Debunking the Mythical Complexity of Talent Shortage

With a shortage of talent in the European economy, the need to attract, retain and develop young talent is mission-critical to future-proof organizations in the digital era. According to recent research conducted by High Fliers Research Ltd., the UK’s top employers increased their graduate hiring programs by 7.5% in 2016, propelling the UK economy beyond its 2007 pre-recession peak to its highest ever level.

However, the same body of research reveals a slightly disturbing finding, as well: that graduates are now walking away from job offers. In 2016, 1,000 (reported) jobs were left unfilled after an offer had been made. This puts hiring organizations into a tailspin, with a need for more talent but also more active candidates walking away from the interview process.

Many HR managers have responded by introducing flexible working environments to entice the millennial set. But is this approach worthwhile? A recent report from Quora Consulting shows that millennials have a 15% to 20% lower desire than their older colleagues to work flexibly (i.e., choose their own hours and place to work) and are not demanding the latest technology to the same extent as older colleagues. Their reasoning: They’re actively seeking out every opportunity to be in closest proximity to their boss.

Addressing the Root of the Issue

This all raises some interesting points. First, have we misunderstood the millennial conundrum? And second, how can organizations tailor the work environment to attract and retain millennial graduates?

Well, the answer is, while there’s no silver bullet here, looking at the socio-economic situation of graduates could be a good place to start. Since the 2008 recession, graduates have experienced the largest drop in living standards, and those residing in major city hubs have been hardest hit.

The cost of rent in major city hubs like London is astronomical, with London graduates today spending 57% of their income on rent, as opposed to 41% in 2007.

So with organizations looking to attract and retain graduate talent, the office of the future should essentially be in an area that’s affordable and well routed by public transport. This can be an issue for organizations, as the challenge of identifying cities within reach of major hubs that are affordable and have established public transport links has historically been no small task.

Life Outside the City

In the EU, however, the initiative to build sustainable regional cities has been a priority. The UK alone received €47.5 billion from 2007 to 2013 for research, development and innovation activities. From this funding, the UK has invested extensively in regional development.

Take the Elizabeth line being built in the UK, which will link towns from Shenfield in the East through to Western cities such as Maidenhead and Reading, directly with London. Already in Reading, there has been a massive surge in office and retail development to support the expected boom brought about by this development. Major employers, including Huawei, PwC and SSE, have already begun expanding operations in the city.

Therefore, as organizations look to build a robust young workforce, just implementing a cool new office, perks and flexible working arrangements, while well intentioned, could be an error. Our misunderstanding of the millennial generation and the economic environment they find themselves in is the reason for these mistakes. The office of the future could, therefore, be in a city not near you – although a juice bar and chill-out room would still be nice.

Sidenote:

The Center for the Future of Work is conducting a study into the Future of Space, identifying how regions, cities and offices need to adapt to drive productivity and retain talent.