The past two years have been like no other. Business has been turned on its head and workers have had to rethink the accepted norms multiple times, through multiple lockdowns. The sudden shift to remote working interrupted childcare, and widespread job losses in certain industries have led many workers to rethink their lives and careers. This has contributed to the much talked about great resignation. In just one-month last year, almost 3% of the workforce left their jobs, the highest number on record. In the UK, the situation was just as stark with the number of open jobs surpassing 1 million for the first time.
Now more than ever, employers need to reconsider how best to attract and retain top talent. Many short-term challenges that seemed temporary at the start of the pandemic have become deep-rooted. It is, therefore, vital that employers plan a way forward and reaffirm a sense of stability and purpose for workers.
Research we recently undertook provides a valuable starting point to understand the situation employers are facing today, and how they can ensure they have the best people for the job.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has dented worker sentiment. Whilst 86% of workers still say they feel optimistic about the next five years, some younger workers remain to be convinced. They do, however, concede that the pandemic will have a positive impact on issues like flexibility and skills development.
Retaining staff doesn’t just come from paying the best wages. Rather, our research suggests that finding ways to reduce stress, avoid burnout and create a sense of fairness are all just as important in maintaining a mentally and physically healthy workforce that remain loyal and in roles.
With concerns around job security looming large, nearly half (46%) of workers have taken on additional responsibilities at work, either to compensate for colleagues losing their roles or to cope with the extra workload. Unpaid overtime has jumped sharply to 9.2 hours per week, with this rising to 9.4 hours per week for those working from home.
Unfortunately, only 69% of workers agree that their employer has provided the equipment needed to do their job remotely. There is clearly so much room for improvement. Not having the correct tools to undertake work from home will not only dent worker efficiency but heighten the risk of security breaches if staff are forced to use personal equipment.
Pay and performance
For three-in-ten workers (28%) the pandemic has meant changing roles as their employers have been forced to restructure their operations. While most (55%) preferred the role they were doing previously, over a third (36%) think the change has been for the better. For all the challenges of COVID-19, it has offered some workers the opportunity to develop new skills or embark on new career trajectories. Most are being rewarded financially for their extra efforts too, with nearly seven-in-ten (68%) receiving a pay rise or a bonus. Though concerning disparities do emerge by gender.
Unfortunately, not all organisations have been paying their staff in a correct and timely manner. This is often down to time-sapped finance departments having to spin plates and being unequipped to manage the process internally. Underpayments have affected more than three-in-five workers (63%), and late payments are on the increase. It should go without saying that issues around payment accuracy and promptness resonate more when people are being asked to work harder than ever and in more stressful circumstances, so should be avoided at all costs.
There has been much talk of house prices rocketing in rural areas. The pandemic has driven a shift in where workers work and live. Globally, an astounding three quarters (75%) of workers have made changes or plan to change their living arrangements. This shift will have long-term implications for the jobs people do and how and where they work.
Worker mobility also plays into consideration around whether employed roles or gig work are
preferable. The gig economy was already on the rise pre-pandemic. However, the arrival of COVID-19 has renewed scrutiny around the benefits and drawbacks of the practice.
One of the defining characteristics of the pandemic is the way in which it has exacerbated the
work/life balance conflict. Whereas pre-COVID, ideas about work/life balance were focused on ensuring work did not take over workers’ personal lives, now the issue includes managing risk and responsibilities in terms of health and safety. People are being forced to reconsider the interplay between their interactions with family and friends, their own physical and mental wellbeing, and their working practices.
Two thirds (67%) of the global workforce say they have been forced to make a compromise
between their work and their personal life. The research points to some concerns for women in particular. They are much more likely to report that stress management is a challenge and feel less assured about job prospects compared to men. Women are also less likely to receive a pay rise or bonus for taking on additional work or changing roles.
At a time of extraordinary economic, professional, and personal disruption, workers have largely stepped up to the mark. It is now time for businesses to give back. Even before the great resignation, it was important that organisations did all they could to retain their most talented individuals and teams. It has just come into sharper focus. Using robust analytic tools can help to identify the gaps between perception and reality – in terms of compensation, training, career prospects and more. This is because such tools provide an unbiased view. The biggest IP in any business is its staff and it’s important that businesses recognise this before it’s too late, with or without the help of tools.