Looking out over my garden on a predictably wet and downcast bank holiday Monday, it’s hard not to recognise the changing of the landscape. The grass is woefully overgrown, I urgently need to locate my secateurs from wherever they’re hiding and it’s hard not to marvel at just how many weeds one very modest garden can house. And as spring evolves soggily into summer, some clear analogies for the economy and the employment market can be drawn.

Last week saw some fascinating news around the UK economy. It’s very apparent that the last year has seen a return to buoyancy not witnessed since pre-recession. And this is telling. Although GDP rose 1.9% in 2013 and is set to hit 3.4% this year, it is only this quarter that the economy has finally edged over its pre-financial crisis peak of 2008. It has taken us six long years to reach that point. For me, though, this is about looking forwards. It can be all too easy to have half an eye on where we were rather where we are heading.

Easy pickings during cautious times

Take interest rates, for example. The Bank of England has a major challenge on its hands in terms of timing when and at what pace to ease up interest rates from their five-year record low of 0.5%. Looking at economic growth and, in particular, a housing market that looks dangerously over-heated in some areas, there is a strong argument for raising rates. The counterview, however, is concerned with the damage to our nascent economic growth and stopping the fledgling recovery in its tracks. For me, there is also a sense that we have become used to economic caution and wariness.

This is all too clear to see in the employment market. For those employers who have been in recruitment mode over the past few years, is there a sense that hiring has been easy (maybe too easy) across a number of labour pools? That perhaps they haven’t had to try that hard? That recruitment has been directed at low hanging candidate fruit?

Because of the economic gloom of the past half decade, many employees have stayed longer at their current employers than they would have done otherwise. As a result, these people feel more entrenched and embedded financially – their salaries have not risen meteorically but they have progressed. And what do they see from recruiting organisations? Employers who appear to be lowering the salary bar and offering money to attract those without work or without choice. It doesn’t end there.

These same employees, because their tenure is longer than might have been the case, have more skin in the game from a benefits perspective. Pensions, sharesave schemes and staff mortgages all make leaving a current employer harder to do in the absence of a perfect offer or a recruiter who is cognisant of how interwoven many potential hires are with their current employer.

Meet your target talent pool on their level

The same scenario is also apparent within personal lives. Staying that bit longer in their current roles is likely to create a far greater degree of flexibility. Many people will have built up the licence or space whereby their employer allows them to make the school run, leave early on occasion or get involved in volunteering. They fear that by changing jobs, that will disappear.

So, if the market has not become entirely employee driven, smart employers will recognise that the landscape has shifted. They are no longer hiring in a soft market. The CBI suggests unemployment will hit 6.2% by the start of 2015, and the latest PMI index hit 59.3 for April (London’s was an eye watering 62), a significant rise on March’s already strong figures.

But, more to the point, those same employers need to walk in the shoes of their target hiring pools. These people do not sense that employers are reaching out to them. They feel that salaries of hiring organisations are lower than they should be and certainly not high enough to prompt a move from an employer they feel used to and comfortable (if not delighted) with.

Employers who want to recruit right now must realise the sense of comfort and convenience (rather than true engagement) that their would-be hires feel and shape their value proposition messaging, channel selection and financial offer accordingly.

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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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