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Unlocking Success in the UK: A Guide to International Business Expansion and Recruitment

8 months ago by Gravitas Recruitment Group
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​If you’re a company eyeing expansion into the United Kingdom, grasping the intricacies of UK hiring practices is of paramount importance. Or perhaps you are already working in the UK and need a specialist recruitment partner you can trust? This guide serves as your compass, delving into the hiring process, regulatory requirements, cultural subtleties, and efficient recruitment strategies to give your business hiring success.

Market overview

The UK's job market is a vibrant tapestry, boasting a multitude of industries and sectors. The landscape is richly diversified, encompassing industries such as technology, financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing. Additionally, there is a growing demand for skilled workers in areas related to sustainability, renewable energy, and digital transformation. Since the pandemic remote work practices have developed and evolved, leading to fluctuations in sector-specific job demand.

Current job market trends

Skilled workforce: The UK boasts a highly educated workforce, with 57.47% of employees holding at least a degree. This high level of education makes it one of the most skilled workforces in the world.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Progress in diversity has been evident in recent years. However, solely concentrating on enhancing diversity isn't sufficient to address the systemic issues related to workplace equity, individual biases, and exclusive organisational cultures. Therefore, it is essential for successful companies to have a deep comprehension of how these factors operate and to adopt policies that enhance inclusivity for all individuals.

Employee wellbeing: The importance of employee wellbeing has taken centre stage in recent years. Reflecting wider societal trends in the UK, companies are placing a strong emphasis on mental health support and wellness initiatives, highlighting the need to support employees with mental and physical health challenges.

Digital transformation: The UK is at the vanguard of much of the digital economy, requiring a workforce skilled in digital technologies. Recruitment of professionals with expertise in areas such as data analytics, cybersecurity, project management and software development are vital to thrive amidst ongoing technological advancements.

Skill shortages: Certain industries in the UK, such as tech, are confronted with shortages of skilled professionals, compelling companies to present enticing compensation and growth prospects to attract top talent. To combat these shortages, adjustments may be necessary in recruitment and retention approaches since the tech sector's growth and stability greatly depend on the pool of available talent.

Gig economy evolution: The gig economy continues to evolve, offering opportunities and challenges. International businesses should consider how freelancers and contract workers can contribute to their business objectives providing greater flexibility and enhancing access to a greater range of specific skills sets.

Environmental sustainability: Environmental sustainability has increasingly become a core business concern. In an age where consumers expect businesses to be employing sustainable materials in the manufacturing process and have greater transparency and knowledge of their supply chains to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Corporations are also expected to be increasing their use of renewable energy sources, all with the aim of reducing their carbon footprint. Have you considered building a sustainable recruitment strategy? Check out our article offering advice here.

Upskilling and reskilling: Investing in upskilling and reskilling programs is essential to help employees stay relevant in an ever-changing job market and foster a culture of continuous learning, this is particularly the case in dynamic, fast-changing industries such as tech.

Remote and hybrid work: As we know, COVID-19 pandemic led to a substantial shift towards remote and hybrid work arrangements. As a result, many companies shifted their working practices, but there are some businesses that could benefit from more comprehensive remote work policies, particularly those younger employees who have not experienced a prolonged period of time working in offices pre-pandemic.

Legal and regulatory considerations

Although the UK is a particularly business-friendly location, hiring in the UK requires a deep understanding of the legal and regulatory landscape. Key considerations include:

Minimum Wage Rates: The UK has a national minimum wage (NMW) and a national living wage (NLW), most recently updated in April 2023, the NMW is now £10.42. Compliance is crucial to avoid legal repercussions.

Minimum Annual Leave: UK law mandates a minimum of 28 days of paid leave for employees, including public and bank holidays. Employers can decide whether unused leave can be carried over.

Statutory Sick Pay: Employees earning above a minimum limit are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) after four days of illness. Employers pay SSP, which is £109.40 per week, for up to 28 weeks.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE): Responsibility lies with the employers who must deduct the correct amount from employees' paychecks for national insurance and income tax. Other deductions, such as pension contributions are also taken at this point.

Workplace Pensions: Again, another mandatory requirement. Employers must provide a pension scheme for eligible workers. Both employers and employees contribute to the pension fund.

Maximum Working Time: The UK places a cap on the number of hours employees can work per week, typically averaging 48 hours over 17 weeks. This is often known as the ‘working time directive.’

Cultural nuances

Understanding cultural differences is crucial when hiring in the UK. British work culture values professionalism, punctuality, and clear communication. Even smiling and making eye contact are of significant importance in interpersonal business inactions. International companies should be mindful of these practices to foster positive workplace relationships. Other factors to consider include:

Work-life balance: In the UK, employees place a premium on work-life balance, making it advantageous for companies that prioritise this aspect in their policies to not only attract but also retain motivated staff.

Hybrid work preferences: It's important to acknowledge that employees' preferences for remote or hybrid work arrangements can differ significantly. Some individuals believe that working from home enhances their productivity by minimising office-related distractions.

