UK labour shortage

The labour shortages facing the UK is not the result of a Brexodus of foreign workers but of a post-lockdown boom, an examination of the current jobs market has concluded. 

Recruiter Randstad looked at changes in the ratios of vacancies to applications for jobs in the UK’s private sector - using the volume of applications as a proxy for candidate volumes - across the UK’s private sector workforce.  

In the first half of 2020, Randstad said they had 14 applications for every private-sector job advertised.  In H1 2021, this ratio fell to 8 applications per job.

The change in the ratio of candidate demand to supply of office jobs alone was marginally better with the ratio falling from 15 applications per vacancy to 9.    

But the change has not been driven by a collapse in candidate numbers.  

Randstad says that, while the number of applications for private sector roles fell by 11 per cent, the number of vacancies rose by a greater degree - increasing by 61  per cent.  

The biggest change in the supply and demand was in engineering roles.  In the first half of 2020, there were 17 applications per vacancy.  A year later, there were only 4 applications for every role.    

At the other end of the spectrum, the supply of business support staff - administrators, executive PAs, business managers, receptionists, data entry,  PRs, marketing professionals, and HRs - has held up much better, with the ratio of applications to vacancies only falling from 16 to 12 over the course of the last 12 months.


For more insight into the motivations for workers staying at their current jobs and accepting new ones, follow the sector-specific links below for a downloadable infographic. 

Construction Property and Engineering



Accountancy and FInance

Financial Services

Return to Main Hub.

What's stopping your employees from leaving you?

With a candidate shortage causing concern for employers the country over, there has never been a more important time to make sure your existing employees have reason to remain loyal. 

When candidates are in high demand and short supply, the battle for talent begins – and it’s not always limited to the active jobs market. From head-hunters to LinkedIn, there are plenty of ways to reach people who may not even be looking to jump ship. And if employee engagement is low, it makes for easy pickings. 

In a recent Randstad survey of 6,000 candidates, we found that in the wake of Brexit and the fallout from Covid, loyalty is largely driven by the fear of the unknown. But that shouldn’t be why your people choose to stay with you.


How to increase employee engagement and nurture a loyal workforce

Looking for a new job might seem like a risky prospect in the current climate, but people aren’t always leaving because they want to; in some cases, they simply feel like they have no other choice. High levels of stress, poor work-life balance, and a lack of internal progression were all cited in our survey as reasons for leaving a role. 

So, what can you do to prevent attrition, and help your workforce to feel happy and fulfilled?

According to our survey results, a competitive salary is still the top driver behind employees choosing to remain in their current role (21%); this is closely followed by a good work-life balance (17%), progression opportunities (16%), and job security (15%) – with training (12%), Covid safety measures (8%), and the opportunity for remote working (8%) trailing behind.

But that doesn’t mean those factors aren’t highly valued; if they’re acting as less of a draw for people, their current employer might just not be executing them effectively. 


Appealing to new demands in a post-pandemic world

Of the 36% of our survey respondents that contracted Covid during the crisis, 28% didn't receive any support from their employer. People may be cautious to leave a stable position in favour of a new role, but employees will only take so much.

There also appears to be a distinct disconnect between employer and employee perception. The 2021 Randstad Employer Brand Research (REBR) report found that just “19% of employees globally perceive a strong alignment between what their employer says about itself and their experience working there…suggesting a loss of communication and gap in perception and awareness between employees and employers.”

If you want to keep hold of your people, it pays to understand how they’re feeling. Talk to them; hold one-to-ones; send out comms inviting feedback and suggestions – because your working environment is unique, and it’s incredibly important to create a culture that benefits everyone in it.

With employee wellbeing gaining prominence, and employers expected to take a more active role in supporting the mental health of their workforce, it can be extremely beneficial to circulate internal surveys that take a temperature check of current wellbeing levels, and pinpoint the areas where changes may need to be made.

But one thing is certain: now that people have had a taste of homeworking and experienced the benefits of a more flexible approach, the flame has been lit. People have always valued work-life balance, but they’ve not always been confident enough to demand it. In 2021, the status quo has shifted.

