The CIPD has set alarm bells ringing with its recent report highlighting the difficulty employers are facing when it comes to recruitment. In its latest Labour Market Outlook survey, almost two thirds of organisations said they were finding at least some of their vacancies difficult to fill. More than a quarter are already having to offer higher salaries to attract the best talent.

With the competition for labour expected to increase, the challenge is likely to intensify, with employers finding it more and more difficult to source the skills and people they need. Uncertainty about freedom of movement during the Brexit transition period, coupled with the challenges of getting a tier 2 visa, has exacerbated the situation – painting a gloomy picture for organisations who need skilled people to support ambitious growth plans.

The CIPD has warned that companies need to think more creatively about workforce planning. It has urged employers to put more effort into attracting and retaining older workers and women returners, as well as investing and training and developing existing employees.

Women sitting in a meeting

In the emerging ‘war for talent’, technology, in the shape of the latest HR software, can also be a valuable weapon. So how exactly can an HR system help HR professionals deal with what is fast becoming a skills emergency?

1. It can help you take a more agile approach to recruitment

In a competitive candidate market, moving fast is important. With the shift to online communication, applicants increasingly expect fast feedback and fast decisions. If you can’t live up to their expectations, the chances are another company will get to them first.

Without an effective technology solution, it’s far too easy for the administration to take over. CVs pile up and there’s no easy way to filter them, details about short-listed candidates get stuck in managers’ mailboxes, interview invitation emails bounce but nobody notices, feedback isn’t shared with everyone involved, I’m sure you recognise the problem.

Online recruitment systems not only provide a much easier way to screen, select and progress applicants through your selection process, but can automate the posting of vacancies online too. You’ll save time, and candidates will have a much better experience.

2. It can help you start new employees off on the right foot

You know just how dispiriting it is if you rock up at work on your first day and find that it’s all a bit chaotic. You start to question whether you made the right decision – and shift your focus from what’s great about the company, to what else they are doing wrong. It doesn’t make for a productive or engaged employee.

Onboarding software helps companies to take a more organised approach to onboarding by automatically allocating tasks and triggering reminders, for example to notify IT about their tech requirements, or remind the line manager to book out time for an induction chat. Onboarding software can also act as window on your company culture, helping new joiner familiarise themselves with your organisation and their colleagues, so they feel more at home on their first day.

3. It can help you hold on to good people

At a time when talent is at a premium, it’s vital to hold on to the best people. Without the data to support them, it’s easy for businesses to get hung up on what their existing employees can do right now, and overlook good people who may not have the specific skills they need, but could easily acquire them. The old adage about recruiting for attitude and training for skills is equally applicable to internal talent. Developing capable people who are already in-house is generally a lot more cost effective than recruiting externally.

A good HR software system makes it easier for the business to proactively review employees, so it is easier identify potential and flag up risk. Information from performance reviews can be fed into development plans, and used to support the talent and succession process, giving managers a clear idea of people’s skills and ambitions and how these fit with corporate goals. If employees can see the business is taking a genuine interest in helping them achieve their aspirations and will support their development, they are much more likely to stay and be fully engaged in their work.

4. It can help you manage a more flexible workforce

PwC are the latest in a long list of organisations to actively promote a more flexible approach to work. Through their Flexible Talent Network, they encourage applicants to list their favoured working hours, so they can see if they can fit them into the business.

This only becomes administratively possible if you have technology in place that makes this easy to manage. A system should, for example, accommodate multiple working time patterns, so that you can accurately calculate salaries, award holiday entitlements and, of course, ensure appropriate business coverage.

5. It can ensure the business is training people for the right things

With the business environment changing so rapidly, organisations need to be able to take a step back and look at the skills they have in the business and how closely their learning and development strategy mirrors business priorities. How are markets likely to change over the next few years? Are the skills people have now the skills they will need in the future? For the business to remain ahead of the game, it needs to map current and future skills gaps and start developing people now to fill them.

The key is to use the data you hold about your employees to encourage managers to open their mind to what talent looks like – and to support them in bringing talented employees on by providing information from your HR software about achievement, potential and likely development needs.

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.