Talent: the new business disruptor

Oct 01, 2018
A proactive approach to employer branding can help businesses navigate the war for talent.


When it comes to the future of work, the automation of jobs tends to dominate the headlines. Will robots take finance jobs? Interestingly, when an accountant or finance professional analyses, applies judgement and then explains issues to clients or employers, she assumes the role of an educator. A recent McKinsey study identified this skill as among the most resistant to automation in the foreseeable future.

The biggest threat to business isn’t robots taking jobs; it’s that the world doesn’t have enough humans to fill them. A recent Korn Ferry study found that by 2030, there will be a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people, or roughly equivalent to the population of Germany. Left unchecked, in 2030 this talent shortage could result in about $8.5 trillion in unrealised annual revenue.

Grant Thornton’s latest International Business Report also found that recruitment and retention are proving more threatening than Brexit, while PwC’s recent Private Business Survey estimated that skills shortages are costing the EU28 plus Norway, Switzerland and Turkey €324 billion a year in lost revenue in private businesses alone. That’s equivalent to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Portugal, Hungary, and Croatia combined.

The talent landscape

So, what does the talent landscape look like in Ireland? Maureen Lynch, a Director at Hays Ireland, recently noted that “the war for talent is back”. According to Hays Ireland Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018, 78% of Irish companies have experienced “moderate” or “extreme” skills shortages in the past 12 months. Nearly three-quarters plan to recruit in the next 12 months but 75% expect their top challenge to be finding candidates with the right skills.

The 2018 Chartered Accountants Leinster Society Salary Survey also reports significant demand for accountants at all levels. Newly qualified, Big 4-trained Chartered Accountants – and particularly those with one to two years of post-qualified experience – continue to be highly sought after. Many candidates with three to five years of post-qualified experience are likely to have multiple job opportunities to choose from.

Morgan McKinley reported that hiring in the accounting and finance sector was extremely buoyant in the second quarter of 2018 with strong demand across all industries – particularly technology, pharmaceutical, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), financial services and professional services. Hays Ireland expects 17% growth in finance roles for the latter six months of 2018. In short, it’s a candidate-driven market with much more choice in terms of location, industries and roles.

Meanwhile, EY has reported that 21 financial organisations and accountancy firms are expected to relocate their operations from the UK to Dublin. We’re seeing financial services companies, including those entering the Irish market, taking a much more proactive approach to their employer brand. Due to the level of demand for accounting and finance professionals, coupled with a squeeze in supply, companies are increasing compensation and personalising benefit packages to attract and retain top talent.

The business case for employer brand investment

Faced with a talent shortage and operating in a competitive talent market, how can you get ahead? Your employer brand is your reputation as an employer. It refers to how your business or practice is viewed by potential and current employees. Your employee value proposition is a collection of reasons why talent chooses to join your business over another. A strong employer brand delivers tangible business results. Companies that invest in their employer brand typically hire twice as fast and are three times more likely to make a quality hire. A strong employer brand means that the right talent proactively approach your firm or practice. 50% of candidates won’t consider working for a company with a bad employer brand, irrespective of salary. Furthermore, a strong employer brand can reduce your attrition rate by as much as 50% and your cost per hire by up to 28%. So, how can you win when it comes to attracting and retaining the best people?

1. Quantify your talent risk exposure

Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce survey reports that 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job. Business units in the top quartile of Gallup’s global employee engagement database are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. This represents a huge opportunity for businesses to increase engagement and drive high performance cultures within their organisations.

Do you know how engaged your people are today? Have you mapped career paths with people in business-critical roles across your organisation? An engagement survey is a great way to establish a baseline. In Hays Ireland Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018, 51% of employees expect to move jobs over the next 12 months. 25% of those surveyed in the 2018 Chartered Accountants Leinster Society Salary Survey moved job in the last year. You can then use these results to proactively work on increasing engagement levels across your firm. Employees who feel that their organisations care about them are on average 38% more engaged and 18% more likely to go the extra mile for their employers.

Next, how healthy is your existing external employer brand? Are you on This website allows employees to rate your practice or firm as an employer. Glassdoor and the career section of your website are the first places candidates will go to research your business. Does your website truly reflect what’s great about working in your business or practice? 50% of job seekers become more interested in working for a company after visiting its website.

2. Get clarity and have a plan

Irrespective of size and whether you’re in industry or practice, employer branding needs to be driven by your leadership team to ensure long-term success from both a recruitment and retention perspective. The first big mistake organisations make is tolerating a lack of clarity on their unique differentiators. Why should I join your firm over another competitor organisation? What are the benefits of working in your organisation across all stages of the employee life-cycle? How are you bringing this to life in a compelling way for potential hires?

Several organisations also invest in individual initiatives, from employee engagement surveys to wellness programmes. Many firms fail to look at employer branding in a more holistic way and leverage their existing culture and programme investments. Most organisations have a big opportunity to capture what’s already great about their organisation and communicate it in an engaging way.

Your employer brand touches so many existing elements of your human resources and talent strategies, from organisational culture to learning and development. Creating and developing a compelling employee experience is critical to attracting and retaining hard-to-find skillsets. To stay competitive, maximise engagement and minimise attrition, developing your employer brand and employee experience needs to stay on your leadership team’s agenda.

3. Bring your brand to life and measure success

Once you’ve developed an engaging employee value proposition, bring this to life across the candidates’ key touchpoints with your business. Core infrastructure here typically includes your website and recruitment collateral. It’s critical that people get a real sense of what it’s like to work with you. Use authentic images and video content of your people and business. Employee-generated content will engage an external audience as candidates will want to know what a day-in-the-life of your business or practice is like, what their career journey will look like, and what your environment and culture is like to work in.

Map your hiring plan for the next 12 months. Use your new content to hire specific skillsets. Create content focused specifically on the type of experience required and the projects involved in the role. Describe the clients they will work with and the attributes they need to succeed. Target specific candidates with this content to engage and secure quality applicants. Ensure that you’re optimising your recruitment marketing advertising spend using technology and analytics, and measure and track key performance indicators throughout the recruitment process.

It’s no longer “fluffy people stuff”. Firms and businesses that recruit, retain and engage their talent will minimise the risk of business disruption, maximise profitability and future-proof their business growth.

Gillian Horan is CEO of The Pudding, a commercial and creative brand agency.