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THE UK jobs market is experiencing a ‘scrabble’ for talent as employers struggle to find good quality staff, according to the chief executive officer of a leading Midlands recruitment agency.

Saira Demmer, who heads the specialist recruitment company SF Recruitment, said that as firms ‘pull out all the stops’ to attract top talent, job candidates are realising their worth in the market and can be more demanding – and that is contributing to the current wage inflation.

Saira was speaking during a studio panel discussion – hosted by TV presenter Dan Walker – about the issues of attracting and retaining talent, at a live online event organised by employee engagement specialist Best Companies.

The event also saw the unveiling of a number of rankings in the UK’s 2022 Best Companies to Work For national league table – with SF Recruitment being named third in the UK’s Best Small Companies to Work For category.

The success of the firm, which has offices in Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester, follows the launch of a new package of working policies and employee benefits in a three-year £1.2m transformation which saw its management team become owners in the company and every employee given a stake in future profits.

As well as the company’s own commitment to high employee engagement, its position as a leading specialist recruiter across the country gives it an ideal overview of the jobs market.

Describing the problems currently facing employers, Saira told the event’s audience: “The jobs market is very heated at the moment. We have the lowest level of candidates that we’ve seen in decades, coupled with the highest levels of vacancies, which is contributing to what is not even a war for talent, it’s almost a scrabble for talent.”

She said the situation had been created by almost five years of business investment being held back because of the uncertainty caused by the Brexit referendum and then by the pandemic.

“So this latent demand that has suddenly appeared, coupled with businesses which have come out of the pandemic with a slightly different direction or have a renewed sense of purpose, is creating new jobs and new demand,” said Saira.

“We suddenly have the most buoyant jobs market and highest number of vacancies that we’ve seen for a very long time at the same time as a number of candidates had decided to step away from the jobs market completely.

“People are understanding how difficult it is to find good quality employees and pulling out all the stops to get them and of course the candidates understand their worth – and that’s contributing to the wage inflation that we’re seeing as well.

“Since the pandemic and with people coming back into work, employees really understand their power and that means they can be more demanding. Flexibility is really important and is something that employers are more ready to accommodate now.”

In the Best Companies league tables – compiled as a result of surveying employee engagement in each accredited organisation – SF Recruitment was also recognised in third place in the UK’s Best Recruitment Companies to Work For. It came fifth in the West Midlands’ Best Companies to Work For and eighth in the East Midlands’ Best Companies to Work For, both regardless of size.

Its success is a reflection of the levels of autonomy and flexibility given to the company’s people, said Saira.

“Having an ownership structure where every employee has a real stake in the business – and the sense of purpose and belonging that comes with that – is very powerful for us,” she said.

“The most important thing has been the real focus on the individual autonomy to choose your own hours. We allow our people to work wherever, whenever and however – in the office, at home, a mixture of both, or somewhere completely different because that’s what you need at that moment in your life.

“The business is there as a safety net in the background but we really have given that onus to everybody to choose how, when and the way that they work, to make their job as fulfilling as possible for them.”

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