Skip to main content

The World is Short Staffed

The World is Short Staffed
Click to enlarge
Managing Director

Keep seeing signs in windows saying 'staff required, apply within '? Blaming Brexit? It may surprise you to learn that this isn't just a UK problem - it's a global one!

Staff retention has always been a sensible policy. As the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Recruiting staff can be a time-consuming and expensive process. First, you must write the advert in such a way as to make the job appealing and aspirational to attract the very best candidates. Then, you must pay to place the advert in the right place where your ideal candidate is likely to see it. Highly skilled and specialist roles such as software developers or mechanical engineers are likely to receive fewer applications than more generic roles such as administrators. This brings two challenges: finding specialist skills can be difficult and time-consuming, whereas, for others, there could be a hundred or more applicants. Sifting through that many CVs is also time-consuming. Then there’s contacting the select few you want to talk to, conducting an initial telephone conversation, and setting up the first interview. Then, spending a day conducting the first round of interviews. Then, the second round - perhaps this requires a second person’s time too, and a lengthier interview to get down to the ‘nitty gritty’. Like I said, time-consuming. Little wonder, good recruiters are in demand to take much of the weight off your shoulders. After all, you still have the onboarding to complete, plus the new member of staff needs time to get used to how the office works, become familiar with office processes, and settle in with the new team. It’s far better to retain staff than to have to go through that process repeatedly.

Things are becoming more difficult too. Staff shortages are being felt at all levels of the employment market. Some of the hardest-hit sectors include hospitality, retail, care, and seasonal work such as during harvest or holiday time in traditional locations such as seaside towns. This dearth of staff is often associated with Brexit and the lack of migrant workers, but the reality is, staff shortages are not limited to being a UK problem: it’s worldwide. So, if it’s a global issue, then it can’t be Brexit. So, what is it?

The answer seems to be, the pandemic and more specifically, furlough. People have had time to ponder their choices and consider alternative ways of conducting their lives. The phrase ‘work/life balance’ is now something workers have come to view as an essential, rather than as a ‘nice to have’. The result has seen workers resigning from their roles to pursue careers that give them more time with the family, less perceived aggravation, more opportunity for development, and generally, in their eyes, a better quality of life.

The result of this is staff shortages are being felt at all levels of the employment market and all over the world.

On a recent holiday to southern Spain, I experienced this first-hand. My family and I used to go to Spain several times a year and we got to know our favourite cafes and restaurants and the people who owned and operated them. This was my first proper holiday to Spain since before the pandemic and I’d been looking forward to getting back out there and having things ‘back to normal’.

On my first day there, I went to a cafe for my usual morning coffee and was shocked at the difference. Far from the enjoyable bustle, there was instead a franticness about the place. I got talking to the owner and he said he was having trouble recruiting. I asked where two waiters were, waiters with whom we’d become well acquainted over the years, and he said they’d resigned. The pandemic, he said, had given them cause to reevaluate their lives and their careers. Both had decided life was too short to spend running around a cafe dealing with the stress of sometimes impatient and unhappy customers. One had left to become a postman; the other had left to become a beekeeper. Pretty random stuff! And the owner simply couldn’t find anyone to take their places, not even people without experience he could train up. The problem is so severe, restaurants and cafes are even sending people into rival establishments to poach their staff! I’ve subsequently seen an article in the Guardian newspaper on this!

This issue is even more keenly felt in the UK where the leisure and hospitality sector accounts for around 20% of our economy - significantly more than on the continent. On a recent trip to a popular seaside resort in Devon, a friend found staff wanted posters up in several shops, take-aways, pubs, and accommodations. When she spoke to the Manager of one pub about the situation he said they’d had a busy Easter weekend which had seen them stretched to the limit staff-wise and whilst that was great - more money to top up the coffers largely emptied through lockdown, it had focused them on the issue of how to attract and retain the staff they needed to get them through the busy summer to come. One way they’d found to do this was to manage customers’ expectations and to this end, there was a sign on the entrance to the pub.

Of course, not every business has customers literally entering their doors, especially with so much being conducted online now, however, even online businesses are finding gaps in their staff levels owning to members of their team quitting to retrain in careers they have decided to explore. So, short of telling customers, ‘The world is short-staffed, deal with it', what can businesses do to retain their staff?

Having a robust employee engagement policy is a key part of it: creating an environment that people want to stay in, where they feel valued, listened to, and where they find fulfilment. How do we know what that environment looks like? By talking to our staff. It may not mean every member of staff stays put, but it will go a long way towards it.

If you need help creating a meaningful Employee Engagement Programme, as HR specialists and consultants, we can help. After all, our motto is “… because people make the difference.” And they really do.


ASL Recruitment was established in 1999 and has been serving Hastings and the surrounding area ever since placing temporary and permanent roles across a variety of sectors including Industrial and Manufacturing, Legal, Finance, Marketing, Technology and Office Support, from junior up to board level. Our co-founder and Managing Director, Jason Perry is an HR specialist and a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. For further information on our recruitment or consultancy services, email  [email protected]  or call us on 01424 452999.