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Seven challenges facing HR teams in 2019

Posted on 21/03/2019 by Alex Gittins

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2019 looks set to be a challenging year for non-profit and public sector HR teams. Uncertainty around future funding streams, the impact of Brexit and the health of the economy have left many charities reluctant to hire permanent staff in the last few years. This has left many organisations struggling to respond to growing social needs – according to the latest REC JobsOutlook, 82% of UK employers have either little or no surplus workforce capacity.

The REC report shows that while UK organisations are more likely to be planning to increase their workforce in the next 3 months, around half are concerned about the availability of candidates, a significant increase from the previous year.

Rising numbers of vacancies and shrinking unemployment, together with a drop in the number of EU nationals employed in the third sector, has shifted the recruitment market. Employers are having to work harder to attract the best candidates and retain their existing staff. Following are seven of the key challenges that charity HR teams are likely to face in 2019.

1. Continued candidate shortages

Increasing competition for the best talent will mean many non-profit organisations will have to revisit their recruitment processes. In particular, employers need to speed up their time to hire – taking months to appoint a new member of staff is likely to mean you miss out on the best candidates.

Charities can also combat candidate shortages by developing more effective relationships with their recruitment suppliers. Rather than sending every role out to all the agencies on their books, some organisations are now choosing instead to focus on working with one or two. According to the JobsOutlook report, the most important factors when choosing an agency are quality of service and the agency’s expertise in your sector. Once you’ve found a partner that matches these conditions, working closely with them will give them greater insight into your organisation’s needs and culture and allow them to find candidates who more closely match your requirements.

2. Demand for higher compensation

After a long period of static salaries, wages in the UK have now started to rise once more, which means the charity sector will have to improve compensation in order to attract staff. According to TPP’s latest salary survey, a higher salary is the number one motivator for employees to change roles.

While job satisfaction will always remain a motivating force for charity sector employees, if not for profit organisations do not pay their workforce a reasonably competitive wage, they risk losing their current employees and being unable to attract new members of staff.

For those organisations who are simply unable to increase salaries at this time, the only option is to look at offering better benefits and increased work flexibility.

You can read more on the benefits non-profit employees receive and actually want in our latest salary survey.

3. Tailored benefit packages

While salary is the most important consideration for job hunters, the opportunity for flexible working is the deciding factor in many roles. Employees increasingly expect to be able to work in a pattern that fits their lifestyle, and there are many different options employers can now offer their staff, depending on their life stage and individual needs.

Younger employees may prefer TOIL schemes and the opportunity to earn extra holiday days, while working parents may be looking for flexible working to fit around childcare, such as shorter working hours in the week, compressed hours, term-time working or working from home.

Offering individual benefits, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, can really give your organisation a boost when attracting new staff.

4. Opportunities for career advancement

TPP’s last Salary, Rewards & Retention survey showed that only 40% of respondents have any training booked in for the next 12 months. Only 41% receive regular support for professional development, even though it was the third most-desired benefit for respondents.

Better career progression is a cost-effective way for charities to retain their staff and get the most from their abilities, as well as a real enticement for candidates.

These are some of the best ways to boost career development in your organisation:

  • Set career paths for all employees with clear promotion markers
  • If you can’t promote employees, then give them opportunities to take on extra responsibilities
  • Hold open training sessions to allow staff to learn new skills from other employees
  • Offer individual training where needed to bring new skills in to the organisation
  • Create mentoring schemes

Rather than hiring new employees with all the skills they will need (and a corresponding salary) many organisations are instead choosing candidates with potential and training them up on the job. The employees have greater work satisfaction through continuous professional development and the employer has a greater pool of candidates to choose from.

5. Supplying feedback in recruitment

The number one frustration candidates have always had with the recruitment process is a lack of timely and meaningful feedback and if they have a negative experience it’s easier than ever before for them to share it, whether in person, on employer review sites or on social media. Research from CareerArc found that 72% of candidates who had a poor recruitment experience shared in online or with someone directly. Too much negative feedback could damage your employer brand and make it harder to attract candidates in the future.

The easiest way to combat this is to give candidates constructive feedback in a timely manner on their performance, as soon as possible after an interview. Even if they are not successful, being given advice they can use to improve their interview performance in the future can turn a negative experience into a positive one.

6. Improving diversity

According to the NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac 2018, the charity sector is not a diverse one. Only 9% of its workforce is from a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) background, compared to 12% in the private sector. There are more women than men working in the charity sector overall, but this reverses at the senior end of the pay scale. Voluntary sector workers are also slightly older than those in the public and private sector, and more likely to have a university degree.

Diversity is a hot topic in the third sector this year, as demonstrated by the IoF’s campaign to improve diversity in fundraising. Much of improving diversity centres around improving recruitment in order to attract more candidates from different backgrounds and remove unconscious bias to make the process fairer.

Some of the ways to do this include:

  • Removing unconscious bias from job descriptions
  • Requesting blind CVs with no names or other identifying details
  • Ensuring interview panels are as diverse as possible
  • Conducting strength-based interviews, rather than focussing on previous experience
  • Scoring candidates in an identical way

7. Creating an inclusive environment

Once you’ve improved attracting more diverse employees, it’s vital to create an inclusive environment so they stay with your organisation. Inclusive organisations make all of their employees feel involved in setting and achieving their goals. They need to have an atmosphere of trust and respect, where all suggestions are considered and there are no ‘bad’ ideas. Inclusivity is built on open and transparent communication between the SMT and the rest of the workforce.


If your organisation needs some tailored advice on recruiting and retaining staff, why not contact TPP Recruitment Human Resources team on 020 7198 6140 or