Retaining Talent in a Reactive Recruiting Landscape

In today’s skills-short market, companies are constantly struggling to attract the right talent and retain their most valuable team members. The “Great Resignation” that began following the pandemic appears far from over.

According to one study, 55% of employees in the UK are either in the process of starting a new job or looking to switch careers now. While another 35% of respondents said they plan on moving to a new role within the next year.

In the last couple of years, employee priorities have shifted. Team members are increasingly hunting for more flexible working environments and more empathetic employers. Work-life balance is now more important than ever and candidates aren’t afraid to abandon their current company for somewhere better.

The complexity of this landscape and the changing trends in the hiring market have given way to the rise of a more “reactive” recruitment landscape. Though companies are still investing in proactive strategies like succession planning and pipeline development, agility has become essential.

Ever-increasing turnover rates and heightened competition for skilled professionals have prompted business leaders to focus more heavily on talent retention’s importance.

After all, while many hiring decisions may be more “reactive” in the current environment, a proactive approach to talent engagement and retention can help business leaders avoid a range of challenges, from talent shortages to lost productivity.

In this report, we’ll explore the key factors contributing to the reactive recruiting landscape, the impact reactive strategies have on business growth and the measures companies can employ to preserve and retain their most crucial team members.

Neil Scarborough

Managing Director

Understanding the Reactive Recruitment Landscape

Reactive recruitment is perhaps the most “traditional” approach to hiring for companies, although it’s rarely the most effective strategy. Reactive recruitment involves waiting until an employee leaves your organisation before you begin looking for candidates to fill the gap.

In the past, this method was popular among businesses for various reasons. It allowed companies to avoid the expenses associated with building a talent pipeline and ignore the stress of recruitment until it was absolutely necessary.

However, while “reactive” strategies may work in an environment where talent is plentiful, they can be extremely problematic in the current landscape.

Limited access to talent means companies often struggle to fill the gaps in their team quickly, leading to significant losses in productivity and time. Unfortunately, the current employment landscape has made reactive recruiting more common.

Over the last three years, the labour market has grown more unpredictable. While PWC found employee turnover did drop at the start of the pandemic, when employees were uncertain about the security of their future, turnover rates have begun to rise again.

As of 2023, the talent competition and the risk of high employee churn are still significant. Employees feel more confident about pursuing new roles that better match their priorities.

This has led to significant problems with organisational stability and growth. Even companies with strong succession plans are experiencing significant turnover problems. Demand for talent exceeds the available candidates in almost all sectors, leading to long-term workforce gaps.

These issues are exacerbated further by demographic changes, such as an ageing population, a rise in early retirement and an increase in long-term sickness throughout the UK.

The Factors Contributing to Reactive Recruitment

While 2023 has been named the year of “proactive” recruitment, reactive hiring strategies persist in an environment struggling with employee retention and turnover.

According to PWC, lack of employee opportunity is a major factor. Respondents in the analyst’s study said career opportunities and pay significantly impact voluntary turnover. In the past, employers provided employees progression and career development options in exchange for their loyalty and continued work.

However, the uncertainty of the economy has prompted many organisations to reduce access to training, incentives and competitive benefits.

Indeed, many of the underlying factors contributing to reactive recruitment revolve around issues with employee retention caused by:

  • Increased opportunities for candidates: Candidates, in almost all sectors, now have more control over where they choose to work. The market is no longer employer-driven, and remote, hybrid and flexible working opportunities are growing. This means employees are more actively switching roles if they feel their current employer can’t provide the experiences and benefits they seek.
  • Issues with organisational culture: 86% of candidates now say a company’s culture is crucial to their levels of engagement. Companies failing to invest in a welcoming, diverse and inclusive culture are experiencing higher levels of turnover. However, community experiences are becoming more difficult to cultivate in a space where remote work is growing more common.
  • Problems with work-life balance: According to one study, employees say no amount of money would convince them to sacrifice work-life balance. Since the pandemic, employees prioritise their wellbeing more than ever. Companies unable to provide the right work-life balance are, therefore, facing higher levels of turnover.

The Impact of Reactive Recruiting on Organisational Performance

Unfortunately, while reactive recruitment might seem necessary in today’s complex environment, it presents companies with various challenges.

Depending on the vacancy that needs filling and the required experience and skills for the role, hiring time can take weeks or even months.

While, in the past, some companies have viewed reactive recruitment as more “cost-effective” in the short term, the current market is making this strategy a lot more expensive.

Companies are spending more on recruitment costs, paying for countless advertisements and strategies to boost their chances of reaching the right candidate.

