Tag: Pandemic

Employers are prioritising plans to improve productivity

Since the start of the pandemic, rising financial stress due to an uncertain economy has created a downward spiral on employee wellbeing that has impacted employee performance. A study by borofree revealed that an average of 3.05 working days were taken off by workers in Great Britain last year due to the financial stress felt by employees.

The study examined the plans that companies across the UK now aim to implement in order to improve employee productivity, financial wellbeing and increase morale in the workplace as business recovery begins to take shape.

The research, which was conducted online by YouGov, highlights that HR decision makers are feeling optimistic about building stronger employee productivity as the economy settles into a ‘new normal’ with over half (57%) believing that employee productivity is set to  increase over the next 12 months.

Action taken from businesses to increase employee wellbeing over the next year will be critical for them to regain strong post-pandemic productivity growth and recover from a challenging 18 months. In fact, 83% of HR decision makers surveyed revealed that their business will be prioritising plans to improve employee productivity over the next year. Improving pay and working conditions for employees is high on the agenda for companies looking to regain lost morale due to the pandemic, with almost a third (31%) stating that this will be a business priority for them this year.

Across Britain the study highlights that employers are searching for new ways to increase productivity. The research shows that wellbeing is now a vital part of ensuring that teams remain productive, with over one in five (23%) companies looking to introduce new or improved health and wellness benefits for employees to improve morale and productivity over the next two years.

Despite financial worries among the UK workforce being a cause of emotional stress, the study shows that offering financial wellbeing initiatives as part of a businesses’ productivity recovery plan is still being overlooked. Whilst financial stress is a contributing factor to absenteeism in the workplace, only 12% of HR decision makers are looking to introduce personal finance coaching and training to employees to improve morale and productivity amongst teams within the next two years.

Minck Hermans, CEO and Co-founder at borofree, comments: “Whilst it’s great to see that businesses are prioritising incentives to build stronger employee productivity following a challenging 18 months, it’s critical that they do not overlook initiatives to promote better financial wellbeing amongst teams.

Our findings show that financial stress can lead to increased absenteeism in the workplace and the effect of this will hit a company’s bottom line. For employees that seek a certain degree of financial security from their employer such as being able to absorb an unforeseen financial shock, only one in ten (10%) businesses surveyed have stated that they are looking to introduce earnings on demand and paid weekly options for employers within the next two years and just over one in ten (14%) confirmed that they’ll be introducing salary advance facilities (e.g., a loan a company can give an employee from their future salary).”

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Over half of employees feel undervalued

Research released by Firstup, a digital employee experience company, revealed that employees are unhappier in the workplace now more than ever post-pandemic. The survey showed a mounting dissatisfaction among employees across the UK, US, Germany, Benelux and the Nordics, with talent feeling undervalued, uninformed, and un-unified.

Lack of communication from leadership was cited as a main contributing factor to unhappy employees with almost a quarter of respondents to the survey agreeing that better communication will lead to increased productivity and work satisfaction.

Nicole Alvino, founder and CSO of Firstup, said: “Businesses need to provide more valuable working experiences or remain responsible for the career reboot of the decade that some are calling The Great Resignation of 2021. This research is a clear and urgent call to action – an organisation’s employees are its most valuable asset with employee satisfaction having a direct impact on the bottom line. Business, HR and Internal Comms leaders must act now to stem this workforce dissatisfaction and engage their teams with personalised information that helps them do their best work.”

Research from the 23,105 workers found that 56% don’t feel valued in their role and 38% want employers to ‘create better lines of communication between executives and employees’.

It appears that remote workers seem to feel these complaints most keenly, with a growing tension between desk based and deskless workers. It found that 25% of respondents felt they get more attention from their employer when they are physically at the office, only 30% of deskless workers think that their employers listen to them, and 39% of desk-based workers felt that their deskless colleagues could learn from them about ‘how to communicate with colleagues and ‘how to work as a team’.

The great temptation

This comes off the back of research from Reed.co.uk which found that almost three-quarters of Britains are actively looking for a new job or are open to opportunities. The survey, which canvassed 2,000 employers attempting to attract new talent and retain restless employees, suggests that businesses will need to adapt their offering to align with new employee priorities that have been shaped by the pandemic.

Salaries remain a top driver with 39% of respondents stating that they would stay should their employer offer a high salary. Flexible working hours is also at the top of the list. Other suggested incentives from the survey included: more annual leave (25%), a promotion (21%), and 18% asked for increased training and development opportunities.

Commenting on the research, Simon Wingate, Managing Director of Reed.co.uk, said: “We are in the midst of a sea change in the labour market, with it very much having shifted from a buyers’ to a sellers’ market due to the sheer – and record-breaking – number of job opportunities available.

