Higher wages will not be enough to attract workers back, says Pearson boss

Andy Bird said firms need fresh incentives to set themselves apart, after data showed there were 1.2 million jobs vacant in November in the UK.

August Graham
Wednesday 19 January 2022 11:23
There were 1.2 million vacancies in the UK in November, recent data show (Steve Parsons/PA)
There were 1.2 million vacancies in the UK in November, recent data show (Steve Parsons/PA)

The boss of publisher Pearson has said that offering “more and more salary” is not the way to attract workers back into jobs as thousands fell away during the pandemic.

Andy Bird said companies need to try to set themselves apart from competitors with non-monetary incentives if they want to boost their workforces.

In November there were more than 1.2 million jobs in the UK that needed to be filled, which is a record, according to Office for National Statistics data.

“Everyone talks about the great resignation. I think more and more companies are now looking at the great re-engagement, and how do we differentiate ourselves?” he said.

Andy Bird, chief executive of Pearson Education, asked ‘how do we differentiate ourselves?’ (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“We can’t do this just by offering more and more people more and more salary, we’ve got to try and differentiate the work experience to attract talent or retain talent within a company.

Learning plays such a valuable role within that.”

Mr Bird, who makes 1.3 million dollars (£1 million) a year before bonuses, said that Pearson was “very well positioned to capitalise on the move”.

His comments followed the news that Pearson’s annual sales rose 8% along with an increase of a third in adjusted operating profit.

The results were ahead of expectations and helped to push shares up by 7% on Wednesday morning.

Mr Bird said that the business was not being hit by the huge rise in inflation that is pushing up costs for companies and squeezing customers.

The publisher’s move towards digital books has made it more resistant to supply chain problems and increases in commodity prices.

It is, however, being forced to pay staff better wages.

Mr Bird said the firm is not seeing any signs that students are not buying textbooks because they need to tighten their belts.

Sally Johnson, chief financial officer,  said: “Remember that our biggest market is the US, which is very different from the UK market from a university perspective.

“It’s more like what we would think of as being a school, so there’s a requirement to get the textbook, rather than it being an option.”

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