At the same time, gaps in your team can have other financial implications. Without access to the right talent, companies can find productivity levels drop, revenue dwindle and new growth opportunities are missed.

In some cases, a long-lasting gap in a team can also impact the performance of other employees. While companies try to find the right fit for their vacant role, they risk overworking current staff.

This means a reactive hiring process can impact both the financial performance of a company and its organisational culture. Reactive hiring can lead to the following:

  • Reduced workplace morale: High turnover and slow hiring processes can significantly reduce confidence in the workplace. Employees struggle to build connections with other team members, workloads increase and feelings of stress and anxiety begin to rise.
  • Increased burnout: As remaining employees are forced to take on higher levels of work, the risk of burnout often increases. This leads to higher absence rates among team members, lost engagement and productivity issues.
  • Higher turnover: If the organisational culture becomes problematic due to a slow reactive hiring process, many employees will be encouraged to “jump ship” themselves. This could lead to even more gaps in your team that need to be filled.

A reactive recruitment process can even have an impact on hiring decisions. As time passes, many business leaders may make bad hiring decisions in desperation to fill a vacancy and eliminate productivity issues. This means companies miss out on the skills they need.

Best Practices for Talent Retention in a Reactive Recruiting Landscape

Reactive recruiting presents several significant problems to the remaining teams. Although companies may not be able to eliminate the complexities currently affecting the hiring market, they can take a proactive approach to preserving essential talent.

A proactive approach to talent retention in a reactive recruitment landscape helps to reduce the risk of bad hires and compounding turnover rates, minimise costs and improve a company’s reputation.

While 35% of employees may leave their jobs yearly, many reasons behind employee departures are preventable. Proactively engaging in a retention strategy for your team members can prevent you from relying too heavily on reactive recruitment practices.

1.    Invest in Employee Engagement Strategies

One of the main reasons employees leave a business is they no longer feel engaged by their role. Only 21% of employees say they’re very engaged at work.

The key to successful employee engagement is understanding what motivates and drives your team members. Sending out surveys, connecting with staff and learning about their priorities can help business leaders make the workplace more engaging.

Companies can experiment with strategies like:

  • Constant recognition: Employees who feel appreciated at work stay with a business longer. Studies suggest companies that recognise and reward employee’s multiple times per month are 34% more likely to see increased engagement and 41% more likely to improve their levels of employee retention.
  • Mentorship and buddy programs: In the workplace, employees often value connections with other team members. Mentoring programs and buddy systems that allow for collaborative learning and growth can lead to higher job satisfaction for mentors and mentees. They can also boost team productivity and performance.
  • Frequent communication: Giving employees a voice is crucial to maintaining important levels of engagement. Giving team members opportunities to share feedback, introduce new ideas in projects and interact with others regularly can increase their camaraderie. It also helps employees to feel more invested in the company culture.

2.    Offer Career Development and Learning Opportunities

The PWC Saratoga benchmarking study found lack of career development and learning opportunities was one of the most common reasons for voluntary turnover in any industry. There’s a direct link between low investment in employee development and low retention rates.

Today’s staff members want to see opportunities for growth in their careers. They’re looking for development strategies to help them move into new roles and develop new skills. Coaching programs, internal knowledge-sharing sessions and other learning opportunities in your workplace can all help minimise turnover and increase growth.

Allowing team members to guide their development by asking them about their career goals and needs can also boost engagement. Not only will consistently investing in team development help you to retain your crucial talent, but it will also ensure you can imbue staff with the skills they need to thrive in a changing landscape.

3.    Optimise Compensation and Benefits

While employees want more than a good salary for their career, paying your team members what they’re worth is still extremely important. Candidates are becoming ever more concerned about salaries in an unstable economy and low salaries can increase turnover.

Examining the market and benchmarking salaries based on the average compensation for various roles in your business will help your company remain competitive.

Notably, being unable to offer a higher salary than your competitors won’t necessarily ensure low staff turnover. The right benefits can help to improve your employee value proposition. 85% of workers say they feel more motivated at work when they can access incentives, such as tuition reimbursement, wellness rewards and access to bonuses.

4.    Train Managers to Enhance Company Culture

A strong company culture is essential to attracting and retaining top talent. 77% of employees consider a company’s culture before applying for a role, according to Glassdoor. Additionally, around half of employees say they would leave their job for a lower-paying one at an organisation with a better culture.

While various factors can contribute to a retention-centric culture, the relationships between managers and employees play a significant role. Almost half of all employees quit their jobs because of a bad manager.

Training managers to be inclusive, respectful and supportive of all team members can significantly improve retention rates. Managers who are optimistic, assertive and regularly recognise employee value help to keep team members motivated and engaged.