Employees also need to feel a sense of movement after a stationary 18 months, so don’t overlook the importance of career progression: a goal to works towards can help your people to feel motivated and engaged – and far more immune to the lure of your competitors. 


Why Does Remote Working Matter in the War for Talent?

The appeal of working remotely isn’t hard to fathom: surrounded by home comforts, no lengthy commutes, and the freedom to work uninterrupted (when the kids aren’t at home, of course). But how can it help you to win in the war for talent?

The grip of the pandemic may have sent the world into a tailspin, but it also served to highlight something that many businesses have been reluctant to acknowledge in years gone by: a lot of jobs can be executed just as well from home. 

There will of course always be exceptions to the rule – and people who want to head back to the workplace full-time. But for those who are happy to meld their home lives with their professional pursuits, the cessation of remote working could cause heads to turn. 

With a distinct shortage of candidates in the market right now, and a fierce battle for talent set to ensue, that’s not a situation any employer will be quick to welcome.


The increasing attraction of flexible working 

In a recent Randstad survey of 6,000 UK candidates, the opportunity for flexible working ranked as the 2nd most important factor when deciding whether or not to accept a new job – behind only salary, and equal to career progression. In fact, this year saw the importance of flexibility knock job location out of the top five for the first year ever. 

Flexible working options also appeared as the fourth most popular reason to remain with an employer, while the desire for more flexible hours emerged as the fifth biggest driver behind people wishing to change sectors. We also found that over half (51%) of shift workers would like more flexibility in their shift patterns

However, despite its appeal, only 17% of people would definitely feel confident in asking for flexible working; 29% probably would; 26% were unsure; 17% probably wouldn’t, and 11% definitely wouldn’t. 


Appealing to a new dynamic

Before the pandemic, just 16% of our survey respondents worked from home. Since the pandemic, 11% enjoyed a hybrid working set-up and 26% are working fully remote. In our REBR report, of the 55% of employees who started to work more remotely during the pandemic, 60% were involved in the decision-making process. However, we also found that 44% continued to work as normal – a figure that rose to 51% for men. 

The most important thing in the decision to continue, or to offer, remote working as an ongoing option is to talk to your people about their wants and needs. 

For some, work is a refuge and a chance to socialise, focus, and feel part of something; for others, home-working fits far better with family life, eases certain stresses, and allows for a better work-life balance. 


How to support remote working

Commute time was flagged in our survey as an important issue when considering a new role, but the option of remote working renders this somewhat obsolete. This does of course allow employers to target a much wider pool of candidates than when confined by geographical parameters.

But with the working environment ranking as the fifth most influential factor in accepting a job offer, it’s important not to neglect workplace culture if remote working becomes the norm.

We’d advise scheduling team check-ins, one-to-ones, virtual coffee chats, regular surveys to monitor wellbeing, open communication around workloads and stress levels, the option of in-person meet-ups for anyone feeling isolated, and of course the choice of hybrid working for those who thrive on a mix of old and new.  

Remote working can be an incredible draw to job seekers, and a valid reason for your existing employees to stay – so wield it wisely. 


Candidate Confidence is at an All-Time High: Here’s How to Capitalise

Do you know what drives people to change jobs? Or what the future job-switching landscape looks like? Whether you’re looking to grow your team or prevent your people from making the switch, it’s an important insight to have.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that employees would be reluctant to leave for pastures new given the current climate; business closures, multiple lockdowns, redundancies – and not forgetting the impact of Brexit – have all played their part in making for an uncertain market. But in a recent Randstad survey of 6,000 UK candidates, it seems that candidate confidence is at an all-time high.


Employees are willing to change roles if their needs are not met

Our survey found an overwhelming 67% of people feel either confident or very confident at the prospect of moving to a new employer; in fact, an astonishing 48% of our survey respondents have reportedly switched roles in 2021.