Collaboration and creativity: Although remote work has gained prominence, many employers and employees still highly regard face-to-face meetings and collaboration as they perceive these activities as fostering creativity and teamwork.

Office distractions: Traditional office settings in the UK are sometimes marred by issues like conversations with colleagues and disruptive office noise, which employees often find distracting. Remote work can serve as a solution to these challenges for certain individuals. Recognising and adapting to these cultural subtleties can aid international companies in tailoring their hiring and HR strategies to align with the expectations of the UK workforce.

Recruitment strategies

Effective recruitment strategies for international companies in the UK involve utilising the on-the-ground and sector-specific knowledge of recruitment consultancies. Other forms of recruitment employ job portals, social media, and professional networks.

Challenges for employers can often be a result of the competitive nature of the job market. Therefore, recruitment opportunities lie in attracting talent with innovative benefits and career development programmes. Possessing an outstanding employer brand is of paramount importance, as well as communicating your corporate values, as employees increasingly rank these qualities above others when considering switching jobs.

To find out more about how to improve your employer branding, read our article here.

Effective recruitment strategies in the UK

Option 1: Harness the knowledge and experience of local recruitment agencies specialised in your industry and/or specialism. This approach streamlines the recruitment procedure and grants access to a reservoir of suitable, actively-looking candidates. This one-stop approach reduces the administration and time it takes to recruit, leaving you time to work on other business priorities. As a minimum, a recruitment agency should:

  • Produce a hiring strategy following a consultation

  • Activate a recruitment campaign including advertising, social media, headhunting, networking.

  • The best thing about working with a recruitment agency is quick access to a database of specialist candidates that the agency has screened and built a relationship with. This can make recruitment fast, and also better quality then conducting your own search from scratch.

  • Manage the recruitment process from start to finish, ensuring compliance with legislation, providing a quality shortlist, managing the interview process, and assisting with offer negotiation.

  • Not only are they responsible for providing regular communication to you as the client, they should also manage all candidate communication to protect and build your company brand and reputation.

Option 2: If you have the inhouse resources you could build your own recruitment plan. This could include as a minimum:

  • Deciding on a plan and budget.

  • Paying for and publishing job vacancies on well-recognised job boards that enjoy extensive use within the UK.

  • Publishing the job on your own website and building your own database of prospective candidates.

  • Setting up a career web page or website section to sell your company as a great place to work.

  • Having an inhouse person or team to manage the recruitment process from start to finish, ensuring compliance with legislation.

With both of these options there are lots of other tools and techniques needed to produced a successful recruitment campaign. The more unique and targeted you can make the campaign the better.

In-demand industries and skill sets

Certain sectors and skill sets are currently experiencing significant demand in the United Kingdom, with the STEM industries, such as technology and digital taking the lead.

Occupations that are particularly in high demand include software engineers, JavaScript engineers, and product lifecycle engineers. Additionally, positions in areas such as data, DevOps, cloud, and cybersecurity are also greatly valued due to shortages of skilled professionals in these domains. Although London boasts the highest concentration of such roles, other digital hubs can be found in cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, and Leicester.

The technology sector continues to be a robust and rapidly growing component of the British economy. According to Tech Nation's People and Skills Report for 2022, the proportion of technology-related roles in the UK job market has surged from 11% in 2019 to 14% by the close of the last year.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

International corporations have the capacity to nurture diversity, equity, and inclusion by instituting inclusive recruitment methods, championing equal prospects, and fostering a workplace where employees from diverse backgrounds are appreciated. The advantages of these actions encompass heightened creativity, innovation, and a more comprehensive approach to decision-making.

While substantial progress has been achieved thus far, a considerable path lies ahead. To address hurdles such as unconscious bias, the adoption of practices like considering only anonymous CVs can yield a profoundly constructive influence. Elevating the diversity of voices and life experiences within the organisation can genuinely enhance organisational troubleshooting and the generation of exceptional creative solutions.

Adapting to local needs

When international businesses venture into the fiercely competitive UK market, it becomes crucial to establish a favourable business atmosphere marked by a highly motivated workforce. As a result, these companies must contemplate providing attractive salaries to entice and retain exceptional talent.

Nevertheless, salary considerations alone may not prove adequate. Simultaneously, there's a need to offer avenues for training and skill enhancement. Furthermore, companies that wholeheartedly adopt policies fostering a harmonious work-life balance will not only enhance employee morale but also bolster retention rates.

Would you like expert hiring advice?

The process of recruiting employees in the UK can be a challenging endeavour involving a range of legal, cultural, and strategic factors. Equipping international companies with a deep understanding of the UK's job market, legal framework, and cultural intricacies empowers them to make well-informed hiring choices and successfully establish their foothold in this dynamic economy.

Collaborating with seasoned recruitment experts like Gravitas can play a pivotal role in acquiring the essential talent to not only meet but surpass your business objectives when expanding internationally. Contact our team for an initial consultation.

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