Solving the Recruitment Dilemma

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In the latest UK200Group blog post Will Abbott, Head of Business Advisory at Randall & Payne discusses the issue of recruitment

Will Abbott
Solving the recruitment dilemma will always be a challenge in business – turning the problem on its head and doing more with the resources we already have is a great place to start.

Recruitment is an issue in almost every business across all sectors that we work with. We seemed to be faced with the contradiction of relatively low wage inflation but a shortage of people to do the work we have. Due to low confidence, employees have been reluctant to change jobs, although this now appears to be changing. This of course is a double-edged sword, increasing opportunities to attract people from other firms whilst increasing the risk of losing good people from our teams.

If this is the problem, what is the solution? Much has been written about the differences between generations and many businesses have recognised this. Motivation goes beyond money and community impact, well-being, flexible working, lifelong learning and culture are just some of the influences when individuals are making job choices. It does no harm to reflect on which of those areas we can do more of, although business managers are often quick to point to the cost of these initiatives, especially when the benefits are less tangible.

For me the real key is productivity. The UK continues to lag behind other countries in lifting productivity and as the economists will remind us, in the long run productivity is almost everything. It is simply the case that most businesses could be more efficient but rarely find the time to look seriously at how they operate, with a clear goal to improve performance.

Whilst staff shortages will invariably drive the adoption of new technology including robotics and AI, every business has the opportunity to increase efficiency in its processes, without necessarily making large investments.

Three things we should regularly review are:

1. Every business is working with loss making customers, so you need to look beyond the price paid. Is the customer highly demanding, disruptive to process as well as hard on price? It may be counter-intuitive, but the numbers will demonstrate that it is possible to make more profit by doing less work, if you cull some of your less desirable customers. The bottom 20% of your customers will be taking up valuable staff resource that could be better deployed elsewhere, as well as draining morale. Recognising the customers that don’t fit and encouraging them towards a more suitable supplier will pay dividends for your business.

2. Due to changes in the market or customer needs over time, processes become bloated and often we continue to carry out tasks that add no value to the customer. Put simply, if we cut out the 20% of the time when we add no value, we could all be working four days a week and generating the same output. Yet the priority is often to generate more sales to drive profit, when the business is already struggling to cope with the work it has.

3. Scope creep is one of the most common and damaging causes of reduced profitability that we see in businesses. Often people are driven by the desire to help customers under the guise of delivering great customer service. “Going the extra mile” is often touted as a differentiator and the team are happy to carry on doing just that, solving unanticipated problems within the original scope of the contract, oblivious to the additional drain on resources. Tackling this requires both discipline and an appreciation of the extra value being delivered. We are quick to acknowledge if things have not gone well, but slow to take the credit when we have over delivered.

So recruitment may not always be the answer – reviewing the current skills, processes, customer-base and working environment, then making necessary improvements, will help to retain your key staff, who will be highly motivated and perform their jobs more efficiently. A happy workforce and a stress-free environment will increase productivity, which may then alleviate the need to recruit, or word of mouth from your retained workforce may lead to new recruits and solve the recruitment dilemma.

Will Abbott heads up the business advisory and coaching team at Randall & Payne Accountants in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Find out more at

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