Last Thursday we hosted our latest North West HR Directors event at Arley Hall in Cheshire. HR leaders spanning a wide range of sectors, from digital retail to the NHS, engaged in lively debate over breakfast. Several key themes were covered including the difficulty in attracting commercial talent to the North West, challenging established organisational thinking around diversity and the opportunity posed by the Apprenticeship Levy.
All agreed that the ‘war for talent’ is still a challenge especially for niche and new skills. This was particularly evident in the North West technology market. Disappointingly there is an established merry-go-round of firms lining up to outbid each other for talented digital resource in the region, leading to an over inflation of salaries for individuals with these skills. A number of potential answers to the problem were discussed but ultimately the challenge may require the adoption of a different mind-set from North West businesses. Nimble working practices and a willingness to engage people on more short-term, assignment based projects may be the future.
Diversity remains a hot topic for this community. Pleasingly many present were able to point to some real strides forward, particularly in gender diversity. Yet issues still remain, several firms are struggling to address the challenge of achieving genuine ethnic diversity, often despite being based in multi-cultural areas with a diverse workforce on their doorstep. The group agreed however that the greatest progress is made when organisations acknowledge the issue and when the whole leadership group, not just the HR team, focus on addressing it. Engaging with the local community and schools to highlight available opportunities and progression paths was discussed as a useful way to attract future talent.
The Apprenticeship Levy remains a thorny subject, with much confusion about the language, aims and mechanisms of the Levy. Many firms are seeking to appoint specific L&D leaders to handle what can be viewed as either a major risk or huge opportunity.
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