Many wonderful things have emanated from Cornwall over the years – the eponymous pasty, damp childhood holidays, the A303 and, er, Rory McGrath. And now we can add another – a touching story from last week that the county, or more specifically, the Cornish race, has been recognised as a national minority group. As well as bringing with it tax, lobbying and financial benefits, the Cornish brand is likely to experience greater amplification. Now whether this recognition ultimately leads to changes in employment rights is perhaps too early to tell, it is, however, indicative of a more general re-focusing around diversity and inclusion. If there has been a sense that the economic downturn potentially obscured these issues in favour of greater pragmatism, then there are emerging any number of signs that such workplace inclusivity concerns remain as barriers to entry and progression.

Are you ready for the ‘workforce cliff’?

TMP, for example, is hosting an important seminar around the recruitment of a diverse workforce, to be hosted at the Bank of England in a month’s time. And there are few issues that bring institutions from apparent polar extremes such as the Economist and McDonald’s together. Last month, the fast food retailer cited a European Commission report which pointed to the ‘workforce cliff’ – falling birth rates and older people living longer means that the working age population is shrinking. Countries such as Germany face the prospect of a stagnant or indeed declining labour pool within the next two years. For the UK, there is a stay of execution, in that the working age population is not due to stop growing until 2020, giving us more time to prepare.

The Economist’s own research added some interesting context in terms of how UK organisations were beginning to prepare for this. 76% of UK employers expect the number of those within their workforces aged 60 and over to increase, with 29% suggesting this number will expand significantly. Of equal concern, however, is the lack of preparation taking place within UK boardrooms. Just one in 17 currently view this as a problem – a figure that jumps fourfold when the survey asked them to answer the same question for 2020. Of similar concern were the findings that just 28% of UK executives are planning to keep the skills of older workers up to date and that even fewer (18%) would adapt their structures and working practices to ensure that older employees could work fewer hours, yet still feel valued.

Appealing to the entire workforce

This is a fascinating and revealing – and more relevant to some of us than we might care to admit – piece of research. The UK economy has had a stellar last 12 months, driven in no small fashion by the fact that the working population has expanded and is now over 30m. If such labour growth is not to continue it will have a stark bearing on the economy’s ability, or otherwise, to flourish.

It is clear then that organisations – from fast food retailers through to the boardrooms of the Economist’s report – will have to ensure their employer brand is capable of both reaching out and appealing to a workforce that includes individuals into their 60s, and is able to ensure those existing employees of a similar age feel wanted, included and engaged. As the need for organisations to articulate their career messaging to older audiences becomes more and more of a business imperative, some great employer brands, John Lewis perhaps, have greater empathy and touch with these labour pools than perhaps others – Google might, for example, have its own challenges in this regard.

Diversity – the key to benefitting from labour growth

And economic sentiment suggests there has never been a more important time to ensure that an organisation’s employer brand is delivering on both a functional and emotional level. In 2003, the CBI began collecting outlook data across the UK. The most recent sounding from April this year recorded the strongest feedback yet recorded. And this is entirely consistent with data from the REC/KPMG Jobs Outlook monthly survey from last week. Among the usual statistics – 75% of employers intend to increase permanent employees over the next three months and just 2% plan to reduce headcount in the medium term – was one gem. The proportion of employers with absolutely no spare capacity to take on any new work, rose to 32%. Employers – as well as UK plc – will find their ability to respond to a rising economic tide limited tangibly by their capacity to hire and retain. Organisations too who are not able to engage with a key – and growing – minority (and a minority which we will all eventually personally relate to) such as older workers may find they are shutting themselves off to the only growth labour demographic around.

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Written by Neil Harrison, head of employer branding & insight, TMP Worldwide

Heading up TMP’s employer branding practice, I have lead major branding projects for organisations such as Unilever, Santander, Telefonica, Pizza Express, HSBC, the MoD, Bank of America and EON. Employer branding is now established as a core offering within TMP and an integral part of our corporate vision. I am also responsible for the delivery of both best practice research-based discovery within employer branding but also new industry initiatives – this includes a major presentation of some bespoke employer branding research earlier this year.

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