‘New skills’ the key to growth for East Midlands businesses

(left to right): Grant Thornton’s Ellie Burford and Jenny Blackwell.

East Midlands’ Millennials embarking on building a future career need new skills including collaboration, adaptability and resilience, according to the findings of the Talent and Skills Growth report produced by business and financial adviser Grant Thornton.

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), potential skills shortages due to Brexit, and high employment, all spell rapid changes to work, according to Grant Thornton’s People Power Report, which says that the identified ‘new skills’, as well as technical skills, will be in high demand from the region’s growing businesses.

“Our People Power Report revealed that businesses whose turnover increased by more than 20% in the last year identify talent and skills as key accelerators, but also barriers to, growth, with three-quarters (75%) saying recruiting talent is a challenge in their organisation,” explains Chris Frostwick, practice leader of Grant Thornton’s East Midlands office.

“The report found that one in two employers have difficulty recruiting the people they need, while a further 92% currently don’t have the skills within their business they will require over the next five years. This talent gap needs bridging to futureproof business success.”

Millennials (16-25 year olds) are expected to make up a third of the global workforce by 2020, and Grant Thornton’s research shows that although over half (56%) still seek competitive pay, and good career prospects (52%), they also prioritise working for organisations with an ethical and responsible approach (30%) that make a difference to society (25%).

“We’re entering a new phase of industrialisation,” says Chris. “High employment rates and the rise of job review sites like Glassdoor means that workers have never had more power. It’s important for East Midlands businesses and leaders to share best practice and strategies that are successfully addressing the skills and talent challenge.”

Grant Thornton hosted an event at its East Midlands office in Leicester, to discuss the findings of the People Power report with regional firms: “The session aimed to begin building a better understanding of the challenges local businesses are facing and how they are approaching finding and retaining skills and talent,” explains Jenny Blackwell, Business Partner at Grant Thornton.

“Talent management is a pressing concern for employers across the region – and the UK as a whole – and there is no simple, universal solution to the challenges they face in recruiting and retaining the skilled people needed to unlock their full business potential.

“Drawing on in depth research, our People Power report identifies the main barriers to talent attraction and retention facing fast growth businesses – finding people with the right mindset to drive growth; competing for in-demand talent; retaining skills in a rapidly evolving environment; and equipping people for the workplace of the future.

“It was clear from discussions at the event, that East Midlands businesses can identify with these challenges, with many saying some of the region’s largest sectors, such as logistics, appear to hold little appeal to millennials and the next generation of talent.

“Businesses also feel a growing disconnect between senior executives and millennials, so they don’t really know what it is millennials are looking for from an employer. For many millennials, this is something as straightforward as a good pension; they’ve seen the impact of the 2008 crash on their parents so want to know their futures are secure.

“It would seem that the barometer for East Midlands’ millennials has shifted, and their future career is about more than just high technology.”

Employers also rate emotional skills, as Jenny explains: “Once upon a time, employers were looking to get people with the best A-Level results, but now they need people who will be resilient, dynamic, flexible, which isn’t information an employer is going to get through traditional models of recruitment.

“Thinking more laterally about how to attract employees with the right values and potential over formal qualifications can uncover new pools of talent and deliver wider possibilities for growth.”

In 2013, Grant Thornton became the first professional firm to remove academic barriers to entry to its industry leading training programme, with positive rewards.