“After a challenging 18 months for jobseekers which gave rise to a culture of uncertainty in the labour market, workers are now mobilised by the prospect of new and exciting opportunities with better rewards. Employers must find creative solutions and adapt to the new market conditions following the pandemic in order to maintain the resurgent economy’s trajectory.”

Following LinkedIn’s recent research highlighting 6.8 times the number of recruitment roles posted on its site in June compared to the same time last year, is the Great Resignation spreading to the staffing sector?

“There is a lot of potential for ‘revenge resignation’ for all those who were put on furlough through successive lockdowns, in the wider economy but particularly in recruitment, but it’s less likely to impact employers who offer flexibility and authenticity with a client-centric culture,” said Tim Cook, Group CEO of nGage, who will be speaking on this topic at the World Leaders in Recruitment conference on 5th October.

Commenting on the growing debate about the Great Resignation, TALiNT Partners Managing Director, Ken Brotherston said: “In general it is always wise to treat dramatic headlines or simple phrases with a large pinch of salt. My general rule of thumb is this: does the person promoting the headline have an interest in it being true? If so, approach with caution.”

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Recruiters report difficulty in sourcing candidates

A survey conducted by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) reported that nine in ten recruiters (88%) say that labour shortages are one of their biggest concerns for the remainder of 2021, while skills shortages are a major concern for two in three (65%).

With shortages hitting every sector of the economy and many staffing companies reporting the tightest labour market they’ve ever experienced, the REC is calling on business and the government to take urgent action to solve the problem.

Recruiters have a significantly higher number of roles to fill than before the pandemic, with three in five (58%) having at least 30% more vacancies than pre-pandemic. Of the 191 recruiters surveyed, almost all (97%) said that it was taking longer than usual to fill those vacancies, compounding the problem. Half (50%) reported that it now takes more than a month to find suitable candidates.

Recruiters reported several factors were affecting their ability to source candidates. The top reason was skills shortages (cited by 65% of respondents), followed by the new immigration rules (57%) and their clients not being able to offer competitive salaries (53%).

In response, the REC has set out a number of asks for both government and business to help solve this crisis:

  • Set up a cross-government forum including the Business, Education and Work and Pensions departments, as well as business organisations. This would restore the importance of workforce planning in the economic debate between business, government and other stakeholders, not only focusing on skills.
  • Broaden the apprenticeship levy and increase funding for training at lower skill levels. This would improve progression and transition opportunities for lower-skilled and temporary workers who need them most, and encourage business to do more here in the UK, not less.
  • Allow flexibility in the point-based immigration system and a visa route for lower-skilled workers, which would allow firms in the worst-affected sectors like logistics to access staff at times of pressing need.
  • Increased focus from businesses on workforce planning, staff engagement, attraction and retention policies. Firms need to raise workforce planning up to the senior leadership level, and work with key professional partners like recruiters to boost performance, productivity and staff wellbeing.

This also follows recent research from British Future, which found increasingly positive public attitudes towards immigration. Two thirds of the public (65%) agree that employers should be allowed to recruit from overseas for roles in shortage – showing that a more flexible immigration system would be popular as well as helping businesses to fill crucial vacancies.

Kate Shoesmith, Deputy CEO of the REC, said:

“Worker shortages are a huge problem for employers and their recruitment partners, across all industries and regions. Vacancy numbers are far higher than pre-pandemic, and it is taking much longer to fill them. This is putting the recovery at risk by putting capacity constraints on the economy, as last week’s GDP figures showed. In our survey, recruiters also highlighted a wide range of factors that have combined to cause these shortages – this is a complex problem with no one easy fix.

“As such, we will only solve these shortages through a collaborative approach. We’re glad that multiple government departments are coming together in a joint forum to tackle the issue, but to be effective it must also include business and industry experts. Government must allow more flexibility in the immigration system so firms can hire essential workers like drivers from abroad, and also improve training opportunities for lower-paid and temporary workers. Meanwhile companies need to focus on how they will attract and retain staff through improved conditions and facilities, not just pay.”

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Employing older adults improves diversity in business 

A new study has shown that 10% of over 70s are choosing to go back to work or delay retirement as a result of the pandemic. This is a trend that could see billions of pounds poured back into the economy.  

According to the results from the study called “Back on Track”, by Retirement Villages Group slowing down is the last thing on the minds of older adults with one in three (36%) over 70s saying that they have spent the last 16 months reflecting on their life goals, leading to an increased desire to now make up for lost time in both their personal and professional lives. 

