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Why skills were the secret sauce at the CIPD Recruitment and Retention Conference

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The subject of skills permeated every panel and presentation at this year's Conference, with topics ranging from hiring challenges to global mobility.

Senior TA and HR leaders descended on The Montcalm Marble Arch in London this week as the CIPD hosted its annual Recruitment and Retention Conference

While critical topics on the agenda included the use of AI in recruitment, attracting and retaining GenZ, and when/how to recruit global talent, the issue of skills was ever-present throughout the day. 

Here, we highlight three of the most important topics at the event that demonstrate why skills are so important to today's HR strategies. 

1. Finding solutions to today’s hiring challenges

In her opening remarks, the CIPD's Research Advisor Rebecca Peters noted that the latest CIPD data reveals that 38% of employers are struggling to find the skills they need. As Adam Reynolds, Head of Talent at Frasers Group, remarked during an afternoon roundtable discussion, competition for talent is fierce

With the balance of power having shifted from employer to candidate since the pandemic, more than ever businesses have to focus on candidate experience. Reynolds emphasised the importance of pace, warning that every minute added to the application process will cause candidates to drop out by a further 40%. 

A fellow panellist on the roundtable, Kate Bloice, Head of Candidate Experience at Reckitt, echoed these sentiments, emphasising how much correspondence and forms can slow the recruitment process down. 

However, the panel was unequivocal regarding whether employers should frontload or backload data collection. They agreed that capturing the data upfront is vital, as it enables organisations to filter applications to prioritise the best-fit candidates from the outset. 

One of the reasons that skills-based hiring cuts time-to-hire so dramatically is that it screens out candidates who aren't a good fit upfront, saving both sides time. 

To tackle talent shortages, Bloice recommended that businesses work harder and smarter to identify existing employees with transferable or adjacent skills. Learn more about how to capitalise on talent reskilling in our report ‘How to get reskilling right’. 

Adopting this skills-based approach to internal mobility was also recommended by Darren Read, Head of Sourcing at the BBC, in his afternoon masterclass on talent sourcing strategies. During his session, he recommended a blended approach to talent sourcing, utilising external recruitment, succession planning, and internal mobility to develop a sustainable talent pipeline.

Both the BBC and Frasers Group also spoke about the benefit of investing time in your alumni and applicants who were a “maybe” for a role, continuing to nurture these pre-qualified people can also be a huge benefit for accelerating time-to-hire, for when the right role arises for them.

2. The benefits of supporting global mobility

Global talent was the key topic of discussion in the lunchtime roundtable, as an expert panel explored how global mobility can impact productivity and financial performance and serve as a valuable tool for retention.

Paul Bowles, VP of Talent Acquisition & Global Mobility at Nokia, shared how the appeal of mobility was universal across the generations at the telecommunications firm, with its mobility team now comprising around 40 staff. 

International recruitment and global mobility is not without its challenges, however. There are significant complexities and costs concerning visa applications and cultural integration, for instance. Justifying these costs may mean demonstrating the importance of retaining/recruiting employees and the skills they possess - something that can be very persuasive given the the costs of skills gaps

Bowles also emphasised the importance of knowing where your skills are - identifying pools of talent in fields such as cybersecurity and AI and moving them around to support the global operation. 

This kind of insight is in growing demand. In an earlier session, Andy Headworth detailed how the HMRC benefits from knowing whether the UK tax authority has sufficient skills on a regional basis and whether these skills need to be relocated. 

You can learn more about how skills-based organisations are able to conduct skillsforce planning in our whitepaper ‘How to become a skills-based organisation’. 

3. Improving employee retention rates

GenZ will soon become the most populous and diverse employment generation, with estimates suggesting that it will comprise a third of the workforce by 2030. But in her session exploring the recruitment and retention of GenZ, Tobba Vigfusdottir, CEO of Kara Connect, warned that they are a challenging and restless generation. 

Retaining GenZ will require a greater focus on their priorities, including mental health support and learning opportunities. Skills-based organisations focused on internal mobility and reskilling will therefore be of particular appeal to them.

Vigfusdottir recommended connecting them with older generations in the workforce to assist with their skills development, which would facilitate valuable knowledge sharing both ways given GenZ’s digital prowess. In a later session, a case study example of this in action was shared by Sarah Ford, Head of HR Innovation at Diageo. 

Ford detailed how Diageo is preparing for changing workforce demographics through the creation of 'playgrounds', using them to understand different workforce personas. Having discovered that seasoned professionals prioritised being respected over career progression, compared with GenZ's focus on learning and development, Diageo explored reverse mentoring to benefit both groups. 

If you'd like to review your strategic workforce plan, our experts are available for a Skills Strategy Lunch and Learn. Click here to learn more and reserve a session for you and your team.