Resignation box of things

Recruiting and Retaining Talent


This Article first appeared in the Winter 2021/22 edition of The Law.

The Law winter edition

Article written by David Ramsay - Talent Acquisition Partner

After an extremely challenging 2021, businesses moving into 2022 are faced with yet more professional challenges; how do they recruit into their teams, or as the media have coined it, how do they survive “The Great Resignation”?

Recruitment challenges are not new to professional services firms. For a variety of reasons, skilled staff have been at a premium for the past two decades. This time however it feels very different and the big reason behind that is around the two polarising forces in the jobs market today.

The first is around demand. Demand has increased. During a recent Hays Recruitment Survey in which they talked to 23,000 professional services firms, 80% of employers said they planned to increase headcount in 2022 which puts demand at an 8 year high. This, coupled with the fact that 86% already felt they had a skills shortage in the business, means nearly every organisation is on the lookout for top talent and there is only so much to go around!

The flip side to this is at least 52% of employees plan on changing roles in 2022 (a 10 year high) which is a benefit as there’s a larger candidate pool to choose from, however this also creates a retention nightmare. How do firms react to this? Is it just as simple as giving everyone in the business substantial pay rises or offering more working from home opportunities? The answer is a complex one; attitudes and requirements have changed and in my view they have changed forever. It’s no longer about how glitzy your office is or how prestigious the name above the door is; candidates want to be paid properly, they want to be able to maintain a healthy work life balance whist still being challenged professionally and they want proper benefits to reflect the new world we all live in.

The rise of the virtual firm

There is a lot of talk in the market place around firms that have gone to a fully remote model and how this has created challenges for other firms where a physical presence in an office is required, however when we do a deep dive into this way of working, there is more to these businesses than simply allowing people to work from home.

Firms that allow people to work remotely have reduced cost and may be more attractive to people in the short to medium term, however for firms adopting a hybrid model it’s important to remember why offices exist in the first place. Offices provide collaborative spaces for people, they provide proper lighting, proper desks, proper IT equipment and an opportunity for people to have a clear separation of work from home life. This is not to say that remote working isn’t a benefit to an employee as it most definitely is, but firms simply need to show that they will allow individuals to work flexibly to suit their needs as opposed to trying to go back to the old ways of working. Some businesses have grasped this better than others, but by providing a flexible working agreement you are allowing your employees to work in a way that will get the best out of them as well as showing them a level of trust. Flexible working is also important when you consider how your entry level employees are going to develop. As we have already touched on, there is a skills shortage in the market, and one solution firms are looking at is “growing more of your own” in the form of increased trainee numbers with the view of developing talent long term as opposed to just buying it in constantly.

This approach has a great many benefits, however it won’t work properly if all of your trainees are working from home, or they are all in the office but there’s no senior support to help train and develop them. All in all, this points to a marketplace where geography has never mattered less (firms can now tap into skillsets that in years gone by they were geographically locked out of, and that is a huge plus) however it’s important to remember the benefits of office based working and to talk prospective hires through this during the recruitment process if this is your preferred way of moving forward.


Technology is also a hot topic when it comes to recruitment. Good recruitment IT infrastructure has the ability to reduce the cost of delivery as well as improve client and candidate experiences however this sort of set up does not come cheaply, and with that in mind more and more businesses are looking into “outsourcing” their recruitment needs in the form of an RPO (recruitment process outsourcing).

The RPO market has seen significant growth over the last five years, showing that businesses are looking for a more trusted alternative to the standard recruitment model. For most of the businesses who choose to go down the RPO route, the focus has been on screening, sourcing and scheduling e.g. optimising the use of LinkedIn and other online platforms to build candidate profiles, automatically screening CVs for key words etc.

The next stage for businesses is to look at analytics and insights on their existing workforces to enable a constant match of labour supply and demand, ultimately improving strategic workforce planning. Technology will play a huge part in this however it is key businesses partner up with the right firms in order to make best use of an RPO offering.


Going forward I would encourage firms to review salaries / salary bandings regularly and make your peace with the fact that things are only going one way; in 2021 the average salary increased by 2.8% nationally compared to 1.2% in 2020 and I expect this number to increase in 2022. You can however continue to make yourself an attractive proposition to candidates without simply just paying more. Think about what benefits you offer your staff as culturally there has been a massive shift of focus onto wellbeing; everything from mental health breaks to half day Fridays is being trialled and it is important professional services firms stay relevant in this area. The right recruitment partners are also going to become increasingly valuable to employers, with many traditional external recruitment agencies likening the current climate to the “golden years” of pre-2008. If this proves to be the case external agencies will put pressure on fees, creating further strain for businesses. With that in mind I would encourage businesses to look outside of the traditional methods. Here at AW, we have successfully helped a number of firms improve their recruitment with our own RPO service. We have looked at everything from internal process improvement to fully outsourced functions and in all cases we’re seen as an enabler to help improve candidate quality whilst also managing costs.

To discuss any of the points mentioned above, please speak to one of our Legal Sector experts on 0808 144 5575

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