Going back to work, whether for financial reasons or in pursuit of a more purposeful and active lifestyle, has become important to many with 7% looking to return to work and 3% wanting to delay retirement.   

With skill shortages in mind, Retirement Villages Group has calculated that 10% of over 70s heading back to or staying in work could add as much as £1.8billion to the UK economy each year. Also importantly, as the older generation are overlooked during talent acquisition processes, this promotes a much-needed shift in perspective when it comes to the value and experience older candidates bring to a business.  

The study showed that continued employment for the older workforce comes with many personal benefits such as improving financial or mental health. Among those that have or plan to go back to work, over half (52%) agree that the main motive is to boost their finances, while a third would like to alleviate boredom and a 21% would like to continue to contribute to society.  

Over one in three (39%) said that seeing more age diversity in the workplace would give them greater confidence to consider working opportunities themselves. Yet, encouragingly, the research also found that one in four (27%) older adults believe the pandemic has led to a more widespread view that older people have valuable life skills that society can benefit from. 

Will Bax, CEO of Retirement Villages Group, commented: “Today’s research confirms that older adults have a critical role in ensuring the ongoing diversity and vibrancy of our society and economy. The pandemic has brought this reality into sharp focus, with many people over 70 forced to isolate for prolonged periods, curbing the active, independent and sociable lifestyles they would normally lead and temporarily separating them from communities. 

“It’s vital, as we unlock from the pandemic, that we continue to reappraise how we view the great contribution of people over 70 to our culture and economy. Independent, positive ageing matters – not only to the long-term health and wellbeing of individuals, by keeping people out of hospitals and care homes for longer – but also to our society which is enriched by older people playing an active part. 

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Collaboration and communication are key skills  

According to new research from LinkedIn, 87% of UK business leaders stated that young workers have been plagued by a “developmental dip” because of long periods of time working from home during the pandemic.  

250 C-level executives in the UK (from companies with 1,000 employees and more and with an annual turnover of £250+ million) who were surveyed for the study, found that almost 30% of business leaders feel that onboarding from home has been a challenge for young employees. A further 42% of leaders believe that young people’s ability to build meaningful relationships with colleagues while working remotely has been difficult. 

Out of practice  

A complementary survey of young professionals showed that they agree. 69% of young people (aged 16 – 34) believe their professional learning experience has been impacted by the pandemic. More than half of those asked to return to offices feel their ability to make conversation at work has suffered, and 71% say they’ve forgotten how to conduct themselves in an office environment. 84% of young workers ultimately feel “out of practice” when it comes to office life, especially when it comes to giving presentations (29%) and speaking to customers and/ or clients (34%).  

Missing out 

Business leaders say the key development experiences that young people have missed out on during the pandemic include learning by “osmosis” from being around more experienced colleagues (36%), developing their essential soft skills (36%), and building professional networks (37%).  

Skills to succeed 

Business leaders believe that for hybrid working to be a success, collaboration (59%) and communication (57%) are the two most important skills employees need. Nearly half (49%) of leaders say working closely with experienced team members is the best way for young people to catch up and build these soft skills.  

Janine Chamberlin, UK Country Manager at LinkedIn, said:  It’s positive to see leaders recognise the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on young people as they consider their future workplace policies. To help young people develop the skills they need to succeed, companies must understand where the skills gaps are, introduce mentoring schemes and bolster learning experiences that cater for a hybrid workforce to help younger workers get back on track.”

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Businesses turned to freelancers most often for help with technology, digital marketing and design tasks over the past year, according to new research.

A survey of 15,000 freelancers by freelance jobs marketplace PeoplePerHour found freelancers across these three areas had been most in demand during the past 12 months. More specifically, web development, content writing and graphic design topped the list of tasks outsourced during the pandemic.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, Founder and CEO of PeoplePerHour, said: “During the past 12 months, every aspect of normal life has changed, from how you do your shopping, to how you run your business.

“Many businesses have had to adapt and move online requiring specific skills and competencies at a given point in time, which makes using freelancers particularly attractive for many companies.”

In particular, the research found that many businesses had set up websites or ecommerce marketplaces for the first time over the past year, leading to web development, app development and coding skills becoming even more in demand than they were previously.

Companies had also increased their use of digital channels over the past year, seeking help from freelancers to write content and manage social media campaigns.

Graphic designers were also in high demand as businesses looked to boost their online presence with new logos, online brochures, posters and other creative material.

And due to the shift to home working and the downturn in some industries, some businesses had either cut back on staff or placed them on furlough, so turned to freelancers for business support such as sales or virtual assistance.

Thrasyvoulou said the strong demand for freelancers was especially welcome as many had been badly affected by the pandemic. “Small businesses and the self-employed have been some of the hardest-hit sectors, with less government support than those who are in full-time employment.”