Those employees currently considering a job move say there is plenty of opportunity and access to new roles right now, and they won’t hesitate to make a move in order to meet their goals. But what exactly are those goals?

When asked about the most influential factors at play in keeping people within their current roles, our survey found that while salary still tops the charts, the collective demand for those areas impacting overall job satisfaction outweighs fiscal concerns:

  • Salary (22%) 
  • Work-life balance (13%)
  • Job Security (13%) 
  • Flexible working (12%) 
  • Work atmosphere (12%) 
  • Career progression (11%) 
  • Benefits (7%) 


Together, the call for a good work-life balance, reassurance around job security, more flexible working hours, and a pleasant working environment make up a sizeable 50%. And when it comes to the factors that influence a candidate’s decision to accept a new role, the opportunity for flexible working has this year knocked job location out of the top five.


Knowledge is power: how to win in the war for talent 

A significant 35% of employees worry that the pandemic will have impacted progression opportunities with their current employer. With career development ranking 6th in the decision to remain in a role, companies looking to lure away top performers would do well to focus on progression opportunities when positioning job offers. 

Interestingly, the number one obstacle facing candidates in the job application process is not knowing what it’s like to work at an organisation. This insight, uncovered in the 2021 Randstad Employer Brand Research (REBR) report, gives employers an opportunity: invest in your company culture and highlight this in marketing materials, job ads, interviews and offers. 

Highlight company stability (job security is an essential motivating factor), demonstrate your commitment to ensuring a positive working experience (from flexible hours to a healthy work-life balance), and give people a taste of what working for your company is all about!


Looking to prevent the fallout? The time to act is now

Our survey found that 24% of employees are planning to leave their job within the next three to six months, equally 76% remain waiting, so when 69% feel confident to switch jobs - is job loyalty strong enough to hold workers in current jobs? Resignations are coming. 


If you want to keep hold of your people, you need to act now.

Covid is proving to be a primary detractor (41%) in the decision to leave a stable position, so if you can carve your employees a clear route to career progression, communicate job security and company direction, and appeal to your employees’ wants and needs in the current climate, the reasons to remain loyal could win-out.


Why Working Hours Could Make or Break Talent Attraction in 2021

Over the past 18 months, the world of work has changed beyond all recognition: workplaces have revolutionised, employee priorities have shifted, and candidate expectations have grown. 

With job seekers in short supply, understanding the impact of these changes is essential in the battle for top talent. You need to know how to retain your best people, where to focus your marketing efforts, and how to position job ads that draw the most interest. So what does the worker of 2021 expect of their employer? 


Flexibility, and a better work-life balance. 

How flexible working can make you an in-demand employer 

Brexit, IR35, and the uncertainty occasioned by the pandemic have all contributed to a noticeable shortage of candidates on the jobs market. Many people are reluctant to move from ‘stable’ positions, while some have been driven out of the labour market by the impact of Covid on home life – most notably, women.

In fact, while women make up almost two-fifths of the global labour force, they’ve suffered more than half of the total job losses from the crisis – making them 1.8 times more vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact than men. Women are statistically more likely to take on caring responsibilities, and with classroom closures dominating much of lockdown, the juggle has disproportionately impacted female workers.


But a shift towards more flexible working hours could hold the answer. 

In a recent Randstad survey of 6,000 UK candidates, we found that over half (51%) seek flexibility in terms of working hours, and 45% would feel confident in asking for greater flexibility. But why wait for them to ask, when you can actively promote it instead?

Forward-thinking employers have been quick to cotton on to the impact of flexible working on talent attraction and retention – particularly in a time of conflicting demands. And it’s a draw that holds sway regardless of gender, industry or age.  

Employers who choose to be flexible with their start and finish times, open to discussion around days worked, and less rigid when it comes to how employees spread their hours over the week, could capture talent not even on the market. Because when you bolster your employer brand, word spreads fast. 


How to win the war for talent with better working hours

The annual Randstad Employer Brand Research report (REBR) found that for the first time, flexible working has made the top five of employee drivers when considering a new job – replacing location at number four. 

