Written by Nicola Gater | 25th May 2021

25th May 2021

UK job vacancies have hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic and a new survey by CIPD has found that employers are more optimistic about jobs now than they have been in the last eight years.

We’re seeing increases in staff turnover at some businesses, and we believe that the lifting of lockdown restrictions may be driving some of that. People have stuck with their employers during lockdown because of fears around job security but now, as they see other opportunities opening up, they are starting to reflect on their work experiences during the pandemic as well as what the future looks like and may be looking to move on to a company that will offer them what they want.

If you are having trouble with retention or struggling to recruit, here’s some suggestions to keep your staff happy and make yourself an attractive employer.

Offer more flexibility

A recent survey of 2,000 workers found that almost half (49%) would look for a new job if their employer did not allow flexible working after lockdown.

Over the past year, your business may have adapted hugely – especially when it comes to remote working. But flexible working is not just about where the work is done, but also when and how. While you may now be easing back into the workplace, have you considered that staff may not want to return to the office full time or be logged on from 9am to 5pm at home?

Different people are more productive at different times, and assuming their role allows, it can be beneficial for them and the business to allow some flexibility around this. It also helps create that all important work-life balance which not only attracts new talent but leads to happier and healthier staff who are more engaged, perform better and want to stay working for you.

Many organisations are considering a hybrid working model to allow teams to split time between the office and home, thinking about which work tasks are best done together face to face, which can be done alone and remote, and which can be done across virtual platforms. We’ve produced a 10-point guide to plan for this and guidance to help you manage a hybrid team.

Do remember that you are required by law to consider flexible working requests and to make a decision within three months, and you may receive a flood of these from your team in the near future, especially if they are not completely satisfied with the informal flexible arrangements you might be offering. It’s important to be fair, reasonable and above all consistent in accepting and refusing these approaches. Our Flexible Working Requests factsheet will help.

Assure staff of their safety

One of the most important things for workers post lockdown will be to feel safe and have a protective work environment. A safe workplace doesn’t just mean the physical safety of your workplace, but also an emotionally safe culture and work environment.

Communicate with your employees and any potential candidates about the safety measures you are taking in the workplace and any health and wellbeing initiatives you have in place. As well as the usual H&S and Covid risk assessments, this might include employee assistance programmes or Mental Health First Aiders. Talk about the culture of support you offer through regular one-to-ones, to check in with your team members, and how you monitor workloads and stress factors to ensure everyone’s wellbeing is prioritised.

This will earn the confidence of your employees that you are doing everything possible to prioritise their safety and wellbeing. It will also reassure new and potential team members that they are joining a supportive environment.

Improve onboarding and re-boarding processes

When people start a new job, they’re usually eager to get stuck in and learn from the team around them. But the pandemic has made that much harder as new staff have had to join virtual teams and work alone. Not knowing what is expected of them, or lack of communication from their manager in those first few months, can lead to uncertainty and anxiety, and ultimately an early exit.

Make sure your onboarding programme integrates new hires into the company culture and helps them learn how things are done, even if they can no longer just pick it up by observing colleagues. Give them the resources and training they need but also provide opportunities for them to get to know their colleagues and build relationships. Hold fun team activities and plan face-to-face meetups so that not all of the process is paperwork based or carried out by one person.

Likewise, don’t forget re-boarding. Admittedly a bit of HR jargon, but this is about helping employees return to work after being away – perhaps on maternity leave or a period of furlough or simply that they’ve been away from the normal workplace and their team because of forced remote working. This is especially important for staff that joined during the pandemic and might have had an induction but have yet to settle into the normal workplace amongst their colleagues. Similar to onboarding, re-boarding provides employees with resources and training, opportunities to rebuild relationships and a develop a good understanding of the “way we do things”.

When you bring furloughed staff back, consider that they may feel out of the loop. They will be adjusting to new working practices, policies, tech and team structures – and this could prompt some to look elsewhere for work if they don’t feel they can easily slip back into their position again.

Think about staff benefits

Make it a priority to put yourself in an employee’s shoes and think about what makes you attractive to them as an employer. Post lockdown, there is likely to be a change on the types of benefits employees most value. Some of these will be paid leave, flexible working and childcare support.

This doesn’t need to come at huge financial cost either – flexible working or a day off may just be what an employee needs to stay happy. Where health and wellbeing are a focus, employee assistance programmes and health cash plans offer employees the treatment and support they need for just a few pounds a month. There’s more information about which benefits workers value in our blog here.

Don’t let employees feel overworked

Overworking employees or not doing anything to prevent them from feeling stressed and burned out, can overtime, affect company morale and performance.

Often, employees don’t want to admit they’re overworked either due to embarrassment or the need to please, but we have heard many reports during the pandemic of remote workers putting in extra hours as the lines between home and work have blurred. When it becomes too much, their response is to find a new role elsewhere.

A solution for this is to create an atmosphere in which managers are very aware of (and manage) their team’s capacity and workloads and encourage employees to use their annual leave and take regular breaks during the working day. Having open conversations about work/life balance often, is important, so employees feel confident to tell their manager when they feel stressed out.

Make sure employees feel recognised and valued

If an employee is feeling underappreciated, they may seem suddenly withdrawn, no longer enthusiastic about projects or they come to work and do the bare minimum. Reflect on how you have recognised and praised your team’s efforts throughout the difficult past year.

An absence of appreciation can be a recipe for staff turnover. As an employer or manager, you need to build a culture of recognition, both formal and informal. A lot of people will just want reassurance they are doing a good job and others may want further praise and rewards.

To keep everyone happy, you should encourage managers and employees to recognise when their colleagues have done something well and explain to them why it was important. This could be done in private or at a public event – a company awards, for example, or even just at your regular team meetings. If you’ve got used to instant messaging platforms in the last year, post celebrations and thank yous for all to see. Above all, make sure to celebrate and reward behaviours you want to encourage as part of your company culture.

Get to know your people and build a connection

Employees who feel a sense of belonging are five times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work than employees at workplaces that do not focus on inclusion.

Hybrid working may make this more difficult, so it’s vital to engage any new employees into the company culture from the start. And, make sure current employees reconnect after being apart due to homeworking or furlough.

We are all different but being aware of our own and our colleagues’ needs and motivations will help us build that connection. The Insights Discovery process, carried out by our trained practitioners, can be invaluable in helping you understand yourself and your team members, and explore the impact of lockdowns on them and their team dynamics. It can also help team members to communicate and work together more effectively, ensuring that productivity remains high.

There are many ways employers can attract and retain quality workers. Amid the pandemic, even small gestures such as offering wellbeing support or flexible hours can go a long way to help your business stand out from others in its industry.

Most importantly, wherever your people work, they need to know they are valued – and our employee engagement services are here to help. If you’d like any HR advice or support on this topic or recruitment, please get in touch.