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Budget response

Autumn Budget 2021: a start for the skills revolution

Justin Rix Justin Rix

Predictions called for a "skills revolution’’, but how has the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget announcement delivered for the people agenda? Justin Rix, Partner and Head of People Advisory at Grant Thornton, talks us through what it could mean for people leaders as we digest the coming changes.

Access to talent and the right skills is one of biggest challenges for businesses in the UK. Although the Autumn Budget touched on key points relating to talent, such as the skills shortage and national minimum wage increases, unfortunately, there was not a lot announced that will help to immediately alleviate the concerns of people leaders.

Keep reading to take a closer look at what was announced, how it might change your people agenda, and the opportunities that you can take from it.

National Living Wage is increasing - but will productivity levels keep up?

The National Living Wage will increase to £9.50 an hour, up from £8.91.

While welcome, people leaders need to consider their next moves carefully to ensure they reap the benefits of this change, without improved productivity it simply turns into an increase in cost.

Supply of labour still a concern post-pandemic

Supply of labour is something that has affected UK businesses long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 and Brexit has meant that the issue has only grown. The increase in minimum wage will not necessarily help people leaders to resolve the underlying lack of supply in the job market.

Help might come via extensions to the UK Visa regime, which could open doors for businesses looking to attract international talent - though will it be of sufficient scale?

Opening a ‘talent centre’ in countries like the US to attract highly skilled thinkers and innovators to work in the UK sounds inspiring but will not help us attract the lorry drivers or other 'low skilled' workers who can help solve pressing supply chain issues.

Skills shortages continue to hamper growth – but the government are trying to address it

The skills revolution that was predicted has been at least partially realised in the chancellor’s announcement with £3 billion given for initiatives such as skills boot camps and increased funding for apprenticeships.

Support for lifelong learning and reskilling was clear throughout the announcement. We are no longer expected, or encouraged, to have one role for our entire career.

A huge driver for this will be the Net Zero agenda, where a greener future for the UK brings with it greener jobs. The government are rewarding businesses who invest in green technologies, and we will see this realised in the job market. But the skills needed to deliver these job roles in the next 10 years will require a more dramatic change than we saw during the digital revolution in the last 10 years.

Business leaders can expect that this period of seismic change for the workforce will only continue.

Read: How can business leaders bring agility to their people model? →

What can you do to boost your people model?

Organisations need to retain talent, but also hold on to key members of their workforce who have roles that are going to disappear soon. The need for an agile mentality throughout the whole business will grow with every challenge that faces the people agenda. Here are three things you can focus on:

Have a relentless focus on your employer brand

If you want to win talent, then you need to stand out as an employer of choice.

Your goal should be to improve your attractiveness as an employer, if workers were not already in a bargaining position following the pandemic, they certainly will be soon. This has been a target for many of us over the last 18 months, and we know now more than ever that employees want choice and don’t want to work in the traditional way.

You need to . You need to be agile with your offerings, adapting to what your workforce wants from you.

Review your practices and policies and make sure they are fit for purpose in terms of your employer brand. Culture is critical, being purpose led and inclusive will be key for many people in deciding where they want to work.

Widen your recruitment net

You must be ready to find talent yourself and get better at doing it. Now is not the time to go to the same 12 universities to find graduate talent. Go to as many as possible, balance graduates with school leavers and change where you go each year. Spread your talent pool as broadly as you can and reap the benefits in terms of diversity and inclusion.

You need to revisit how you onboard and recruit people. Talk to new joiners about the development cycle and get them invested in your company as early as you can. Attracting more diversity into the business is just the first step, being inclusive is the key to retaining that diversity.

Grow the skills you need

If you want workers who are skilled, committed, productive and have an affinity to your company, you need to take steps yourself to create this workforce. Particularly if you are competing for skills which are in high demand.

Look at apprenticeships for young talent but also those in later life who want to upskill or change their profession. Someone who already works in your business will be much easier to reskill, and much more committed to staying with you.

Now rather than competing for talent, you will be growing your own.

Read: Finding and keeping the skills you need →

Help your business undertake transformational change

From accessing talent and capitalising on government incentives, to constructing your growth strategy around reskilling and upskilling your people to ensure your business is future-fit, let us know your priorities and we’ll connect you with the right team

Finding and keeping the skills you need How to address the deepening skills gap in the UK mid-market