Expert advice

How to attract the top nursing talent

With demand for nurses greater than ever, what can employers do to attract and retain the best talent?

Today, demand for nurses is greater than ever, driven in large part by an unparalleled and unprecedented ageing of the population on a global scale.

According to the UN, the number of people in the world aged 60 or older is expected to more than double by 2050, exceeding 2 billion.

Job attraction
Picture: iStock

These are not easy roles to fill. NHS data shows that there are more than 23,443 nursing vacancies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, equivalent to 9% of the workforce. The Office for National Statistics reports that these openings increased by 50% from 2013 to 2015.

The global demand for nurses is reflected in job website Indeed's data too: registered nurse roles are the number one most in-demand role on Indeed’s UK website.

Indeed's recent report Uncovering the Causes of Global Jobs Mismatch discovered a disconnect between skills and job vacancies, felt strongest in high-skilled professions across the public and private sector – such as nursing, teaching and technology roles. Clearly, all this data paints a worrying picture for the future of these vital industries.

Skyrocketing demand

The current political context is important to note. In the immediate aftermath of the UK’s Brexit referendum result, jobseekers jumped online. Outbound job searches from the UK to Ireland, Canada and US doubled, while Indeed’s Irish site benefited from job search traffic usually directed at the UK from Europe.

Searches have since levelled out, but potential restrictions on free movement of labour could have a huge effect on the UK’s ability to attract European talent to the NHS and private healthcare industry.

The current supply of nursing talent is not keeping up with skyrocketing demand. Eight of the world’s 12 largest economies have a serious nurse shortage. The potential impact of this on the health and well-being of staff is well documented; when hospitals and care homes have insufficient staff, nurses are overworked and dissatisfied with their jobs. How can we address this shortage (talent attraction) and fend off a potential breakdown in the healthcare systems (talent retention)?

To answer these questions, we need to understand the key motivators behind what attracts jobseekers to a role, and crucially, what keeps them there. Increasingly, flexibility is at the top of the agenda of the modern jobseeker.

Indeed's data shows that high skill, high demand jobs in healthcare are most likely to have people searching for terms related to flexibility. Employers may find that offering greater flexibility in their nursing roles could help close the gap. Equally, policies that make it easier for nurses from abroad to work in the UK could continue to support the talent pipeline for the short to medium term.

Laws of attraction

Indeed's research also shows that better compensation, greater professional autonomy, stronger management and training programmes, and more flexibility (in location and scheduling) would make nursing careers more attractive for jobseekers.

Some of these strategies have been deployed by our client, Anchor, a not-for-profit housing and care provider in England which cares for more than 40,000 older people in 1,000 facilities.

To confront the growing talent shortage, Anchor has explored new strategies and recruitment sources, such as using data to understand its jobseekers and online resources to educate candidates about the value of care work and the potential offered by a career in the care industry.

Employers face big obstacles when it comes to attracting nursing talent, although listening closely to what nurses want should make a big difference to their efforts. Careful deployment of robust talent attraction and retention strategies will place healthcare organisations in the best position to win the battle for nursing talent.

Author details

Bill Richards



Bill Richards is the UK managing director of global job site Indeed


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