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Keeping employees in the Great Resignation era

Article by Vicky Walker, Director of People at Westfield Health

For most, the last two years have been tumultuous with uncertainty led by multiple lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and various changes to restrictions on our everyday lives.

Reigniting a level of stability is essesntial for many and includes ensuring that the variables can be controlled, such as our everyday routine, and remaining as steady as possible. This extends to our jobs; research conducted by Westfield Health found that over a half of workers (53%) state that job security has become more important to them since the start of the pandemic.

But to feel secure in their job, workers also want to feel valued and heard at their workplace. This includes feeling that their wellbeing is being looked after and that the job’s perks are rewarding enough for them to stay. If not, workers are likely to look elsewhere.

By autumn 2021, searches for the Indeed website were above pre-pandemic levels. But with recruiters facing an ongoing candidate shortage, employers who want to attract the top talent will need to find a way to stand out.

However, to get a good insight into what workers are after, looking at the trends we are seeing continue into 2022.

Keeping employees happy
Employers need to think of ways of retaining employees. We have previously reported that looking after wellbeing and having solid strategies in place is beneficial in keeping employees happy and allowing them to feel heard.

Since then, employees have been trickling back into their workplaces, with hybrid working looking set to stay in many businesses. Having witnessed how their employer handled the pandemic compared to others, workers are more informed than ever about the typical policies and perks common to their sector. In the latter half of 2021, employees’ new priorities have become apparent, with people searching for specific benefits and becoming more selective about the job roles they apply for.

Workplace trends and demands
Employees’ priorities have changed, and the data shows they’re already keen to vote with their feet if their employer doesn’t adapt. On top of these major procedural changes, some smaller shifts in workplace culture are taking place. For example, Google searches for ‘casual office dress’ are rising — up 57% since August 2021 as employees look to balance their favourite aspects of home working with their return to the workplace. Employers need to think of ways to invite the perks of homeworking, especially if returning to the workplace full-time.

One trend that will go down as a Covid-19 relic is the ‘Zoom party’. After a final flurry at the start of 2021, searches for virtual party ideas are now firmly back at pre-pandemic levels. With Zoom fatigue establishing itself as a common phenomenon, it’s clear that the office party doesn’t translate so well in the hybrid world. Employers need to consider different methods of socialisation that will work for employees and ease back into in-person team events to boost morale and collaboration.

Google searches for ‘social sports’ are also on an upward trajectory and searches for ‘loneliness’ are trending down at last. Searches for ‘parks near me’ continue to grow, with summer 2021 outperforming the previous year despite the winding down of restrictions, suggesting countryside coffee dates and walk-and-talk meetings are here to stay.

While health and fitness topics experience an inevitable boost each January thanks to New Year’s resolutions, long-term behaviour change is far more complex. The challenge for workplaces will be keeping their people engaged with wellbeing consistently — only then will it have a significant impact on employee happiness, productivity and absence rates.

The importance of values
On top of salary, pensions, looking at current preferences and other benefits, employees are increasingly asking, “is this a good fit for me?”. Employers can attract these values-driven candidates by putting their company vision front and centre.

This may include core benefits such as hybrid and flexible working, but it’s ultimately about culture. The most engaged employees are a good fit not only in terms of skills and experience but also in their contribution to your wider purpose.

With the candidate-driven market looking to continue, now is a great time to fine-tune your approach. The first step is to revisit your company values and build your employer brand. Remember that while appealing to these new priorities is important, it must be done authentically.

Flexing your values in an attempt to appeal to every candidate will dilute your message, making it more challenging to find the right people. A well-written job advert will help you find candidates whose priorities align with your own.

In a fast-moving job market, clearly communicated values could be the deciding factor between two competing offers and retaining staff at your company. In light of this shift in priorities, hiring managers must recognise that employees want to be appreciated for who they are and what they do. 

[1] Report uses data from sources including the Office for National Statistics, the NHS, Google search trends and Westfield Health’s wellbeing surveys to investigate key wellbeing themes and help businesses get a head start on supporting their people as we enter 2022.

    Drawing on 25 years’ HR experience with major brands such as Tesco, Vicky joined Westfield Health in 2017, and is Director of People. Passionate about learning and development, Vicky prioritises developing people management skills throughout an organisation and believes that wellbeing and engagement are the key tools to drive performance and create a positive employee experience. A firm believer in an individual-first, consultative approach to HR, Vicky believes that HR’s role is to act as the conscience of an organisation and the voice of employees in the boardroom.

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