Employers identify recruitment as their biggest worry

Taking on and retaining key staff set to prove difficult, despite improving conditions - study

Human resource staff at UK firms will dedicate most of their time in 2004 to recruiting and retaining key employees, due to the improving economy and continued skilled shortages, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted by HR Gateway, found that 34 per cent of human resource staff said that their main concern this year will be taking on new workers and securing the services of existing employees.

Business strategy was the main worry for 26 per cent of respondents, while training and development topped the list of priorities for a quarter of those quizzed.

Although the rising tide of absence over the past year has affected many companies, just 14 per cent said that their main target in 2004 was to cut down on ‘sickies.’

Although recent data has revealed that the economic picture is rapidly improving, with business confidence for the coming year currently sky-high, the lack of skilled workers in many sectors is set to pose problems to companies looking to expand their workforce in 2004.

New figures released by the government today revealed that the number of people out of work fell by 29,000 in the three months to November, bringing the jobless total to 1.4 million – the lowest since early 2001.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also painted a healthy employment picture, predicting that the number of people in work will rise by 250,000 this year.

John Philpott, chief economist at the CIPD, said that the self-employed will be among the biggest winners of the jobs increase.

“While this is undoubtedly good news for business, it promises top present an even greater challenge to human resource managers who already report recruitment difficulties.

“To meet the challenge, UK organisations should tap into under-used sources of labour – immigrants as well as jobless people, or indeed raise productivity by improving skills in the workplace, to avoid a hike in wage costs in 2004,” he said.

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