Bo Lykkegaard
Bo Lykkegaard (Associate VP for Software Research Europe)

In 2022, the ability to attract and retain talent was the #1 internal CEO concern worldwide according to the Conference Board CEO survey after a booming 2021. Fast-forward 12 months, the environment is different due to layoffs in the tech and financial services sector, inflationary pressures, and the looming recession.

However, in the Conference Board CEO survey for 2023, the ability to attract and retain talent remains the #1 internal CEO concern worldwide.

This CEO expectations of a continuous tight labor market in Europe and elsewhere is supported by data from Eurostat from June 2023. Despite fluctuations mainly related to the Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment appears on a continuous downward trend in the EU, while the EU overall employment rate is on a continuous increase.

Source: Eurostat, June 2023

The recent wave of layoffs in high tech and related industries – shocking as it was – is unlikely to change this picture. Why? Because it already happened and is on the decrease after peaking around January 2023 for the technology industry and even earlier for other industries, according to Layoffs Tracker.

Our own survey data confirms that the European labor market remains tight. Over half (54%) of software decisionmakers are challenged to find new staff in IDC’s European Enterprise Apps & CX Survey from January 2023 (n = 670). Viewed by industry, recruitment difficulties are present across industries, with signs of some easing of the severe labor shortages that was experienced in retail and hospitality in 2021.

What IDC’s survey data also says is that employee retention pressure has dropped off somewhat in 2023, because of the economic uncertainties and layoffs. In our report, Status of Employee Retention in Europe, based on a survey of 2,785 European employees in March 2022, we found that an alarming one in every four employees on average was actively and voluntarily looking for another job. Some job seekers were forced to look for alternative employment due to relocation or being on a temporary contract (i.e., actively and involuntarily job hunting), and those were excluded.

We made a similar survey in March 2023 of 3,527 employees in Europe. The new survey showed that the proportion of voluntary job seekers had decreased from 24.5% in 2022 to 16.8% in 2023 — a drop of almost 8 percentage points. We asked those that were not actively looking for a new job in terms of why not, and the second and third most popular reasons were most interesting because they referred to the current economic environment, making it “financially sensible to stay” and “hard to find a new job,” respectively.

These concerns appear to be the main reasons why we saw the proportion of voluntary leavers decline from 24% in 2022 to 17% in 2023.

European Organizations Use a Multitude of Coping Strategies to Improve Employee Attraction

Given that the tight labor market is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, what are European organizations doing to get the staff that they need? We asked all software decisionmakers in organizations with some level of recruitment difficulties about their coping strategies.

Source: IDC's European Enterprise Apps & CX Survey, January 2023 (n = 583)

Interestingly, upskilling and reskilling existing employees was the most popular answer. Educating current employees and redeploying them in new, relevant positions makes sense in many cases.

Existing employees already have valuable knowledge about the organization and industry compared with new hires. One open question is how extensive upskilling/reskilling efforts are required and what learning methods will be needed.

We believe that a significant proportion of the upskilling/reskilling activity will focus on technology and data related skills.

European organizations will also use other methods to make ends meet. The second most popular coping strategy is offering higher salaries, which we see practiced for positions where there is a confined resource pool and limited substitution options. Examples could be a certain trading specialist, a particular medical professional, etc.

Third place was hiring more recruiters and acquiring better recruiting tools, which is a reasonable strategy, especially in organizations where the recruiting function is understaffed and equipped with outdated software and/or processes.

Other popular strategies included widening the spectrum of applicable candidates, lowering criteria, and investing in better branding and candidate marketing.

Three-quarters of organizations deployed a combination of coping strategies. It means that organizations typically see these coping strategies in combination, as opposed as individual silver bullets. Please see Employee Shortage Coping Strategies in Europe (IDC #EUR150726123, June 2023) for more information.

What Are the Upsides from the Point of View of HCM and Payroll Application Vendors in Europe?

The tight labor market and recruiting difficulties among European organizations are in fact sweet music in the ears of many of the software vendors in the HCM space. The solution areas that are best positioned to capitalize on the employee attraction desires and approaches of European organizations are:

  • eLearning solutions, learning services, reskilling strategy services. The stated intent to “reskill and upskill” can be achieved by different means, including onsite training, mentoring, and external education courses, learning technologies are also likely to play a key role. IDC believes that the reskilling/upskilling ambitions will trigger investments into more comprehensive eLearning technologies, as opposed to micro learning and social learning approaches.
  • Recruiting solutions and services. Vendors of recruiting solutions and HCM suites with strong recruiting modules stand to benefit as do providers of talent acquisition services and recruiting agencies. Investing in such capability is almost mandatory, as the consequence of doing nothing and not being able to attract the required talent can be crippling for an organization.
  • Skills mapping, skills management, and skills matching solutions. Upskilling and reskilling is a fine remedy, however, an overview of existing skills and skill gaps are prerequisite to invest in learning. In order to progress, an organization first needs a map – a skills map – to navigate and target investments.
  • Temp staff providers, outsourced labor services. In some industries, such as healthcare and professional services, organizations will include contingent labor and external services as part of the solution to the lack of available labor resources.
  • Marketing solutions related to candidate marketing and employer branding. In this age, the employees do not come flocking around employers. Rather, it is the other way around. Employers must target potential applicants on social media and build databases with passive candidate pools, and target these effectively. This requires marketing technology, and this opens a new target market for vendors of such solutions.
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