According to our spring 2021 UK Reward Management Survey, one third expect retention difficulties in the next six months and one in five have experienced difficulties in retention so far this year. Just over one third expect recruitment challenges in the next six months and one third have experienced challenges so far in 2021. This is an increase since autumn 2020, indicating signs that the labour market is set to be more buoyant in the coming months, in line with the unlocking of restrictions.
Job vacancies have hit an all-time high of almost one million, according to the Official for National Statistics. However, Rosalind Lowe, head of policy and engagement at the National Centre for Universities and Business warned that there may be serious concerns that the labour market is “witnessing a skills mismatch”. Skills and training are going to be vital for fuelling the economy post-pandemic, and many employers are being urged to ensure that back to work schemes, aimed at those on furlough, and upskilling will help keep employees invested and engaged in organisations. We are yet to see the impact of the Coronavirus Retention Scheme coming to an end in September, so driving employee engagement will be vital for the labour market as it enters autumn, but the gradual withdrawal of the safety net is helping to keep redundancies at bay.
Anxiety around a return to the workplace was a common theme amongst respondent employers in our spring survey. Whilst employees appear apprehensive about a return to physical workspaces, with some being out of the office since March 2020, others fear the accelerated change and the expectation from organisations to immediately return.
The reasons behind employee anxiety may vary so it is critical to understand why each individual feels apprehensive. This may be something you can work with them to alleviate – such as increasing cleaning and the visibility of health and safety measures if they are concerned over the risks they face. 24 per cent of employers are offering working bubbles and eight per cent are introducing ‘Covid Wardens’. Only six per cent have introduced mandatory testing, with 24 per cent offering voluntary workplace testing for the virus. Mandating vaccinations is a huge consideration from an employment law perspective.
Others may be concerned about the commute and risks they face, which may just require patience and time until the full unlocking on the roadmap is reached and being in crowded places feels more usual once again. In response to this, 36 per cent are offering shorter days or different shift patterns which could enable employees to control their working day and avoid busy commuting times.
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With a gradual return to the office expected, the scope given to the employer needs to be seen as an opportunity. Many are operating a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to what others will do in terms of setting expectations and guidance around how many days employees will be asked to come into the office. However, those who define what they want their workplace to offer employees and give them certainty at the earliest opportunity can strengthen employee loyalty and drive employee engagement with a defined plan. Call us today if you would like to talk through any of the challenges you face in your sector and how fairness can form the cornerstone of your approach.