The concept of skill shortages is no foreign entity to the UK’s trades industries - as years have gone by, the number of available and skilled contractors and engineers has seemingly found a familiar pattern through which it ebbs and flows.

Studies began emerging late last year that could see the trades sector impacted significantly with a severe skills shortage. In August, 2017, Herpreet Kaur Grewal writing for FM World, reported that the British Institute of Facilities Management had said that the FM sector could face a skills shortage as a result of changes in immigration policy following Brexit.

Later, in September 2017, Anna Delves for Simply Business noted that electricians, plumbers and bricklayers were seeing wages soar as a skills shortage swept across the country; “Last year,” Delves wrote, “...bricklayers saw their wages spike as Britain voted to leave the European Union, and skilled workers have been in short supply ever since.”

Even Heating and Plumbing Monthly listed in an article in June this year that, “...a lack of skilled workers and poor training opportunities are the most pressing concerns of the modern plumbing and heating installer…” Highlighting the statistic from a recent survey where over half of respondents stated the “...the skills gap is the biggest threat facing the plumbing industry today.”

Research and coverage clearly shows that the last year has seen electrical, plumbing and facilities management businesses all impacted, as there are simply not enough trained and qualified engineers to meet customer demand. This kind of problem puts added pressure on businesses looking to both retain skilled staff and attract new talent.

To avoid issues of understaffing and to better attract potential new team members, business owners need to be offering up a workplace that not only supports its staff adequately but also has an inviting and engaging culture.

A skills shortage is a trying and tough time for any business, so in a bid to provide some clarity, I’ve broken down this challenge a little further. Read on to better understand the skills shortage problem, and how you and your business can cope.

What impact does a skills shortage have on a business?

Growing businesses can struggle to find and recruit new staff to meet demand in these trying times. In fact, the process can often lead to a bidding war between employers, be that current or potential, with the company willing to pay the highest salary coming out on top.

When the decision has been made to hire new staff, it is often that they are needed to start immediately. So, if the recruitment process drags on, it can take its toll on the business with existing staff working longer hours and service levels put under intense pressure.

What can you do to attract new staff?

When there is a skills shortage it can be difficult to attract the right talent for your business, but the reputation of your company can put you in a good position.

If you get the company culture right and develop your brand, you will become an ‘employer of choice’. You’ll be surprised at just how quickly word gets around that your company is an optimal place to work when you put the time and effort into supporting your staff and maintaining a positive atmosphere.

If you are on the hunt for some new team members, make sure to highlight the points that make your business a great place to work. It may be the types of customers you work with or the way in which you carry out work to ensure high standards are met - whatever it is, promote it as it will help you to find the right people for your business.

What can you do to retain staff?

It seems obvious, but people forget that when one company is recruiting for candidates, another business is losing them. Every business should be making moves to ensure that their staff feel motivated, rewarded and valued in their employment so that they avoid losing valuable people.

This kind of gratification for staff can come in the way of simple things like verbal feedback and commendations when they have completed good work, or incentives for achieving KPIs and targets for a certain job or project, even skill-building opportunities that foster personal development.

A team member that feels they are working for a growing, successful business, rich with new opportunities to develop and progress, will be more inclined to stay on. Accordingly, it’s important to stay on top of key trends in your industry so you can pinpoint windows for bettering your business for your employees.

Some trade associations are running initiatives to support their current members and the next generation. One, in particular, is BESA and their ‘Future Leaders’ group. They are encouraging those in the early stages of their career to embrace new technologies, participate in site visits and shadow other professionals. Take advantage of any opportunities to get involved in these as they’re great ways to empower your people.

Salaries play an important part in employee retention but it’s also about the whole remuneration package. Invest in your employees with training and make sure they are equipped with the best tools to do their job - they will appreciate your care and concern for their skill and personal development, and you will be left with an engaged and talented team.

Software to support your staff

Whether you’re looking to attract new talent or keep your existing team motivated, implementing new software can help to build a strong foundation for your staff to stand on when operating within your business.

It may not seem obvious, but if you are able to improve your operational processes and make people more efficient and confident in their daily workflows, it can free them up to take on new, more challenging tasks or expand their skills into other areas. If you are able to operate more efficiently, it may even raise the question as to whether you need to hire more staff.

simPRO has a range of performance reports that can help you track, measure and improve efficiency and productivity in your business. You can see who’s your most efficient employee and discover how productive your field teams are.

Simply streamlining basic tasks with cloud-based software like simPRO means field-based staff won’t be wasting their time filling out paperwork. They will have all the information they need to carry out work at their fingertips and can provide your customers with a first-class service.

One of the biggest benefits of a cloud-based solution is that it is updated with the latest product release so your business can take advantage of new features almost as soon as they are available (costs pending). One example of this is our latest Quote and Sales module. This new feature helps build customer understanding, loyalty and satisfaction, and is easy-to-use for engineers, owners and operators.

If you would like to make simPRO your differentiator to attract and retain staff contact us on 0800 622 6367 or book a free demo.