ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage Survey 2023: Belgian employers refine strategies to address talent shortages

Talent Shortage Belgium

80% of employers have difficulty filling their vacancies. To address it:

  • 58% are planning to invest in their people more than ever before (upskilling - reskilling).
  • 55% of employers plan to offer more flexibility around where and when to work, as talent scarcity increase.
  • 58% of employers are willing to hire talent from beyond our borders

Brussels, Belgium, 16 May 2023 –  Despite the slowdown in hiring pace,  80% of Belgian employers are struggling to fill vacancies, and almost one in five (17%) say they are having great difficulty finding the right profiles. This is what the ManpowerGroup's annual Talent Shortage Survey reveals, based on a representative sample of 510 Belgian employers. In addition to presenting the findings at sector level – all 9 sectors of activity surveyed are impacted, with major pressure on digital profiles – and at regional level –  shortages affect 84% of employers in Wallonia, 80% in Brussels and 76% in Flanders –  ManpowerGroup has analysed the strategies chosen by companies to overcome this talent crisis that is hindering growth.

Belgian talent shortage over time

In today's world of work, companies who manage to recruit and retain skilled talent, hold the key to the future," explains Sébastien Delfosse, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup BeLux.  "Companies are faced with a dual challenge: on the one hand, finding the skills suited to the rapid speed of technological innovations and digital transformation, and on the other hand, to meet the new expectations of candidates and workers who act like consumers when it comes to work. If people used to organise their lives around work, today they want to organise their work around their lives. Companies must intensify their efforts and adapt their HR strategies to attract and retain talent. This will continue to be one of their top priorities in the coming years due to the lack of qualified people available in the labour market.

Prioritize training – upskilling & reskilling – to address the skills gaps

In a constantly changing environment, where humans, machines and artificial intelligence will increasingly work together - as the World Economic Forum recently reminded us - skills have never been under so much pressure. All jobs are changing: some are disappearing and many new ones are emerging, whether in the field of digital, communications or sustainable development. Unsurprisingly, the ManpowerGroup survey placed IT & Data (20%), Engineering & Technical (20%) and Sales & Marketing (18%) at the top of the list of the most difficult positions to fill.

Hybrid work changes the requirements for soft skills

As jobs become increasingly technical and hybrid work becomes the norm for more and more workers, interpersonal skills are more important than ever, with a focus on autonomy and individual responsibility, because “today’s manager must adopt a leadership style based above all on trust, motivation and coaching, rather than command and control,” explains Sébastien Delfosse.

In order of priority, Belgian employers are now seeking: reliability and self-discipline (25%), resilience & adaptability (24%), initiative (23%), critical reasoning and problem-solving skills (23%), and proactive learning & curiosity (21%). This last soft skill of ‘learnability’ highlights the extent to which each person must become increasingly responsible for his own employability, by anticipating skills obsolescence, something that concerns all professions due to the speed of technological change,” adds Sébastien Delfosse.

Hard & soft skills

ManpowerGroup asked employers what strategies they have chosen to address the skills gap: 58% are are upskilling & reskilling their current workforce, 37% plan on filling new, permanent roles, 25% are making increased use of external staff (consultancy or temporary work) and 22% report investing in more technology to improve processes.

How employers are addressing the skills gap

Offering greater flexibility to overcome talent shortages

To overcome recruitment difficulties and meet candidates' expectations and to attract and retain highly sought-after talent, more than half of the employers surveyed (55%) are planning to offer more flexibility in terms of when and where to work. This applies to both 'when the work is to be done' (part-time, flexible hours) and 'where the work is to be done' (location, teleworking or hybrid).

"As well as time and space flexibility, like consumers, the word 'choice' has become an important aspect of the relationship between workers and employers, who must be able to meet individual expectations in many areas, whether in terms of salary package, training, or the organisation of work in general," adds Sébastien Delfosse.

Employers have taken other actions to overcome talent shortages: 23% have broadened their pool of candidates (mature workers, diversity, etc.), 22% are prepared to increase salaries and 20% have reduced their recruitment requirements in terms of both qualifications and degrees.

Overcoming talent shortages

Cross-border recruitment is an option for almost 6 out of 10 employers

According to the ManpowerGroup survey, 58% of employers surveyed say they are willing to go abroad to find exactly the right talent, although 16% do not plan to give more weight to this option in the short term.

"Faced with the sheer extent of labour shortages, we must be creative when recruiting, depending on the profiles. Today's labour market is global and international mobility is certainly an option that should not be ignored, and one which we offer to our clients," recommends Sébastien Delfosse.

In fact, Manpower won the 2023 Belgian HR Excellence Awards in the 'Best Staffing & Sourcing Company' category with its 'Talent Knows No Borders' project. In its business case, the HR specialist presented two solutions: the first concerned the activation and recruitment of talent from other nationalities and cultures (X-Border Connection), with a focus on skilled labour coming from Eastern European countries already living in Belgium, and also the employment of Ukrainian refugees. The second one concerned a tailor-made project recruiting young logistics talent from Portugal for the company Katoen Natie in the Port of Antwerp.

Crossborder recruitment

Build, Buy, Borrow, Bridge: a holistic approach to overcome talent shortages

To address labour shortages, ManpowerGroup encourages companies to develop action plans covering four key elements:

  • BUILD: Invest in learning and development to grow your talent pipeline;
  • BUY: Go to the external market to attract talent that can’t be developed in-house ;
  • BORROW: Cultivate communities of talent outside the organisation, including part-time workers, freelancers, consultants and temporary workers to complement existing skills;
  • BRIDGE: Help people move on or move up to new roles within the organisation