What can you do to stand out from your competitors and how can you attract the best people? Debra Gers from leading law firm Blake Morgan discusses what can be done to retain staff.

Many employers are struggling to recruit good quality, skilled candidates and the job market is likely to become increasingly competitive as many EU nationals leave their jobs in the UK or choose not to work here at all.

What can you do to stand out from your competitors and how can you attract the best people? Once recruited, what can you do to retain your staff?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation in relation to certain protected characteristics – age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. Employers must not discriminate or victimise in relation to the offers of employment they make and in the actual terms and conditions of employment. Clearly, employers should not reject a candidate because of a protected characteristic.

Recruitment needs to be carried out free from discrimination and bias (whether conscious or unconscious) so that successful candidates are chosen on merit and blind recruitment is a potential tool employers can use to ensure they are not affected by any unconscious bias.

It is easy for an organisation to say that it is an equal opportunities employer but perhaps more difficult to demonstrate a genuine commitment to equality and diversity. Being able to do so can help significantly in distinguishing an organisation from its competitors.

Take for example sexual orientation. Many individuals hide their sexual orientation at work but this can be stressful and isolating. Stonewall, the campaigning LGBT organisation, is of the view that if people can be open about their sexual orientation they will perform better and feel more engaged. Employers can become a Stonewall Diversity Champion to demonstrate their commitment to LGBT equality and can use Proud Employers, Stonewall’s job site, which advertises roles with Diversity Champion organisations. Employers can also participate in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index which is a benchmarking tool to assess LGBT inclusivity in the workplace. Lloyds Banking Group was Stonewall’s Employer of the Year for 2017 and that is certainly a very significant recruitment tool.

Contrast this to the negative headlines the BBC recently attracted with its gender pay row. Details of the salaries of the highest paid earners showed that the vast majority were men and in some instances, male presenters were paid more than female presenters even when they worked on the same programme.

Gender pay will be very relevant in the recruitment context in the coming months because of the requirement to publish gender pay data. The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 came into force on 6 April 2017 and require private and voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees to publish certain information about gender pay (there are similar provisions for the public sector). Significantly, the information must be published on the employer’s website, accessible to all its employees, potential employees and the public for three years. The information must also be published on a government website. Whilst employers have until 4 April 2018 to publish the information, 39 organisations have already done so.

In a competitive job market, candidates are likely to look at any published gender pay information and may think twice about applying for a role or taking up a role if there is a gender pay disparity. Why choose an employer with a wide gender pay gap, with little explanation for the context for the pay gap and perhaps no specific strategy for reducing it when a competitor compares more favourably?

Successful recruitment is only half the story though. Retention of staff is very important because a high staff turnover is not only disruptive and costly but can often mean losing key skills as well as having an adverse impact on reputation. Wide-ranging benefits play a key role in staff retention (and recruitment) as well as encouraging loyalty and improving staff engagement and morale.

But what should be provided? The list is endless and increasingly innovative. From the well-established provision of enhanced maternity pay, private medical insurance, company cars, long-service awards and pensions contributions, organisations now offer days off for birthdays, unlimited holidays, buying and selling holidays, duvet days, concierge services, volunteering days, bringing pets to work, cycle to work schemes, enhanced pay for shared parental leave, paid sabbaticals and even egg-freezing services for women.

Many organisations offer a flexible benefits platform recognising that the needs of millennials, baby boomers and generation X are quite different. Organisations should therefore carefully consider the profile of their workforce to ensure that the most appropriate range of benefits is offered. However some benefits are attractive to all ages. Flexible working is one. If the salary is comparable in two potential jobs, most people are likely to choose the job that offered the greatest amount of flexible working. Another increasingly important benefit is employee health and well-being. Gym membership, free fruit and yoga sessions for example can all help in promoting employee well-being but employers are increasingly taking pro-active measures to manage mental health in the workplace.

Blake Morgan has a dedicated well-being, health & safety programme as part of its firm wide training academy. All staff have access to a wide range of resources via an online portal and can attend courses on topics such as personal resilience or can download resources on subjects such as managing stress, coping with change, mental health and mindfulness. The firm has also launched a mental health first aid scheme which sees trained mental health champions working to raise awareness of mental health issues, provide support and help to access further resources for individuals and their line managers.

The recruitment and retention of older workers is crucial at a time when the UK is facing a skills gap. Many large companies including Aviva, Boots and Barclays have pledged to increase their older staff by 12% within five years and the Government’s Champion for Older Workers has called for an increase of 1 million older workers by 2022. These initiatives will help retain the valuable skills and experience of older workers. One increasingly important benefit for older workers is ‘flexible retirement’. With one in five people in the 50-64 age bracket having caring responsibilities the opportunity to retire flexibly might make or break their decision to move or stay with their current employer. Many individuals are keen to facilitate a smooth route into retirement and improve their work-life balance and the opportunity to take part in a flexible retirement scheme is likely to be very welcome.

Whatever benefits are offered though, don’t forget to publicise them! Handbooks, social media, intranets, team meetings and posters are just some of the ways details of employee benefits can be communicated to staff.





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.