Tellingly, work/life balance ranked second; suggesting that in a post-pandemic world, people value their wellbeing more than ever.

With 6% of employees working 21+ hours beyond their contractual obligations, and 26% working longer hours than they’re being paid for, the implications for employee mental health are worrying. But a simple way to care for employee wellbeing – whilst attracting top candidates and keeping your existing people happy, loyal and productive – could be found in flexible working.

But management will be crucial: with Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays ranking as people’s preferred working days – and just 4% willing to work at a weekend – businesses will need to work with their employees to find the right solution for all parties.

However you choose to structure it for your business, giving employees greater choice around their schedules, allowing people to better manage their own work/life balance, and combatting the need for overtime through better planning can all help to position you as an extremely attractive prospect in a competitive market. 

And while candidates remain in high demand, that’s a position you need to be in.



5 Employee Benefits That Candidates Actually Care About

Candidates have their pick of the market right now, so how do you make sure that what your business is bringing to the table knocks spots off your competitors? Before you can pitch that job offer and secure a definitive ‘yes’, you need to know what the job seeker of 2021 is holding out for.

It’s not just about salary anymore, and it certainly isn’t about location. Because in a post-pandemic world, job security and flexible working are clinching many a deal – whilst helping employers to keep hold of their best people. 


How to make an offer your ideal candidate can’t refuse 

What you offer says a lot about your brand, what you value as a company, and whether you prioritise your people over profits. But that offering isn’t limited to perks alone. In fact, according to a recent Randstad report of 6,000 UK candidates, only 6% ranked benefits as an influencing factor in their job search. 

Our survey found that the five factors with the greatest influence on a candidate’s job search are:

  1. An attractive salary 
  2. A healthy work-life balance 
  3. Job security 
  4. Flexible arrangements
  5. A pleasant working atmosphere


And while salary still takes the number one spot, the remaining four largely focus on how a job makes people feel, whether it works around their life, and how it impacts their wellbeing. 

For the first time, flexible working has knocked the importance of job location out of the top five: in fact, a 51% majority said they’d benefit from more flexibility in their working hours. We also found that 24% of people would be reluctant to apply for a job that involved shift hours on a weekend, while almost 10% would definitely not apply.

In the battle for talent then, your best chance of attracting and retaining the right people for your business is to build a package that’s financially competitive, but bolstered by employer empathy around wellbeing and working preferences, complete with a promise of job security.

It’s also worth noting that after the intense pressure of the past 18 months on people’s home lives, savvy employers are choosing to invest in childcare and family benefits.


How to boost employee engagement for better retention 

A candidate-scarce jobs market makes it critical to keep employee engagement levels high; your competitors might have their eye on your best people as we speak – so give them plenty of reasons to remain loyal.

Our survey results suggest that communicating long-term job security and being flexible around working patterns will make the greatest impact, but it’s also about managing expectations, rewarding hard work, and prioritising employee wellbeing.

Only 10% of employees are expecting a bonus this year; no doubt driven by the business impact of Covid. It is however crucial to communicate if a bonus is off the table, as those expecting an end-of-year payout may be left with a bitter taste in their mouths if their expectations haven’t been managed.


Supporting employee wellbeing post-Covid

Our survey also found that of the 23% of respondents that contracted Covid, a third received no support from their employers. Employee wellbeing is big news right now, and if other businesses are doing it better, you could find yourself with a serious retention challenge. 

If you’re expecting people to return to the office, you need to make sure that every possible safety provision is in place; if remote working is your new normal, consider home office expenses to offset some of the costs your employees may incur, and be sure to check in on your teams regularly. 

The pandemic has seen mental health plummet across the board, and a demonstrable investment in employee wellbeing resources will go a long way towards making your teams feel valued and supported.


For more insight into the motivations for workers staying at their current jobs and accepting new ones, follow the sector-specific links below for a downloadable infographic. 

Construction Property and Engineering



Accountancy and FInance

Financial Services