5.    Prioritise Work-Life Balance

As mentioned above, the pandemic spurred many employees to focus more on preserving their mental and physical health. Work-life balance has become essential to virtually every team member. Around two-thirds of employees say they would accept a pay cut for better work-life balance and flexibility.

With this in mind, business leaders looking to retain employees in a reactive environment must invest in their staff’s wellbeing and support. Offering flexible working arrangements such as 4-day work weeks or customisable schedules is a good start.

However, it’s also worth taking a comprehensive approach to minimising employee burnout on a significant scale. Respecting employees’ time away from work, encouraging team members not to check emails at home and supporting downtime are essential.

With a focus on work-life balance, companies can reduce the risk of turnover and minimise burnout at a time when around 76% of employees are feeling its effects.

6.    Maintain Open and Ongoing Communication

Consistent communication isn’t just an important part of keeping employees engaged; it’s also crucial to ensuring your team’s success over time. Communication should be a consistent part of the employee experience, from engaging with a new candidate to onboarding and beyond.

Authentic, honest and transparent communication is crucial to collecting feedback from team members about the issues that might be prompting turnover or burnout. You can even conduct “stay” and “exit” interviews with your existing team members to learn more about how they view your employer brand.

In today’s flexible world of work, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure the right communication and collaboration solutions are in place to keep all staff members engaged. Make sure every team member can contribute and connect with the workforce.

Leveraging Technology for Retention Efforts

While all of the best practices above will help to boost your retention efforts in a reactive recruitment landscape, it’s worth considering the benefits of technology, too. Innovative tools have come a long way in the hiring landscape.

Today’s business leaders aren’t just using AI and automation tools to help them scan through applicants and choose candidates for interviews. HR-focused tools can also assist with retention, providing insights into useful information.

Analytical tools can help to identify potential flight risks in your company by showing dips in engagement, productivity, or involvement in various company events. Automated survey tools can help businesses collect insights from team members anonymously for a behind-the-scenes look at issues that prompt rapid turnover.

HR tools can even assist companies in providing employees with a more streamlined and productive workplace experience. They can assist with rapid shift management when employees need to access shift swaps or flexible working opportunities.

Some solutions can even offer insights into potential areas for upskilling and retraining team members. According to a PWC HR Tech survey, around 40% of survey respondents consider using more technology for learning and talent management.

Improving Retention in a Reactive Recruitment Market

The Great Resignation continues to significantly impact the recruitment landscape, influencing hiring strategies with rapid turnover rates. The forced “reactive” approach to recruitment presents several significant challenges to today’s teams.

However, it’s still possible for companies to overcome these issues by taking a more proactive approach to retention.

In a world where access to exceptional talent is dwindling, taking extra steps to preserve the engagement of your existing employees is more important than ever. The right retention strategy ensures you can continue to hold onto your most valuable staff members for as long as possible.

This leads to lower recruitment costs, higher levels of productivity, and a stronger overall company culture. Just remember, the path to retaining employees starts with hiring the right staff members in the first place.

Working with a dedicated recruitment agency will help you pinpoint the talent you need, focusing on skills and experience and the cultural fit each candidate has with your business.

With the right recruitment agency, you can attract employees who will continue to evolve and grow with your brand for years to come.

Best wishes and good luck with your staff retention.


Neil Scarborough


 About us

At The Recruiting Office we recognise how hard it can be for non HR staff to fit recruitment around their regular day to day duties and to ensure that job specifications, advertisements, selection and interview processes are without bias and are effective in identifying the best possible candidates.

We know how vital pro-active candidate sourcing can be in an increasingly candidate short market and we understand that many non-recruitment professionals struggle to pro-actively identify and engage with suitable passive candidates and we know that modern businesses sometimes need to engage skilled personnel on a non-permanent basis to support specific projects or changing business needs.

If you are experiencing issues or concerns with any aspect of the recruitment process – from writing job and person specifications to effective on boarding, from engaging with passive candidates to required document checks and when to undertake them – we can help!

At The Recruiting Office we have over 30 years’ experience of supporting Norfolk employers through every aspect of the recruitment process and our comprehensive, knowledgeable, compliant and ethical recruitment services really work!

For a no obligation discussion of the recruitment issues you are experiencing and the solutions we can offer – call us now on 01603 964816 or email

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P.S. Our recruitment services are without charge until/unless our successful candidate accepts your job offer and in the unlikely event they don’t work out we offer up to a 100-day 100% refund guarantee on our permanent placement fees (terms and conditions apply).

Further Reading

How to identify The Right Recruiting Partner to Build Your Team