Almost a quarter of UK firms are having to wait up to six months to fill key job vacancies as a growing skills gap puts a squeeze on business growth.
Research carried out by amongst more than 700 employers by Investors in People has found that recruitment is becoming an increasingly important business issue, with more than a third of employers unable to find the applicants they need for their positions.
The survey found that almost nine out of 10 employers believed recruitment will be a high or very high priority for them over the next 12 months, while almost four out of 10 see it as more of a priority than they did a year ago.
But a lack of quality applicants is proving an increasing challenge for businesses. Almost a quarter of UK bosses have to wait up to six months on average to fill job vacancies and fewer than one in five said it takes less than a month to find the right person for the job.
"This survey shows that finding the right person for the job is becoming increasingly difficult," said Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive of Investors in People.
"Applicants are lacking in both quality and quantity, meaning that ambitious employers are starved of the lifeblood of their business - the people whom they need to progress"
With four out of 10 respondents saying that the main reason for recruitment is business growth, the implications of this talent squeeze are clear.
In this increasingly talent-scarce environment, IIP advised employers to plan carefully for their current and future recruitment needs and to draw up clear job descriptions for each vacant position to avoid 'job mis-selling'
Employers should also remember that the right person for the job could right under their noses. Careful succession planning can ensure that when a manager is promoted or moves on, a member of their team is well equipped to fill their shoes without having to go to the time and expense of recruiting externally.
A proper induction process and on-going dialogue is also critical new starters are not to lose their motivation but start to contribute to the organisation's productivity as soon as possible after joining, IIP said.
"In these difficult circumstances, employers must do all they can to increase their competitive edge in the recruitment market," Ruth Spellman added.
"This means putting people at the heart of their business, analysing both current and prospective requirements and then tenaciously targeting people to fill these needs - both internal and external candidates."