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Unlocking Talent Acquisition Success: The Power of Essential Skills at CIPD Festival of Work

In a historically tight labour market, HR professionals and businesses are adapting to changing landscapes, from skills gaps to diverse teams, by seeking out and striving for the top talent for their organisations.

78% of businesses report struggling with recruitment and almost 50% of UK employers say they have many hard-to-fill vacancies, with nearly two thirds predicting problems in recruitment for the remainder of the year. In the last year, employers also noted that they had made bad hires, with the cost of these decisions significant.

Top 10 skills lacking in job applicants Specialist skills and knowledge needed: 63% Time and task management: 45% Complex problem solving: 39% Knowledge of products/services: 38% Customer handling skills: 34% Team working: 34% Managing own feelings and handling feelings: 33% Knowledge of how your organisation works: 32% Reading and comprehension: 31% Managing or motivating others: 31%

One of the ways businesses can approach these challenges is by investing in essential skills. By doing so, businesses can improve their recruitment processes, level the playing field, and unlock the potential of their candidates. 

In this blog, we will explore the key takeaways from a thought-provoking session, delivered by our Head of Employer Programmes, Emma Reay, at the recent CIPD Festival of Work.  

What Excellence in Adopting Essential Skills in Recruitment Looks Like 

There is increasing emphasis on the value of essential skills in the workplace – both for employers, employees, and jobseekers. 

Research has shown that employees with high levels of essential skills are more likely to thrive in their roles and contribute meaningfully to their organisation. By identifying and prioritising these skills, employers can lay the foundation for a robust recruitment process that goes beyond simply filling vacancies.

Essential skills are those highly transferable skills that everyone needs to do almost any job, which make specific knowledge and technical skills fully productive. These are therefore distinct from basic skills (literacy, numeracy and digital skills) and technical skills (specific to a particular sector or role, sometimes drawing off a particular body of knowledge).

These highly transferable skills include communication, interpersonal, problem solving, and self-management skills. We approach them as eight skills: 

  • Listening and Speaking; 
  • Problem Solving and Creativity; 
  • Staying Positive and Aiming High; and 
  • Leadership and Teamwork.

Within the eight skills, there are 16 measurable steps outlined in the Universal Framework. This means that businesses can assess these steps in recruitment, as aligned to the role being hired for.

In some job advertisements and role profiles, we might see under ‘essential’: “high standards of verbal and written communication skills”. At one of our employer partners, AKW, hiring managers are being coached in a 30-min session by a member of HR where they will explore the online Framework and specify which stage of, say, Listening and Speaking is required for the role to combat the broad and undefined language so often used. 

At Skills Builder, we align our programmes to our Excellence Standards, and within the recruitment focus, these are the components of excellence:

  • Standard 4: The essential skills required and developed through job roles are shared
  • Standard 5: All applicants are given a fair chance to demonstrate their essential skills
  • Standard 6: Assessors use the Skills Builder Framework to objectively assess applicants’ essential skills

A Playbook on How to Get There

Using the Skills Builder approach, businesses can adopt a structured approach to integrating essential skills into recruitment strategies. Here are the key steps outlined in Emma’s playbook:

  1. Consistency in essential skills: Establish the Framework consistently across your organisation to identify and define essential skills relevant to various job roles. This clarity helps hiring managers swiftly identify the skills, and specific steps of that skill, required for a specific position.
  1. Enhance the recruitment process: By closely focusing on the essential skills required, organisations can reduce noise in the recruitment process and enhance its predictive value. This refinement leads to a 23% improvement in the ability to recruit for the desired skills.
  1. Transparency and inclusivity: Embrace transparency by clearly communicating the essential skills being recruited for. This approach levels the playing field for candidates, enabling them to showcase their skills and potential. Moreover, organisations should leverage the recruitment process as an opportunity for candidates to develop and enhance their own essential skills.

Heathrow’s Journey to Excellence

Heathrow has been working with us to achieve excellence in adopting essential skills in their recruitment practices. Helen Reynolds, Learning Lead at Heathrow Academy, shared their experiences and practical tips for other organisations looking to follow suit. Some of the insights shared included:

  1. Use a template that puts essential skills in the focus when writing job descriptions. This will help candidates and hiring managers understand the skills required for the role and showcase their skills accordingly.
  2. Spend time with the Skills Builder team to get the most out of their expertise. The team will really get to know your business and your business needs and pinpoint what you need to help you with your business challenges. 
  3. Help candidates build confidence in their abilities and showcase their skills at interviews. Heathrow Academy has seen an increase in the interview-to-offer rate – up to 70% of these candidates were offered a job.

Thinking about your organisation, consider: 

By adopting the insights and practical tips shared in the session, employers can unlock the transformative power of essential skills and pave the way for a more successful and diverse workforce.

  • How could a common language for essential skills benefit your job descriptions?
  • How could the Framework be used within your interview questions?
  • How far do you feel that skills are judged objectively and fairly in your recruitment?

Book a free consultation with our team to talk through your skills challenges, and how we can support you. 

Would your learners enjoy building skills on a challenge day?

Take your learners on a journey of essential skills development through practical and engaging teaching like challenge days. Explore the possibilities on the funded Global Accelerator programme for educators worldwide – apply now.