Beating the talent trap: under used sources of talent

August 11, 2022
Business Growth

As the UK economy starts to dip towards recession, some Helm members will be accentuating the positive. This is not bluff or founder bravado. Many Helm founders, including Covent Garden Soup Co co-founder John Stapleton, see huge opportunity in uncertainty. 

But one odd twist to this recession is that it may not be deep enough to have the usual rebalancing effect on the labour market. In harsh, purely economic terms, a recession is often the chance for supply and demand of people to level off. While that means that some people's lives take a turn for the worst, as business failures lead to redundancies and layoffs, in the end the supply of talent should right itself. But evidence suggests this time those businesses that do continue to grow and thrive, may continue to struggle to get the best talent.  

Helm is the UK’s leading peer-to-peer founder network and our members are all running fast-growing businesses. They are likely to be looking to hire people to help them keep growing, regardless of how the overall economy performs. And members at our dinners and other events continue to share stories of employees (and potential recruits on the verge of joining) being lured away by big-money offers elsewhere. Often, offers came from well funded, VC-backed firms with deep pockets able to throw money at the people problem. 

In such a market, of course employers need to work hard to retain talent. But people leave and it is difficult for a fast-growing business to avoid the recruitment market at some point. Tapping into your network of friends or former colleagues only gets you so far. Indeed, tap that network too much and you may limit diversity and hold back your business.

There are untapped places to find and recruit talent

So we decided to seek out new ideas for places to find talent. Here, we suggest websites that might help for filling certain types of role and types of candidates or areas of the market you may not have considered. 

Turning over new recruitment rocks may bring added benefits. One of the common themes through what follows is that by giving someone a chance when no one else will can result in tremendous amounts of loyalty and goodwill that in turn lead to extra effort and high performance. 

1. The disadvantaged

Why? This is a wide category, which really covers all the people not included in most job searches. This can include graduates with good degrees, from solid universities, but who come from harder-up backgrounds and may lack the confidence to put themselves forward. Engaging this community and giving someone a chance can be rewarded with strong loyalty.  

Business in the Community (BiTC) runs a number of programmes to help the disadvantaged into work. Upreach has an employability framework to help graduates from poorer or disadvantaged backgrounds benchmark how employment-ready they are and a “real-rating” to allow students and employers to assess merits in real terms, taking into account factors like personal hardship and poor educational background. 

Get involved in a mentoring programme, such as the one run by BiTC and you’ll enhance work for your existing team and gain access to a potential pool of future talent.  

2.Ex-military personnel

Why? About 21,000 people leave the armed forces every year. If you’re looking for candidates with good basic skills who are disciplined and reliable, then former military men and women are a great option. Group Captain Keith Spencer, Assistant Head of Resettlement at the MoD, explains: 

“Ex-service personnel have skills, qualities and capabilities that transfer into civilian life. They are used to leading people and making decisions in high-tech, high-stress environments. They’re some of the most adaptable, capable people in the UK.” 

Many also have technical skills in logistics or engineering. At higher levels, army leaders are quick learners and come with excellent ability to lead teams.

Where? There are several schemes and firms with a pool of ex-military candidates, many offering training for specific industries or more general skills. Good options are Forces Recruitment Solutions and Ex-mil


3. Military spouses

Why? The wives of military personnel live a particular and peculiar kind of life, having to move a lot, often at very short notice. With partners who are often abroad, they are also often solo-parenting a lot of the time. 

But the recent boom in remote working has allowed more such spouses to enter the job market, thanks in part to Helm member Heledd Kendrick, founder of Recruit for Spouses. Kendrick describes this population as “hard-wired for resilience”, used to having to get things done. As Kendrick explains, “They are forced to move around a lot and learn to be resourceful. 

They’re very good at building quick relationships as they get dropped into situations where they don’t know anyone. They’re adaptable, resilient and able to focus and get a job done. If they don’t do something, often it won’t get done.” 

Kendrick adds that they cover a wide range of skills and can do all kinds of work. RfS has placed an entire team to run social media for Virgin for example, as well as finding an anaesthetist, a part-time barrister and someone with experience in the space industry.   

Where? Recruit for Spouses was the first and remains the best source of trained and skilled service spouses. They start from the clients needs and work with their network to then find or train people to work with a wide range of clients (from large corporates to small, high-growth businesses). 

4. Working mums

Why? The pandemic has shown the possibilities of remote working. This has opened up a huge, untapped pool of at-home mums who can’t commit to full-time work, but are keen to bring their skills and experience to the workplace for a few days-a-week. This is the aim of, which links women looking to return part time with employers. Its candidate stats are impressive:

• 84% have a degree, 36% a masters and 14% a doctorate

• 89% have over 10 years’ experience

• 65% are currently on a career break

Where? There are a few sites to investigate, including; and

Tip: If you’re looking for part-time resource this is clearly a great option, but if you have a full-time need, why not consider a job share and hire two part-timers?


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