BER21: Skills and talent shortages and their impact on our business


This blog post was produced for inclusion in the Birmingham Economic Review for 2021.

The annual Birmingham Economic Review is produced by the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and a high-quality resource for informing research, policy and investment decisions.

This post is featured in Chapter 3 of the Birmingham Economic Review for 2021, on the city’s labour market and current and future challenges

Click here to read the Review.

At Gymshark, we believe that people build brands and having the right people on our team is critical to our success. As a global fitness apparel brand, with our headquarters in Solihull, our vision is to unite the conditioning community, where conditioning is everything we do today to prepare for tomorrow. We aspire to be a leading global brand so we can have the most meaningful positive impact on our community. To achieve our goals, we must maintain sustainable, rapid growth within a fast-evolving landscape, amplified further by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, recruiting and retaining world-class talent is crucial.

We face a range of barriers in acquiring the skills and talent we need. Two key examples are the talent pool size in the Midland’s region (where our global HQ is based) and skills shortages in critical functional areas required to run our business as a direct-to-consumer brand. In addition, the need to recruit fast to keep in line with our growth trajectory adds to this challenge.

A huge priority for us is looking after and investing in our people to build a culture that everyone wants to be a part of and nobody wants to leave. Our efforts dedicated to this help us to nurture and grow our talent and overcome talent shortage challenges. Within our Data & Insight function, I consistently focus on how we can address this challenge as we scale. We strive to be data-led at Gymshark, leveraging the vast value of data to inform strategy and drive improvements across all business units. Having exceptional data skills in both data roles and embedded across the organisation through strong data literacy is critical to ensuring we can deliver this goal.


To overcome the barriers a nationwide shortage of data skills poses, we run internal initiatives in the data function that helps us to 'grow our own' talent. Examples include offering internships/placement roles, and investing in junior team members, upskilling them to create a highly skilled and high-performing team and developing specialist data skills internally. Alongside this, our business-wide learning and development initiatives, such as leadership coaching, help develop broader skills in our people across all levels of the business. We will continue to invest more time and resources in this area, with more sophisticated internal training programmes, graduate schemes and apprenticeships in the future. Without this focus internally, we would struggle to find the talent needed to create the world-class Data team we are looking to build.

As well as looking to nurture our existing talent, we focus heavily on building our external talent pipeline. To support this, we invest in building our employer brand, helping showcase the great culture and opportunities we have in the business. Employer branding around functions such as Tech and Data also help to tell a story about those functions specifically, educating people on the work we are doing in those areas and what a career in Tech or Data could look like at Gymshark. A strong employer brand encourages experienced talent to engage with us and consider our roles, whilst also inspiring more people to explore career opportunities in professions where we see talent shortages.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing considerable shifts in digital transformation and speeding the adoption of digital by many years, we expect to face evolving talent challenges in the years ahead. I believe that the demand for digital skills has never been higher, meaning even more focus is required to develop this talent in the Midlands region and globally, not just to stay ahead but to keep up altogether.

Although the pandemic has been a very challenging time, great learnings have come from the past 18 months, which will not only fast track the digital age but improve our access to nationwide (and global) talent. The pandemic has shown the power of remote working, and although it poses its own challenges, remote working combined with office working practices has evolved our ability to conduct our business and presented many opportunities that we didn't previously consider.

I hope that our investments in our people will help us achieve our ambitious goals, with a fundamental driver being to build a world-class global team. I’m excited for the challenges and opportunities ahead and hope the part we play will help to support positive talent growth in the Midlands region.

Gemma Hulbert
Chief Data Officer at Gymshark