The Impact of the Higher Wage Economy

This year’s College & University Business Officers (CUBO) Winter Conference focussed on ‘Framing the Future’. Hayley Mintern, Business Sector Director at MRG, was asked to be one of the speakers on a panel about the impact of the higher wage economy. Whilst the conference focussed on the Higher Education sector, a lot of the themes are relevant for all sectors.

With the backdrop of Brexit and a Global pandemic, summer 2021 saw us witness a number of headlines around recruitment and staffing shortages. One that sticks out for me is ”HGV Drivers being paid more than CEOs”. Whilst this isn’t a true statement it reminds us that the economic landscape has changed. Candidates are now aware that there are plenty of opportunities, they are more demanding than ever in their requirements and there are fewer people to choose from in any hiring process. The Telegraph recently reported that “a quarter of UK firms are reporting unfilled positions affecting their ability to operate or grow their businesses”.

Employees and business owners have likely felt on the back foot since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But as 2021 winds down, there’s a push to adapt intelligently, and new hiring and recruitment trends are emerging in every sector. This is a chance for individual sectors to promote the opportunity they have to offer and the value that talented professionals can bring.

Some of the key things we can think about when looking to attract the best talent are:

Flexible working

Flexible working is here to stay. The Office for National Statistics found that of 85% of adults working from home in early 2021 wanted to use a “hybrid” approach of both home and office working in the future¹. We therefore need to consider, before you even find the perfect candidate, what is going to work best for the individual, that role and for the team. This can’t be an ad hoc arrangement and should be considered across the board. Being open and transparent is a key part of attracting candidates.

Broadening the criteria

Not only is it important to assess relevant skills in real-time, but there is also a rising focus on the soft skills that candidates bring to the table. Communication, problem-solving and collaboration have always been important, but in a post-pandemic world, they’re now a non-negotiable. Psychometric Testing is a great way to support with this. At MRG we use Thomas International in a number of our senior campaigns, to identify individuals that have the right attributes to be successful in that role.

Marketing and Promotion

Out-of-sector candidates may not fully understand the scale and opportunity that new sectors can offer them. For example, an individual looking to apply for a Higher Education role may not be fully aware of the impact that universities have on their locality, regional economies or the scale and complexity of the campus. In turn, they may not immediately see how their skills can be transferred into that sector. Recruitment can no longer rely on traditional job board postings. We must look to new, or previously supplemental platforms, to be able to reach new candidates. For example, social media was previously seen as an ‘add-on’ platform, however almost 85% of companies now say they use this channel.


Moving into 2022, there’s no doubt that everyone will have to adjust their traditional methods when it comes to sourcing and hiring the best talent they can, in order to stay viable in an increasingly competitive and volatile market.

Some of the challenges we will face in 2022 will be:

Salary and Benefits
Salary levels are rising, we are seeing an increasing number of counter-offers and candidates are engaging in multiple selection processes. This will pose a problem for many industries, especially where they are appointing at the top of the banding. We are increasingly seeing the use of market supplements being added, although it is questionable whether this will be a long-term solution. Performance-related pay and bonus structures are commonplace in the private sector and is now something we are starting to see implemented more widely. Additional benefits can now also play a deciding factor in job offers, making it incredibly important to highlight the benefits that are on offer such as holiday, pensions and further studies, whilst also thinking of other creative ways of rewarding success in the sector.

The Process
Professionals from the hospitality and leisure sector, for example, have in many cases never experienced a full panel interview. This can be extremely daunting even at the senior levels. We have been encouraging hiring managers to utilise virtual meeting platforms to allow informal discussions at the early stages of a process to help fully engage candidates, prior to entering into a formal interview setting. This also allows hiring managers and candidates to assess the viability of the opportunity.


To find out how MRG can help your company with its recruitment needs, in this increasingly competitive market, get in touch with Hayley Mintern for an informal discussion.



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