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As the latest UK employment overview from the ONS confirms, COVID-19 has truly set us on the path to a buyers’ market – but it is a buyers’ market with a difference. Despite the challenging climate, the skills shortage hasn’t disappeared so key professionals have continued to see a rise in demand, so much so that many are reassessing their career options post-COVID-19.

The latest research shows that of those currently working, almost a quarter (24%) are actively searching for a new role at present, while an additional 28% are assessing their work-life balance and considering alternative options.

Attitudes towards where and how people work have shifted during the pandemic, having a direct impact on managers looking to retain key employees and/or attract the best available talent moving forward. However, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure you remain a leading employer and stand out from your peers whether retaining or hiring staff in the coming months.

How to retain your top talent
Remain focused on employee well-being
Continue to help people get through this time, emotionally. Consider wellness webinars on topics such as coping with uncertainty, living through change, stress management and mind-body relaxation. Even with social distancing guidelines gradually being lifted across the UK, this pandemic is far from over, unfortunately. So, continue to foster a supportive and empathetic team culture.

Reward your top performers
Even in times of relatively high unemployment, if you aren’t meeting or exceeding what other companies are paying for similar work, you risk losing your most valued employees – many of whom have probably gained new skills and business-critical experience during the pandemic. Base pay increases, the continued ability to work remotely, restructured working hours and/or deferred bonuses could all help retain the loyalty of key employees.

Be flexible
Allow a wide degree of latitude when it comes to working hours and deadlines. This will permit people to arrange their lives as the pandemic continues to pose unexpected barriers to everyday tasks and services they once took for granted.

Reinforce employee importance and value
Office perks like all-you-can-eat snacks, cool collaboration spaces and on-site gyms don’t have the same impact now. What many members of your team will probably want most during this time is work that is meaningful and reassurance that their contributions are valued. Make it clear that they are critical to your company’s rebound and they’re supported by leadership.

How to attract new talent
Focus on business agility and essential skillsets
As more parts of the economy re-open, many companies will focus on rehiring activities to maintain business continuity and kick off new growth initiatives. While technical skills remain important, it is people skills – or ‘soft’ skills – which will arguably prove most vital in many roles, due to their importance in managing change and opening up new strategic business opportunities. Skills such as adaptability, resilience, coachability, initiative and a culture of life-long learning are key to identify the best candidates who can adapt to an ever-evolving world of work.

Remote work is working
Eighty percent (80%) of the survey respondents indicated they would like to continue working from home post-COVID-19. Managers who remain open to hiring remote workers will continue to have more recruiting choices because they have, in effect, lifted geographic barriers. Many have realised over recent weeks that you can engage potential new hires from across the globe as easily as those living near your office, which substantially expands their potential talent pool.

Choose the staffing model that’s right for you
If you’re reluctant to hire permanent employees until you’re more confident you’re achieving your business growth goals, you can tap into the high-quality temporary talent pool to meet demand. Engaging temporary or interim staff can bring a range of benefits of engaging the right skills at the right time, for as long as needed. There is also the added benefit that interim staff can often provide best practice insights from a wide range of industries to support key projects.

Preparing for the ‘new normal’
While no one knows precisely what the post-pandemic future will bring, the silver lining is that we’re all discovering new ways of working together. What’s more, sectors as diverse as IT, logistics, food processing and manufacturing are all showing early signs of recovery demonstrating that there are opportunities out there.

With many businesses re-opening their offices and beginning to navigate a path back to normality – or, at least, the next “new normal” – the need for companies to adopt flexible working policies; (re)assess employees’ core skills in response to evolving business priorities; and foster a supportive and inclusive workplace culture has arguably never been more urgent in order to retain and attract the best talent.

 Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK

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