Are firms facing a retention crisis as the UK comes out of C-19 lockdown?

With permanent vacancies up 28% in the last week of April, it would appear that the UK jobs market might be on the mend. While there’s no disputing that the employment market is struggling at the moment, data from Broadbean Technology suggests it’s not all doom and gloom. The healthcare sector has understandably remained the busiest throughout the C-19 pandemic however it is now education and training that are contributing the most to new roles posted, up 13% in a week. This would suggest that firms are embracing new methods of remote learning whilst schools are preparing for pupils to return to the classrooms in the coming weeks and months. There is currently however a North-South divide in new activity with London up 27% on the previous week whilst Manchester only saw a 2% increase. This rise in activity can only be good news for recruiters and job-seekers alike but the period of lockdown will have long-term effects on the UK’s job market and pose many challenges for business leaders.

Employers that have put their recruitment activity on hold throughout the lockdown might return to their desks to be confronted with a very different jobs market to the one they knew just a few months ago. With mandatory home-working and nearly half of the UK workforce being placed on Furlough leave, Employees nationwide have been able to take time to reflect on their careers, working lives and future opportunities. It is highly likely that many will decide that they want to leave their companies and pursue their passions elsewhere when this is all over. There are many factors that could contribute to this such as the way in which they have been supported throughout the crisis by their current employer, being personally touched by the effects of C-19, or just having time to think whilst taking their daily exercise.

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Employee engagement is something that has always been on the agenda but now more than ever, it will take centre stage as businesses face the threat of their usual annual staff turnover happening in just one financial quarter. For many employees, home working and the measures they have had to take during lockdown to accommodate home schooling for example will have placed new tensions on personal and family relationships. This, coupled with the financial burden of reduced income has led to a sharp spike in the number of reported mental health issues. Employers who have been able to support their staff either directly or indirectly by managers and colleagues being available to speak or through the use of employee assistance programmes, will see much greater levels of appreciation from their employees and are likely to retain many more staff as a result. Businesses that have put little focus on the wellbeing of their staff may find that they face a workforce that is reluctant to return to the office and commit their lives like they did before.

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Of course, we are all very different creatures and there is no doubt that many people that have been denied the opportunity in the past will have relished in the ability to work from home; Having greater flexibility and being free from the endless meetings and interruptions that working in the office can bring. These employees will inevitably expect, some of this new found freedom to extend into their post-lockdown working lives. Will we all work from home forever? Employers have to recognise that this will be the new norm and with only 15% of firms in a recent survey suggesting that home working has had a negative impact on productivity, the reasons for refusing it in the future are likely to be few and far between. There will be plenty of businesses out there who take this opportunity to re-shape their workforce, and engage with new talent who would otherwise be overlooked for needing to work remotely.

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Communication is key to keeping your employees engaged and ensuring that they recognise that the business values them more so now than ever before. Official zoom meetings and conference calls are great to bring teams together but what about the watercooler chat that you used to have with the Accounts Intern about the football, or the catch ups you had with your Receptionist who kept hold of your latest Amazon orders for you. These informal lines of communication are just as important to keep alive as these are the ones which might bring someone 5 minutes of light relief in an otherwise dull day at home. Employers and managers shouldn’t rely on someone else to be doing this or for their HR department to set up access to an employee assistance programme. Personal relationships and emotional intelligence are what will bring an engaged team back to work firing on all cylinders.

Business leaders will understandably be fighting to keep their companies afloat and focussing on tasks such as cutting costs and managing cash flow. But, they must also recognise that although right now, many employees who are stuck at home might be longing to get out of the confines of the house, they may discover that it is not their old workplace that they wish to return to. 

Joe Brown is the Co-Founder of Peopleforce Technical Recruitment.

For more information please visit www.peopleforcerecruitment.com or contact Joe directly at jbrown@peopleforcerecruitment.com

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