We must unearth hidden talent to address concerning economic inactivity rates

Increasing inactivity rates highlight need for innovative approach to recruitment by bosses

Northern Ireland’s economic inactivity rate remains above the UK average
Northern Ireland's economic inactivity rate, while reducing, remains above the UK average at 26.6%

The latest release of labour market statistics by the Office for National Statistics highlights a concerning trend: the UK’s total economic inactivity rate lies at 22.1%, the highest it has been since September 2015. Conversely, Northern Ireland’s rate stands at its lowest since February 2020, but is still much higher than the UK rate at 26.6%.

The gender gap in economic activity is a pronounced one, in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The male inactivity rates stand at 18.7% and 22.9% in Britain and Northern Ireland respectively, while the inactivity rates among women stand at 25.2% and 30.1% respectively.

Increasing inactivity rates in the UK and Northern Ireland’s long-standing highlight the need for an innovative approach to recruitment by employers.

As a means of unearthing the hidden talent with these statistics, employers have been redefining flexibility by offering remote work, part-time schedules, and adaptable hours.

This approach not only attracts candidates balancing care giving duties, but also accommodates people with disabilities, neurodivergent individuals, older workers, stay-at-home parents, long-term unemployed, and those seeking a better work-life balance.

Still, more can be done. By partnering with community organisations, conducting targeted outreach at job fairs, and leveraging online platforms designed for underrepresented groups, employers can unlock access to previously undiscovered talent pools and lead to the discovery of individuals with valuable skills and expertise, even among those not actively seeking employment.

Crafting inclusive job descriptions is another critical component of this paradigm shift. By removing language or requirements that inadvertently exclude certain groups, employers can signal their commitment to attracting a broader range of candidates with varied backgrounds and perspectives.

Skill-based hiring is also gaining popularity, with organisations prioritising skills and competencies over degrees or titles allowing them to find candidates with valuable experience. This has been seen through some companies dropping minimum degree classification requirements or dropping degree requirements altogether.

Investing in internal training and development programmes is not just about upskilling—it’s about unlocking real potential.

Diversity and inclusion initiatives are also foundational to supportive workplace cultures, ensuring all employees feel valued and supported. Providing accessible facilities and flexible interview formats is essential, not just legally but morally imperative, in uncovering hidden talents.

economic inactivity
Karen Corry

The traditional recruitment model is evolving as organisations shift towards a new skill based operating model that places skills as the central focus rather than specific qualifications and job titles.

This transformation goes beyond mere position fulfilment; it aims to leverage diverse perspectives and talents to fuel innovation, nurture creativity, and propel organisational success in the future.

  • Karen Corry is senior HR consultant at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore