The UK faces mass employee exodus post-pandemic.
There are several reasons people are seeking a change, in what some economists have dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’. Britain’s employers are struggling to hire staff as lockdown lifts amid an exodus of overseas workers caused by the Covid pandemic and Brexit, industry figures reveal.
Bad leadership, poor employee support and stagnant growth opportunities during the pandemic are driving enormous employee churn in the UK workplace. According to the data, almost half (48 per cent) of UK office workers have specified that they have either found a new role, are actively looking or will be leaving their jobs this year.
For some workers, the pandemic precipitated a shift in priorities, encouraging them to pursue a ‘dream job’, or transition to being a stay-at-home parent. But for many, many others, the decision to leave came as a result of the way their employer treated them during the pandemic.
53 per cent specifically cite working from home as having a significantly negative impact on their personal development and progression at work, with over a third (39%) of Brits stating that skills have grown stale or they have regressed in their roles over the course of the pandemic. Alongside this, a further 43 per cent of those surveyed believe that the lack of ‘face time’ or one-to-one engagement with managers has seriously hindered their promotion prospects. Almost half (48 per cent) commented that their employer has not offered them any opportunities to learn or develop new skills since the globally enforced COVID-19 working from home patterns emerged.
Why aren’t we valued and where is the employer support?
The lack of contact has been cited as another key issue leading to the impending job departures, with 62 per cent of office workers frustrated due to little or no support from their managers over the last year. A quarter (24 per cent) also felt undervalued as employees. In many cases, progression and promotion were only discussed once in the last year, with 1 in 10 office workers stating this was the case.
There is a desire to continue remote working that is also mirrored in the attitudes of managers themselves with (40%) saying they would likely look for a new job if they could no longer work from home once restrictions ease.
More than half (56%) of managers want to work just 1-2 days a week in the workplace and almost three quarters (74%) were not yet concerned that their organisation may consider reducing their salary if they continued to work from home after restrictions were lifted.
The survey also found there is little trust in either employers’ or the Government regarding return to workplace safety.
An overwhelming majority of managers (71%) said they trusted scientific advisors rather than employers (14%) or Government (9%) regarding the matter.
A summary of key findings from The Beamery Talent Index:
- Almost half (48%) of UK office workers are leaving or planning to leave their job this year
- 12% have a new opportunity already
- 24% actively looking
- 12% plan to leave later this year
- 63% say this is linked to bad leadership and lack of employer support during the pandemic
- 43% believe that the lack of ‘face time’ or 1:1 engagement with managers has seriously hindered their promotion opportunities
- 53% specifically cite working from home as having a significantly negative impact on personal development and progression at work
- Over a third (39%) of Brits believe their skills have grown stale and they have, in fact, regressed in their role
- 48% say their employer has not offered them the opportunity to learn new skills or develop since the pandemic
- A quarter (24%) don’t feel they are valued employees
- 1 in 10 office workers only discuss progression and promotion once a year
- 82% of respondents believe that UK employers need to better address talent progression in the UK
A predictable response
Foremost, workers are making decisions to leave based on how their employers treated them – or didn’t treat them – during the pandemic. Ultimately, workers stayed at companies that offered support and darted from those that didn’t.
Workers who, pre-pandemic, may already be teetering on the edge of quitting companies with existing poor company culture saw themselves pushed to a breaking point. That’s because, as evidenced by a recent Stanford study, many of these companies with bad environments doubled down on decisions that didn’t support workers, such as layoffs (while, conversely, companies that had good culture tended to treat employees well). This drove out already disgruntled workers who survived the layoffs but could plainly see they were working in unsupportive environments.
And although workers have always cared about the environments in which they work, the pandemic added an entirely new dimension: an increased willingness to act, says Alison Omens, chief strategy officer of JUST Capital, the research firm that collected much of the data for the study at Stanford.
Workers expected their employers to make moves to help alleviate, or at least acknowledge, those concerns – and companies that failed to do so have suffered.
The Personio study also showed that more than half of the respondents who were planning to quit wanted to do so because of a reduction in benefits, a worsening work-life balance or a toxic workplace culture.
Hospitality and Brexit
A lot of workers had given up on looking for hospitality and retail jobs in favour of more secure work after three lockdowns in the past year.
“There are also far fewer foreign workers seeking employment in the UK with overseas interest in UK jobs more than halving from before the pandemic, hitting these industries hard,” Andrew Hunter, a co-founder of Adzuna, said.
Adzuna said 250,000 fewer job-seekers from western Europe and North America applied for work in the United Kingdom per month between February and April than before pre-pandemic.
“UK employers can no longer rely on overseas workers to plug employment gaps,” Hunter said.
A combination of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic are believed to have cut the number of foreign workers in Britain.
Britain’s statistics office estimates the number of non-UK nationals employed in the country in the last three months of 2020 fell by 4.0% from the same period of 2019 to 4.22 million, based on tax data, compared with a 2.6% fall for UK nationals to 24.0 million.
How to stop the exodus
A lot has been said of treating employees well and it brings back to mind the old adage: ‘people don’t leave jobs, they leave the manager’.
Ensuring existing employees are engaged and satisfied at work will be critical in protecting against a staff exodus For most organisations, talent is a critical asset – but, unfortunately, potentially the biggest risk factor too. The more awareness you can have about what drives and motivates your team, the better. Your team members want to know that you care about them as people and individuals, not just as a headcount. Critical to the workplace experience is an individual’s relationship with their line manager and how they feel they are valued by them. Regular constructive conversations are required to cement this relationship– and a coaching-based approach is the best way to make these conversations feel personal.
Once you have an understanding as to what drives your employees to stay or think about leaving, it’s much easier to align solutions to keep your talent engaged. Sometimes it can be as straightforward as offering a more hybrid approach to flexible working.
For other employers, the skills gap is the biggest challenge they need to address. Don’t forget that in about 75% of cases, it pays for an organisation to reskill an employee rather than look to hire in. With many people feeling their careers have been on hold for the last 18 months, offering learning opportunities can be a simple and effective way to address retention, engagement and skills gaps within the business.
Addressing skills gaps and employee motivation is critical in the post-covid era to motivate and retain the talent critical to business success. The most forward-thinking organisations know that the best way to avoid any staff exodus is by embedding coaching across all levels of an organisation. This action allows you to create an environment of personal development and enhanced performance, giving employees the ability to overcome barriers and accelerate skills development ensuring a workplace that employees won’t want to leave.
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Written by Andrew Callister