Is staffing the biggest challenge facing your business? Prices and products wax and wane, but people are perhaps the most important, and most taxing, piece of the puzzle. In January's Furniture News, Paul Farley takes a deep dive into the employment crisis facing the UK furniture industry, and asks the experts to suggest better approaches to recruitment and retention …
From the short-term pressure of hiring seasonal retail workers and delivery staff, to the ongoing skills shortage across vital areas of UK manufacture, it’s increasingly clear that ‘the right people for the job’ are a dwindling resource, and that every business needs to prioritise staff recruitment and retention if it is to succeed.
As far back as 2015, in their report entitled Mind the Gap, The Furniture Makers’ Company and Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) warned of a growing skills shortage and lack of adequate training provision, and urged the development of closer working relationships with schools, alongside apprenticeships and specialist skills delivery.
Despite laudable efforts and several success stories, the looming crisis was repeatedly forced to take a back seat to more pressing concerns, exacerbating the problem, and the furniture sector is now dangerously lacking in both people and proficiency.
In September, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that “the tightest labour market in decades” and a shrinking pool of available labour meant more vacancies than there are workers to fill them: “In absolute terms, the retail sector accounts for one of the largest number of vacancies, at 100,000, around 10,000 higher than prior to the pandemic,” stated economist Harvir Dhillon. Further up the supply chain, a survey carried out by the British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) in November saw 77% of its members report a ‘moderate to severe’ skills shortage.
While every business will have its own staffing challenges and solutions, the problem is industry-wide.
Looking for answers
In a market seemingly so full of opportunity for jobseekers, what might make them consider a career in the – traditionally unglamorous – furniture sector? What’s the best way to reach out to candidates, and to retain the ones already in place?
For January's special feature, Furniture News enlisted a formidable panel – from retailers and recruitment agents to manufacturers and machinery suppliers – to explore this pressing issue. With their help, we look at how the industry tackles recruitment, and how it might make itself more appealing to younger generations – and explore how businesses ensure their valuable recruits do not leave to work elsewhere, the various paths of training and advancement, and some of the more innovative approaches from across the sector.
Read the feature in January's Furniture News, here.