an employee who has become disenchanted with their job. Frequent stepping outside for private phone calls. Requests for odd days off at short notice. An increasingly active presence on LinkedIn.

If the latest Job Exodus Trends report from Investors in People (IIP) is to be believed, employers will be seeing a lot more of this covert job-hunting behaviour in 2018. The report suggests 47 per cent of people are looking to move jobs this year, with one in five actively seeking a new role right now. Poor management is the top cause of discontent, followed closely by dissatisfaction with pay, not feeling valued and lack of career progression.

In a job market where quality candidates are in short supply, the departure of a key employee can cause real disruption, particularly if it’s unexpected. Finding a good replacement quickly is vital if productivity and customer service are to be maintained and remaining employees are not going to sink under the pressure of covering their ex-colleague’s work.

So what strategies do you need to have in place to make sure you attract the right candidates and get them in place before business operations are adversely affected?

Illustration of magnifying glass picking out a woman in a group

1. Look inside first

So many companies rush to the external market without even considering if they already have someone in-house who could step into the job. You may not have an exact fit who’s immediately ready, but sometimes it is quicker to train up an internal candidate who already understands how the business works, than it is to start afresh with someone new. Offering training and a career move may help you retain a talented individual who might be feeling a bit unsettled themselves. And if you suspect a key employee is a flight risk, you could even consider pre-emptive action and start quietly preparing their successor now.

2. Make the recruitment advert clear

If you need to get the right people into the applicant pool quickly, you need to be crystal clear about what you want. Don’t just automatically reach for the old job description. Think carefully about what the job looks like now and how it is likely to develop in the future. What key competencies and experience are non-negotiable and which areas are desirable, but not essential? If you make the list of essential requirements too long, good people may be ruling themselves out because they don’t meet all of the criteria. Make sure compensation for the role is in line with the market rate and be overt about pay. When there are plenty of roles to choose from, candidates simply won’t bother spending time and effort applying for jobs where the salary appears to be a ‘secret’.

3. Exploit social media

If you want to get news about the vacancy out far and wide, don’t overlook the power of social media, used alongside conventional job boards, recruitment agencies or specialist sector media. Publicise the opportunity on your official Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter feeds and investigate whether there are any local area forums or business groups where you can share it too. This can work particularly well if your candidates are most likely to come from the local area. Encouraging employees to spread the word on their own social media can also pay dividends. Some companies offer an incentive to employees who refer a candidate who is subsequently recruited and works out well in the role.

4. Have a joined up recruitment system

Good candidates don’t hang around for long – so the last thing you want to do is cause them to feel disenchanted by your recruitment process. If you don’t acknowledge applications, deal with the interview process efficiently and tell people when they can expect to hear from you, they will lose interest and go elsewhere. Unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975, which means there are plenty of competing opportunities out there and you can’t allow a lengthy and unwieldy process to get in the way. Sophisticated recruitment software is now available to help you post opportunities across multiple outlets, filter applicants and track them through the recruitment process, whilst also making sure candidates are constantly kept up-to-date with where they are in the system.

5. Be flexible

In a candidate-driven market, it’s important to have a degree of flexibility about the role you are trying to fill. According to a recent study cited in Recruitment Grapevine (by Pownowow1), 70 per cent of employees said the option of flexible working would make a role more attractive. Don’t lose a good candidate just because they want to be able to flex their working hours to accommodate child or elder care responsibilities or to allow them to continue with study or an occasional ‘side-hustle’. Although there are some roles that need to fit into a rigid 9-5 mould, many can be done flexibly – and generally the business stands to benefit just as much as the employee. You could even state your willingness to be flexible for the right candidate in the job advert – although if you do this, make sure everyone involved is prepared to follow that promise through.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.