After the ‘Big Quit’, make employee benefits the catalyst for the ‘Great Return’

After the ‘Big Quit’

Recent research by leading employee benefits provider Unum UK found that two in five UK employees would be attracted to a new employer with a better benefits package. 

The pandemic has really put a spotlight on employees’ needs as lockdown blurred the usual 9-5 structure and work/life balance. With employees’ health and wellbeing in the spotlight now more than ever, this requires a major rethink of what support companies offer their workers. 

From an employee perspective, many now want more than the protection and stability of a job. They’re also seeking flexibility and benefits that can support their physical and mental wellbeing.

Our latest research found that nearly a third of those surveyed (the equivalent of 11.7 million if extrapolated out to the UK workforce) has changed employer, or desires to, since the start of the pandemic.

This could be one of the reasons why resignations have spiked in recent months. More than 1 million employees left their jobs in Q3 2021 for another employer, the highest figure in a single quarter since records began in Q4 2001. Of these workers, 391,000 resigned; resignations rose by 33% on the previous quarter and another record high.

Small businesses, which represent the majority of businesses in the country, are particularly at risk of losing top talent. The research revealed that although 78% of decision makers at companies with 250 or fewer employees highlighted the importance of employee benefits  to recruitment and retention, 37% have not reassessed their benefits since the start of the pandemic.

Of the SME decision makers surveyed:

  • 46% would opt to pay bonuses
  • 42% would increase salaries
  • 34% would facilitate remote/hybrid working policies to retain staff. 

In comparison, only 16% would consider introducing financial protection benefits – a stark contrast.

Fortunately, our research provided insight into how the tide may be starting to turn among a minority of SMEs. 26% of those surveyed suggested that they have, or will soon, introduce new employee benefits, while 28% confirmed they planned to survey staff to find out which benefits they value ahead of making future changes.

Among SMEs that have reassessed their benefits offering since March 2020:

  • 48% were prompted to do so after listening to the changing needs of their staff 
  • 21% recognised they were struggling to attract new staff with their current benefits package
  • 20% knew their competition offered better packages.

The conclusion from this is that money doesn’t mean everything in the professional world. Bonuses and pay rises are of course welcome as inflationary pressures threaten to spark a cost-of-living crisis, but our research demonstrates just how key employee benefits packages are for retaining top talent.

In today’s competitive jobs environment, businesses will have to expand their recruitment horizons. Rather than simply tapping the dwindling pool of brand-new talent, it may be time to consider tempting those lost to the ‘Big Quit’ back into the fold.

This will involve understanding why so many employees resigned in the first place – and, for many employees, it seems this is more than simply about pay and bonuses, with employee benefits packages clearly one key factor in employees’ decisions to leave their employer. 

By improving their offering in this area, small businesses face a better chance of winning the war for talent, which given current labour market conditions must be waged not just by attracting new recruits but also so-called ‘boomerang’ employees – those who left for pastures new but return to a previous employer later on.

Small businesses cannot overlook this. It seems many employees want to feel that their wellbeing is looked after – something that can’t be expressed merely in pounds and pence.

Source: Research conducted by Opinium research between 28 September and 1 October 2021 amongst a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults, and between 2 November and 8 November 2021 amongst a nationally representative sample of 500 senior decision makers in UK SMEs

Mark Till
Mark Till

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