Talent Surplus | Content for Chapter 2

Fixating on the ‘talent shortage’ has always been unhelpful…

By Paul Tomlinson, Published 07.01.2022

Employers: get ready for the talent surplus

Fixating on the ‘talent shortage’ has always been unhelpful.
Rising unemployment may finally kick employers into gear.

How will your company capitalise on the talent surplus?

If your answer to that is, ‘what talent surplus?’, it’s not too late. But you have some catching up to do.

The most desirable employers have been hoovering up talent, in recent weeks, as a wave of Covid-related redundancies injects some much-needed liquidity into the jobs market. This may not be a short-term shock. The Economist argues that ‘The new normal will have higher joblessness’ in most industries[i].

This should be good news for talent teams, but in reality, most employers are woefully ill-equipped for this ‘new normal’.

After 8 years of falling unemployment, the entire talent ecosystem is currently calibrated a candidates’ market: where the employer is powerless, where jobseekers are ‘passive’, and where the recruitment agency database is the only way to recruit for the skills you need.

This logic no longer applies.

Far from being powerless, employers can be highly effective at acquiring talent. The thinking and the tools needed to do the same at your business are more accessible and affordable than ever before.

Even if The Economist turns out to be wrong, and employment swiftly rebounds, the shock of short-term blip will bring the deficiencies of modern corporate recruitment into sharp focus.

Professionals worldwide – and not just furloughed and redundant ones – are using the opportunity of downtime to proactively seek out new opportunities.

It would be a gross oversight for employers not to do the same.

Out with the old

The idea that talent is difficult to hire, or that jobseekers are ‘passive’, was a universally accepted truth.

The scarcity of talent was a truth indeed. Until March this year, the UK was as close to full employment as it’s been in recent memory. It was a candidates’ market[ii].

But, like many universally truths, the ‘talent shortage’ adage came with a lot of expensive baggage, of questionable veracity.

It was certainly true that the workforce wasn’t looking. It was also true that this made them difficult to reach, and that recruitment agencies alleviated that problem.

But does that mean prospective employees couldn’t be reached?- and does the business world really need three new agencies to open every day?

This graph shows new recruitment agency registrations since the 2008 financial crisis[iii]. It’s almost a mirror image of the unemployment figures.

Talent outsourcing became the default.

Despite the snowballing costs of agencies, efforts to recruit independently were usually underfunded, half-baked, and prone to becoming scrapped in favour of easy, expensive, outsourced talent acquisition.

The cost, and the idea that the cost was unavoidable, became part of the universally accepted truth.

Of course, the silver lining to crises or shocks is that they throw ‘truths’ such as these out into the open, and force a rethink.

For comparison, consider another universally accepted truth: that a professional organisation needed a fixed workplace.

This is partly true; businesses do need offices. The benefits of home working ‘…look likely to be heavily outweighed by drawbacks.’

But businesses have also discovered they need far less square footage than they’ve been paying for, for the last century.

Universally accepted truths, when they are blindly adhered to, create as many problems as they solve.

The ‘talent shortage’ truth has been just as costly. But it now seems a far less pertinent concern.

Unemployment in the UK almost doubled in April, and a depression lasting several years is widely accepted to be the most likely outcome of the pandemic.

Employers must adapt their approach for this altered state of play.

Talent awakens: an opportunity for in-house recruitment teams

Make no mistake: recruitment is not about to become easy.

As of February this year, 72% of UK firms were facing a skills shortage[v]. The jobs market is due a natural correction. Competition will remain stiff, especially for the best people and most in-demand skills.

But, as employees start shopping around for roles, the employers which snap them up quickest will be those which are best suited to selling to a newly switched-on audience…

Case studies

  • Loyalty Martech


    When we first met in October 2017, Currency Alliance was a startup with big ambitions: to work with every major loyalty brand worldwide.

  • Digital Agency


    Having spent over 10 years in the B2B agenies top 100, they’re now ascending the lead table thanks to a mixture of acquisitions, investments and key client wins.

  • Recruitment startup


    Chapter 2 is a recruitment marketing agency that helps in-house recruitment teams reduce their dependence on recruitment agencies.

More case studies