Laura Spears is Head of People for leading Change and Project Management firm Marbral Advisory. In this article, she discusses the skills crisis in the Islands and investigates ways to create a sustainable workforce.
Living and working in a small island it is impossible not to be aware of the skills gap and the reliance on filling these gaps from outside the Channel Islands. There’s over 1000 vacant positions in Guernsey alone right now, which is being heralded as the largest recruitment crisis in 30 years and Jersey is faring no better. This figure is daunting, however there are signs that change is afoot, and that businesses, sectors and individuals are opening their minds to less traditional models of both education and work.
Over the past year we have seen businesses across all sectors adapt and change to try and cope with the challenges brought about by the pandemic. In many cases, individuals and businesses alike have reassessed how they operate, and many have chosen to make a change. A number of people have chosen to relocate, driven by a desire to achieve a better work/life balance. Some businesses have also embraced flexibility for the long term, allowing individuals more choice in terms of where they work, reducing operational overheads and increasing loyalty through empowering their employees to work in a way that best suits them.
Creating On-Island Opportunities
September saw the usual flux of first year students heading off to university with all of the excitement, hope and promise that brings. But what opportunities are available on island for those wanting to take a different route? It seems there’s a lot more that can be done in this area but there are also some great opportunities available now. Alternative learning paths, such as the Digital Leadership Programme offered by Digital Jersey: https://www.digital.je/digital-jersey-academy/digital-leadership-programme/ are an excellent way of encouraging the on-island development of skills that are in such demand. Additionally, in both Jersey and Guernsey, Barclays Eagle Lab's incubator and accelerator programmes are providing an excellent service by growing the next generation of entrepreneurs and encouraging innovation.
Another refreshing approach to addressing the widening gap, is the willingness of some businesses to embrace flexible, shared or split roles where historically there would have been a single full-time person in the post. Not only does this approach encourage skilled workers who are restricted in the number of hours or days that they can work, back into the workplace, it also spreads knowledge and reduces key person risk.
Whilst we are all keenly aware of the need to fill gaps in our workforce, we must be equally mindful of retaining those that we already have. Investing in development and upskilling through appropriate training is something that we are seeing more of across sectors. Active engagement in employee wellbeing is also a hot topic, and so it should be. We cannot fail to be aware of the direct link between organisational/individual wellbeing and levels of churn in the market. If you are yet to read the results of the Channel Islands’ Wellbeing Report 2021, you should do so now and use it to inform your People Strategy for next year.
At Marbral Advisory, we support businesses who are going through periods of change. This may be by providing interim specialist resource that is not available ‘in house’ to facilitate a particular project, or we may support a business through a programme of cultural change and associated learning. We also work very hard to practice what we preach. We are agile in our approach and as a result, so are our team. We encourage our team and our clients to work flexibly and establish a routine that suits the unique requirements of their people. We are also strong supporters of transferrable skills and welcome career changers and people looking to come back into the workforce on a part time basis. There is real value in the concept of hiring the ‘person’ rather than the ‘qualification’ – research has shown that those who have something to prove tend to go the extra mile when it comes to their work.
One of our focusses for 2022 is to champion organisational wellbeing. Following the Channel Islands’ Wellbeing Report, which provides some interesting insights into the state of corporate wellbeing across our islands, we have begun to implement the 5 Ways To Wellbeing Framework with a view to rolling it out to our wider team in the new year. This is a simple step that all organisations can take to start their journey on improving corporate wellbeing. By embedding wellbeing programmes authentically, companies can see great results in staff health, staff retention and productivity.
A United Front
We all need to work together in the Channel Islands to provide opportunities and environments that can grow the talent we need, retain it and re capture it when it returns. There is no ‘quick fix’ but if we continue to sow the seeds of opportunity across our sectors, implement innovative ideas and embrace positive change, then there is hope that we can start to fill the gap and create a sustainable workforce for the future.
Marbral Advisory supports organisations and individuals to plan, lead, drive and embed change. Services include Project and Change Management, Business Advisory Services and Capacity Support. For more information on Marbral Advisory please visit their website: www.marbraladvisory.com
If you are interested in applying for a position at Marbral Advisory as either a permanent member of staff or as an Associate, then please contact Laura Spears, Head of People and Operations: firstname.lastname@example.org