News, Blog, Employment, Awards, Careers | Monday 26th April 2021

Who will be the winners in this year’s scramble for talent? 

An IHS Market report has just confirmed what many of us in Fire & Security no doubt suspected. Technical vacancies are growing fast, but the number of experienced applicants open to a career move is staying largely flat.

Even before the epidemic ‘traditional’ recruitment methods were looking unsustainable, but in Spring 2021 they’re becoming a recipe for distress, if not disaster. But where there’s challenge, there’s opportunity.

If you’re willing to shift your mindset there are most definitely ways to attract the excellent people you need. Here are three winning approaches to incorporate into your resourcing strategy right now.

Realise the new normal isn’t the same as the old

Zitko’s specialist Resourcing Team speaks to hundreds of Fire & Security specialists every month about what they want out of work and life. After 12 months of enforced reflection, many people have changed their outlook.

That’s not to say that the whole industry’s about to turn on, tune in and drop out, but the lockdown has given many a glimpse of better work/life balance, more family time, exciting new interests and the convenience of working from home.

It’s also boosted the conversation even further around mental well-being. The way companies treat and support their workforce is absolutely front and central in employees’ and candidates’ career decision-making.

For employers, it’s vital to invest in workforce engagement if you want to retain your team. What you’ll learn will help you shape your employment offer, especially around features such as flexible hours, well-being, remote working and new part-time or job share options.

This in turn will dramatically expand your pool of candidates. In fact, I’d argue that skilled professionals who can only work part-time are a massively under-realised resource in many sectors, including our own.

Work on your reputation

It’s surprising that even large employers sometimes overlook the fact that colleagues, friends and family talk! Social media makes these conversations wider still.

The late, great Wally Olins spoke about ‘touch points’ as the moments when ‘buyers’ gain an impression of your business. In employment terms that’s everything from how you welcome candidates coming for interview to how you treat your staff.

Treating people well provides the basis for a solid employer brand. Employees, past, present and potential, can be your best or worst advocates. As an example, great candidates are asking us and no doubt their contacts about how employers treated their people during the pandemic.

Promoting your good news stories is equally vital. Is the employment content on your website and social platforms pulling its weight? Are your job ads marketing you fully? How well are you communicating with people who show an interest in working with you?

We’re absolutely in a candidates’ market in Fire & Security. The successful hirers of 2021 will be the companies that recognise this fact.

Think laterally

It would seem that rats have one advantage over us humans. Set a problem, they’ll try a solution and if it doesn’t work out, they’ll quickly try something else!

In a tight labour market, Fire & Security employers really need to be a bit more ‘rat’ (at least in this one respect!). There are simply not enough qualified, experienced people, whether in engineering or projects, to go around, but there is a solution.

Fire & Security has come through the pandemic relatively well, but many sectors such as aviation and automative haven’t been as fortunate. There are many, many highly trained people with transferrable skills who are looking for a future elsewhere.

Historically many employers have been put off by the perceived expense, complexity and risk of (cross)training fresh talent. But our latest findings suggest that if you want to grow your workforce by 20%, you’ll need to train around a quarter from outside the industry.

We began developing the Zitko Talent concept several years before Covid. It offers a reliable bridge into the industry - to techs and engineers from other sectors, to adult career changers and to college leavers.

Our alliance of employers, training companies and manufacturers (including Lenel S2 and 360 Vision) provides a package of paid employment, technical training, professional education and basic certifications in the systems each trainee is using at work.

The interest and excitement from potential trainees, including engineers from other sectors, has been intense; and our founding employer partners, Northland Controls, Reliance High-Tech and Pafi are singing the praises of their productive, engaged trainees.

The programme’s bringing companies together to solve a shared problem, while meeting their individual needs, cost effectively and long-term. It’s the kind of lateral thinking we’re going to need as an industry to thrive. Every employer is invited!

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