Over the past few years there has been much change across the Education sector as it has sought to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, address the energy crisis and manage wide ranging inflationary pressures. Adding to this, the education sector has a profound skills shortage and the opinion drawn from conversations with sector leaders over the past six months, is that the difficult recruitment market shows no signs of abating.  With no sight of additional funding or support on the horizon, the next 18 months could be troublesome for many.


Firstly, it is important to understand that today’s recruitment market is fragmented as we continue to struggle with a candidate led environment that has driven salary increases across all job areas (both commercial and public sector). Data suggests that 73% of employers are currently recruiting, 77% of whom do not have access to the skill sets they need and over 40% expecting to pay more than they are currently offering. 

Adding to this, we are operating within the context of significant economic uncertainty due to the cost-of-living agenda. There is an ongoing squeeze on public finances, pay awards are not matching the rate of inflation and candidates are less likely to relocate for career development. The pandemic has also sharpened thinking in terms of work and lifestyle balance, with many seeking to retain the benefits of working from home and 60% of employers now offering some form of hybrid working. Given the tight budgets that all education institutions work within, unions pushing the boundaries of what is affordable and the need to invest in technology to engage more effectively with students, there has never been a more challenging time in which to secure the best talent at the right price. 

A perfect storm, you might say! So, what of the solutions? Is it time to look at new ways to address the issue from a broader strategic perspective? One such solution used extensively in other business sectors is Talent Mapping.

What is Talent Mapping?

As we delve further into the issue, we must strategically address the chronic shortfall of skills facing the sector, where need outstrips capacity, especially as we see employer demands increase across technical and vocational training.  Rather than reacting in panic, the ability to meticulously map your market set against anticipated need, is incredibly powerful: an approach called Talent Mapping. Your target market is engaged with to identify what talent is available; location, level of pay, interest in your organisation and openness to a potential move (short, medium, long term), providing you the information to define and tailor a clear engagement strategy and drive better outcomes across all levels of recruitment. It is this market intelligence and candidate data that will set you apart from your competition, allowing you to plan more effectively and crucially, give you a clear insight into what you can do to access key skills when they are not obviously available.  

Talent Mapping is typically the most cost-effective approach to any long-term recruitment issue, but it needs a total commitment and profound understanding of your requirements in the short, medium and long term to be effective. Ultimately, Talent Mapping puts you in control of how you engage and present yourself to the talent you need both today and tomorrow.

How does it work?

Current status - firstly it is important to understand your current strategic agenda in terms of talent development set against the needs of your organisation, the perceived talent availability and regional demand to identify where skill shortfalls lie. Once you have identified the areas that you need to address it is also important to understand what you have previously done to fill such roles (such as advertising and headhunting) and the metrics in terms of spend against the results, what might have worked and what did not. Once you understand your needs and timeframe, you can start to talk about the talent mapping options that are most appropriate.

Plan the mapping exercise – with an understanding of what has gone before, you can work with a recruitment/research partner of choice to identify what type of process is required and target accordingly, ensuring that the right approach is taken to secure the appropriate data and market intelligence needed. It is important that they ask the right questions to unlock candidate information as well as understanding where you are as an organisation in terms of performance and any wider perception challenges in the market.

Map the market – your chosen partner will engage with the target audience building relationships that are open and engaging, centred around the potential candidate and their careers. Trust is essential at this stage. With Education it is helpful to understand that not everyone is visible outside of their organisation, so calls will need to be made into such organisations to ascertain the detail required. This is where experienced researchers make a tangible difference in terms of reaching out to those that are truly embedded in an organisation. Your partner organisation will have the conversations needed to gather the data and market intelligence that will shape your engagement strategy.  As well as gaining a strong understanding of what the candidates might be seeking, this approach will provide valuable information in terms of client perception (what potential candidates think of your organisation) and anything that you might need to address to become a more attractive proposition.

Data Analysis – once the data and market intelligence has been collated this needs to be presented to you accordingly, with recommendations aligned to your future plans. This data will allow you the opportunity to carefully consider you options, understand where people are in their career development cycle, their potential interest in your organisation and importantly what it would take to facilitate a move either now or in the future.

Next Steps – once you and your partner have discussed the outputs from the mapping process it will be important to act upon the information presented and subsequent discussions. This could mean your recruitment partners taking a lead on further engagement, but equally it might mean your organisation takes a more direct approach, which can be a very powerful engagement tool. It may also lead to collaboration with other institutions to build a mutual partnership to tackle a specific need, leading to further cost savings for all parties. Importantly you will have the information to make better and more informed decisions on recruitment spend, identify access points to engage more effectively and be more strategic in terms of how to build your talent pipeline and engagement strategy to save costs and alleviate long term recruitment issues.

In the coming months, the recruitment market could well become more difficult as the best talent may go to the highest bidder. With the uncertain economic outlook likely to persist, many people reflecting upon their long-term futures will proceed with great caution. In times like these, people are more circumspect in terms of their career and are less likely to want to move, preferring to await more stability, something we have observed increasingly over the past 12 months. It is exactly at such times that organisations need to think differently about recruitment and their talent pipeline strategies.  

To find out more about these and other recruitment solutions that may serve the needs of your organisation, please visit the Dodd Partners website or call John Dodd on 07545 431848 for an informal conversation.

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