Whether we like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work.
Whether we like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work. And now, 5.6 billion active businesses across the UK are facing increasing difficulty when it comes to hiring and keeping great talent.
Many organisations are facing an exodus of skilled staff as the ‘Great Reshuffle’ rolls on, and are finding it challenging to fill these critical vacancies – causing an estimated two million businesses to be unable to pursue growth due to a lack of talent, according to recent research.
Beyond the significant business impact, this upheaval has also left HR leaders grappling with how to evolve recruitment and retention strategies to meet the evolving expectations of employees in a hiring market where the scales have tipped significantly in favour of workers.
At Lattice, we surveyed 200 HR leaders and 2000 employees amongst a cross-section of UK-based organisations to gain more insight into the forces driving employee resignations, and how employees feel their companies are adapting to the pandemic-induced challenges.
What we found tells us that before HR leaders jump into action, they may want to take a pause to consider whether they are really attuned with the needs and wants of their staff: While we have come a long way since the early, chaotic days of COVID-19, there is clearly a gap between what HR leaders believe to be the causes behind the ‘Great Reshuffle’, the steps they’ve taken to address it, and the actual experience and perceptions of employees.
For HR leaders, how successfully they understand and bridge that gap may well be the difference between losing employees or gaining — and retaining — top talent. Below, I outline key findings from this research that may offer learning opportunities for proactive HR leaders.
The discrepancies between the employee experience and HR’s perceptions
Our research demonstrates how employee priorities are shifting under the continued impact of the pandemic, and illuminates where HR leaders are missing the mark in meeting those priorities.
For example, UK workers’ top motivation (26%) for leaving their jobs was being offered higher pay by another employer. Just below that, at 25%, was the need for a better work-life balance. Yet while nearly half (48%) of HR leaders identified poor work-life balance to be their organisation’s leading driver of turnover, only a third ranked pay as a top consideration.
Similarly, 44% of workers said the pandemic made them consider quitting their job because they felt overworked and underappreciated: yet, only 19% of HR leaders believed staff was quitting because they felt underappreciated.
These discrepancies between the employee experience and an HR leader’s beliefs can make or break retention. Imagine putting an enormous amount of effort into initiatives aimed at addressing a work-life imbalance, when your team was actually looking for a monetary bonus or, more simply, some well-deserved appreciation. Misaligned policies can indicate to staff that their HR leaders are not as close to the ground as they should be.
The importance of communication and closing the feedback loop
Our research also revealed that communication breakdowns are exacerbating the disconnect between HR team actions and the employee experience. Over two-thirds (67%) of HR leaders said they had introduced or improved their flexible working policies pre-COVID. However, when asked about the same issue, only 46% of employees felt that impact from their employers – and over half of respondents (52%) suggested that requests they had made to HR teams and leadership around improving policies fell on deaf ears.
This could be a result of one of two things: Either companies have not implemented requested changes, or they have made progress against these requests – but fell short on clearly communicating around those changes to their employees. In fact, a recent EY report found that 79% of companies intend to make moderate to extensive hybrid work changes, yet only 40% have communicated these plans to their workforce. Especially in a remote working environment, regular communication with employees should be a top priority for HR teams.
Of course, a company cannot implement every change asked for by every employee. But, especially when your HR team has asked for feedback, closing that feedback loop is crucial — and making sure clear communication is in place around why a requested change can’t happen is just as important as communicating around those that can. Employees need to know that their voices are being heard by employers — and fortunately, there are many tools and resources available to help HR teams become better listeners.
Get ahead of the disconnect by actively listening
In 2021, our research found that 80% of HR departments that exceeded their goals regularly also conduct employee engagement surveys. Listening to your team is the foundation of a successful HR team and has direct impact on attracting and retaining talent. If you sense (or better yet, survey and find) a disconnect between HR initiatives and employee perceptions, it’s time to become a better active listener. In order to create the best possible solutions for retaining your team members, HR leaders must first understand the key drivers that may lead to resignations.
The first step HR leaders need to consider is whether they have the right technology and tools in place for seamless communication. This might manifest in the form of weekly updates, engagements huddles, 360 degree feedback and surveys. Once this is established, it's important to determine how you want to centralise and anaylse this data, and what frequency you want to act on results. Encompassing all of this should be the action of regularly checking in with managers to gain insight into the broader employee experience and morale.
The faster HR leaders can align with their teams on why they are or may consider leaving, the faster they can address the motivations behind the Great Reshuffle.
Navigating the ‘Great Reshuffle’
Employees are more comfortable with moving jobs than ever before, and our research found HR leaders are convinced staffing shortages will continue for 2-3 years. Yet it’s important to remember that while these trends were initially driven and exacerbated by the pandemic, the shift in employee behaviours and preferences are here for the long term. Employees have now had two years to consider — and reprioritise — what matters to them both personally and professionally. HR leaders who are proactive about not only listening and communicating openly, but also staying agile and iterative on refining policies to keep addressing employee need, will be the ones who hang onto their top-performing talent in the midst of the Great Reshuffle.