Talent Acquisition

Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent Remains Biggest HR Challenge

In an environment plagued by skills shortages, finding and retaining talent remains the biggest HR challenge:  half (51%) of HR managers say they struggle to find people with the right skills to do the job, according to a new survey by AXELOS, custodian of some of the world’s most sought-after certifications.

Adding to the pressure is an awareness that hiring the wrong external candidate now costs in the region of £17,000* (£16,843, to be precise), according to the 500 HR managers questioned by AXELOS. That sum covers recruitment fees, advertising, assessment of applications, interviews, induction, and training (onboarding), and the first three months of salary (£7810); it also factors in such negatives as poor work outputs, loss of productivity, disruption to projects and then the cost of putting things right by recruiting someone new (£9033).

To address the skills gap and prepare their workforce for the digital economy, 41% of businesses now favor training and up-skilling existing employees for new roles, while a similar proportion (41%) say they will recruit entry-level candidates who will receive training once they are in place.

But one-fifth (21%) of businesses say they find it difficult to find the budget to train and up-skill existing employees to meet their needs, and 22% say that it is a struggle to get employees to participate in continued professional development (CPD).   Bearing these challenges in mind, 42% of businesses say that promotions for existing employees with relevant skills will be conditional upon no need for further training, while just over a third (36%) of businesses will continue to recruit talent externally.

While these measures might seem expedient, AXELOS warns that organizations that fail to invest in training and CPD for their staff could be damaging their employee brands and even their human capital. This assertion is supported by a separate survey of 1,000 employees, also conducted by AXELOS: over half (55%) of respondents say they would prefer to remain with their current employer, but only if new career and training opportunities are on offer.

Fortunately, digital badges for qualifications and CPD provide some new hope when it comes to both recruitment and retention. In fact, their growing adoption is bringing multiple benefits on both sides of the employer/employee equation.

By engaging in CPD and adopting digital badging for new certifications, employees are demonstrating a commitment to growth and development that will favor their internal mobility.  At the same time, digital badges can showcase an individual to existing and potential employers, emphasizing the credibility and currency of their professional qualifications.  55% of employees will take a more favorable view of businesses offering CPD and digital badges, saying that they are more likely to remain loyal to an employer that invests in CPD; if it comes to finding a new job, they are likely to see an organization offering CPD as more attractive.

For the employer, digital badges represent a proven and effective way for HR departments, hiring managers and recruiters to ensure that candidates have up-to-date skills that are relevant to the job in question.  At the same time, digital badges enhance employee satisfaction, since they demonstrate the employer’s commitment to investing in improving the skills of its workforce and encouraging loyalty among its employees. 30% of HR managers agree that digital badges motivate employees to participate in CPD.

Amrit Saroya, AXELOS’ Head of Professional Development, says:

“Recruitment is just one way for employers to invest in strengthening their workforce.

Businesses should also take account of the quantifiable benefits of investing in the continued personal development of their employees: it constitutes a way of increasing both productivity and retention. They should also more explicitly consider the real costs associated with hiring someone who is not right for the job, and also of failing to invest in CPD. If, as our research has indicated, only four in ten employers continue to invest the training and CPD, the majority of businesses will continue to face daunting challenges in recruiting and retaining top talent. This can even prove damaging to existing teams and the employee brand.

There is, of course, no single answer to this whole issue, but digital badges are increasingly proving a valuable asset for both employers and employees. They are user-friendly and encourage recognition and transparency.  ITIL and PRINCE2 are among the most sought-after professional certifications in the UK, and AXELOS is a keen advocate of digital badging: our practitioners really can see their qualification as a ‘badge of honour’ and employers gain rapid reassurance that they are making a sound investment when investing in CPD through the qualifications we offer.”

The average cost to the employer of hiring and replacing new recruits.

Sector Recruitment cost Replacement cost Total cost
IT & Telecoms £11,847 £13,835 £25,682
Finance & Accounting £10,217 £12,170 £22,387
Legal £13,207 £15,036 £28,243
Manufacturing £9,350 £11,414 £20,764
Construction £7,431 £10,429 £17,860
Retail £7,384 £7,412 £14,796
Media, Marketing & PR £7,807 £10,288 £18,095



Region Recruitment cost Replacement cost Total cost
North £7,186 £9,071 £16,257
Midlands £7,994 £10,307 £18,301
East £9,305 £10,311 £19,616
London £9,101 £11,085 £20,186
South £8,319 £10,090 £18,409
Wales £6,646 £8,466 £15,112
Scotland £6,441 £10,155 £16,596

About the author: AXELOS is responsible for developing, enhancing and promoting a number of best practice methodologies used globally by professionals working primarily in project, program and portfolio management, IT service management and cyber resilience. The methodologies, including ITIL®, PRINCE2®, PRINCE2 Agile® MSP® and the new collection of cyber resilience best practice products, RESILIA®, are adopted in more than 150 countries to improve employees’ skills, knowledge, and competence in order to make both individuals and organizations work more effectively. 

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