Last month, the number of job vacancies in the UK outstripped the number of people in unemployment for the first time since records began.

The situation is creating a unique challenge for employers, said Lynn Walters, executive director at Pure Executive and co-founder of the Best Employers Eastern Region programme.

“It really is an unprecedented time for organisations – on so many levels,” she explained. “In a candidate-short market, it’s so important for organisations to make sure they have an attractive culture and a focus on employee engagement, as this is the differentiator to attract talent.”

So, how are the East of England’s best employers meeting the challenge of a market that ultimately puts power in the hands of jobseekers?

FutureYou Cambridge

Adam Cleevely, CEO of FutureYou Cambridge, said Brexit created “enormous difficulties” for recruitment. However, the pandemic has seen the company attract candidates from further afield.

“In lockdown, we were able to pull candidates from further away, as we moved to remote working,” Adam explained. “Some candidates who were halfway towards London stopped looking at London jobs and started looking at Cambridge jobs because the quality of life would be better.”

The biggest challenge for FutureYou Cambridge was losing two employees who were offered “astronomical salaries” elsewhere. Being a “nice place to work” has nonetheless helped the company retain the majority of its staff – while continuing to attract new recruits.

Running a fast process has also been key to recruitment, Adam added. “We've always tried to make sure that if we see the right CV, we're getting the phone call and both interviews done within a week if we can – and certainly within two weeks.”


Becca Day, senior people advisor at Treatt, said it has definitely been more difficult to attract people over the past two years, especially for “specialist roles”.

“It's taken us longer to find the right candidates because there aren’t many people out there who have the skills we need and are willing to change roles,” she explained. “Covid has clearly changed what people value in the workplace; I think people rely on the security their current role can give them.”

Like Adam, Becca has also seen a rapid shift in salaries – with some staff attracted away for increases in wages.

“We want to make sure we're competitive with what we offer,” said Becca, “but we also have a really good benefits package, which has been adapted over the last couple of years to ensure people get their benefits from the end of their probation.”

Treatt has also introduced a £1,000 referral bonus for its employees – payable when a recommended candidate passes their probation.

Big C

Big C, a charity providing support for those affected by cancer in Norfolk and neighbouring counties, has found competition “increasingly competitive”, especially for jobs in its retail stores. “But we have still been able to attract some good candidates and fill our vacancies,” said Caroline Roberts, people manager.

Caroline added that the organisation has had to speed up its recruitment process to land the candidates it wants.

“Once upon a time, we would advertise with a closing date, wait for the closing date to come around, draw up a shortlist and arrange an interview,” she said. “We've learned that we've had to move much quicker.”

The company’s status as a 'best employer' has also helped with recruitment. “People are mentioning the Best Employers Eastern Region awards as a reason they're applying to us,” said Dale Coleman, director of corporate services.

The Best Employers programme was founded by recruitment specialists Pure and psychometrics experts eras, and is supported by Archant and full-service law firm Birketts.