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Employee mid-year pulse check

17th Aug 2022
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The upheaval caused by the pandemic to the world of work shifted the balance of power in the workplace, putting it into the hands of employees who knew, more than ever before, what they would and wouldn’t tolerate at work. Driven by the Great Resignation’s desperate need for talent, employees had the ability to demand more from their employers and push more forcefully for their expectations to be met at work – and saw them leaving for other opportunities when companies weren’t willing to step up to the plate.

But with new challenges in the forms of a cost-of-living crisis and a looming recession, where do employees stand now, and what do they expect from their employer in these uncertain times?

Employees or employers: who’s in the driver’s seat?

The balance has shifted yet again between employees and employers.

Research from CIPD found that 53% of employers in the UK believe we are about to enter a more unstable period of employment relations, with the challenging labour market, cost-of-living crisis, and deteriorating wages increasing tensions between employees and employers.

The Great Resignation is also far from over, with one in five workers planning to quit their jobs in 2022 – yet recent research from KPMG found that earlier this year, hiring activity fell to a twelve-month low despite vacancy growth hitting a six-month high. And, according to Workhuman’s latest Human Workplace Index (HWI), 44% of the 1,000 workers surveyed say they’ve noticed their company has slowed down hiring for open roles.

While still wielding the power to ask for more from their job – especially when it comes to flexibility and benefits – employees may find themselves on the backfoot when it comes to quitting their job to look for alternative roles. Indeed, considering 22% of workers report having co-workers laid off, according to the HWI, it’s not surprising that 20% have felt less secure in their position.

Workplace support is an essential

With a looming recession on the horizon, it’s no surprise that employees want to feel secure in their jobs – but they also want to be supported too. If they’re not, then they’ll look elsewhere.

For instance, NHS staff quit in record numbers earlier this year due to stress, and almost half (46%) of working people in the UK are at risk of job burnout. According to the latest HWI survey, in the last month alone, 53% of workers have experienced stress, 35% have experienced burnout, and 24% have experienced isolation.

It isn’t just support for mental wellbeing either that employees are after. Over the last 12 months, Google searches for ‘work progression’ increased by 200% as people looked to climb up the career ladder, and Gartner found that purpose and value at work will be key drivers for employees in the future, with 65% of people saying the pandemic had made them rethink the place of work in their life.

Employees also want to be recognised for their hard work and contributions to their company – but Workhuman and Gallup found that only 23% of employees strongly agree their organisation has a system in place to recognise professional milestones such as promotions and work anniversaries.

So, if companies are looking to slow down their hiring and look towards internal talent, then they need to focus on delivering an employee experience that will ensure they can retain existing employees and make sure they feel secure and supported – and have a reason to stay.

What organisation can do to support workers

Not every employee will have the same needs and expectations, but there are a few general steps leaders can take to build a supportive environment for everyone:

Recognise their work: not only can organisations save more than $16M annually in employee turnover costs when they make recognition an important part of their culture, but they’ll also see more connection between employees and their work culture, employees who are 3x as likely to agree their organisation cares about their wellbeing, and a 30% increase in employees likely to stay at their organisation for five years. What’s not to like about recognition?

Be transparent and communicate regularly: In challenging times, the more information employees have, the more likely they are to feel that their company has their best interests in mind. Workhuman’s HWI survey, for example, found that 43% of employees will feel supported if leaders are transparent about the company’s health. Similarly, when organisations keep communication open and frequent, employees will feel supported and part of the company’s wider purpose and values.

Focus on growth and career progression: Employees want to know that their employer will look after them now, and in the future. Continuous performance development is an effective way to keep track of and be proactive in an employee’s progression across an organisation. By continuously evaluating performance in regular 1:1 sessions, rather than in one-off yearly reviews, and by frequently checking in with employees, leaders can help people be the best version of themselves while also mapping out a path for the future. This enables continuous goal setting, feedback, and engagement, whilst creating a plan to help employees see their career growth opportunities, career mobility, and even personal development. HWI found that 40% will feel supported if their career path within the organisation is clearly defined – so take the time to show employees you care about where they’re going within the company and demonstrate how you can help them get there.

But the best advice to ensure you’re meeting employees’ needs? It’s simple: just ask them. This will not only help you to understand what’s important to them, but also helps you to better plan your strategies to fit what matters to them, so you don’t have to go in blindfolded, and ensures you’re agile enough to adapt these plans when employees’ needs change with the times.

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