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While it’s well-known that working from home has increased over the past year, it seems learning from home has also risen significantly.

According to the latest Learning and Skills at Work report from the CIPD and Accenture, seven in ten organisations reported an increase in the use of digital or online solutions over the last year.

However, organisations have largely been managing this increase without a corresponding rise in their learning and development budgets. Only 11% of the 1,200 professionals surveyed reported a rise in their budget over the last 12 months, while 58% reported their budget had remained the same.

About one third of organisations had had to contend with a reduction in budgets, with learning budgets cut most significantly in those industries that have been more impacted by the pandemic. In some cases, budget cuts had led to reductions in L&D headcounts and the use of external consultants.

“While many learning professionals have had to do more with less in the last year, it was also a time to challenge assumptions and embrace new ways of doing things. It’s clear there is no going back – the pandemic has likely changed for good the face of learning and skills development in organisations,” said Lizzie Crowley, senior adviser at the CIPD and author of the report.

Despite the funding constraints, the majority of businesses surveyed said the switch to a digital model had been positive. Some 77% of organisations said they were successfully using learning technology and 69% reported they were innovating in their use of learning technology.

One specific area of focus reported was the use of technology to help identify and deal with skills gaps in organisations.

Since the previous year, a greater number of respondents said they had assessed the impact of automation and how to redeploy employees affected (51%), as well as how roles are changing and how to reskill workers to meet these changes (64%).

The majority of organisations had become more confident about their ability to address skills gaps, with 72% of respondents saying they were able to effectively tackle skills gaps.

However, Ian Rawlings, Regional VP EMEA at software company SumTotal, said it was important employers took a tailored approach: “As Covid-19 accelerates changes to the world of work, it’s great to see that organisations are utilising this momentum to drive their reskilling efforts to future-proof their business and employees.

“It is important to remember, however, that skills development is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and adherence to a single learning style may restrict employee agility – negatively impacting on talent development. Not only will offering just one learning style limit creativity and flexibility, reducing employees’ capability of adapting to changing business needs, but it may lead to employees failing to realise their full potential.”

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UK workers have been sleeping better since they began working from home but the impending return to offices could put their newfound restfulness at risk.

According to a survey carried out for employee wellbeing specialist WRKIT, it was largely the fact they were able to skip the commute that had led to Brits spending more time in bed, with UK workers rating their sleep duration 8.6/10, on average.

The researchers polled 4,000 employees globally, 1,293 from the UK, to assess how the past year had impacted employees’ sleep, with UK workers seeming to have benefited more than those in other countries.

As well as reporting that they were getting more sleep, workers in the UK also reported a better quality of sleep since remote working became commonplace, with an average score of 6.5/10 in terms of feeling refreshed after sleep, significantly higher than the global average of 4.5/10.

Given that a previous study found that insufficient sleep was linked to lower productivity and could be costing the UK economy up to £37bn a year, Jason Brennan, director of leadership and wellbeing at WRKIT, said employers would be wise to think about how to maintain the improved sleep patterns of their staff.

“So many workers seeing marked improvements to their sleeping patterns has been an extremely positive legacy of the past 12 months that businesses would do well to pay attention to if they are to keep morale – and, crucially, the wellbeing of their staff – high over the coming months.

“Where possible, businesses should consider providing the option of permanent remote working, even for two or three days a week. This will enable employees to maintain good sleep hygiene, to the mutual benefit of employer and employee, and enable forward-thinking businesses to attract and retain the top talent in their industry.”

The research on sleep was part of the Global Working From Home Survey,  which also considered workers’ wellbeing in five other areas; work, life, food and mental and physical wellbeing.

One other area in which UK workers had benefited more than the worldwide average was in feeling more able to make time to focus on activities they enjoyed, with Brits scoring an average of 7.1/10 on this measure, compared with 5/10 globally.

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The pandemic has prompted many British workers to reassess their priorities, with almost half wanting a better work-life balance post lockdown.

Working overtime during the pandemic seemed to have been a key driver of the desire for a more balanced lifestyle sought by 45% of 1,000 respondents to a comparethemarket.com survey carried out in March.

On average, the study found that Brits had worked 2.9 hours more than their contracted hours during lockdown, adding up to 150 extra hours over the past year.

Those aged 25-34 had worked the most overtime at 187 hours, followed by 18-24 year olds and 35-44 year olds, both at 182 hours.

This unpaid work had the biggest impact on those aged 18 to 24, with 56.9% of respondents in that age group saying it had helped them realise they wanted to fulfil their career aspirations after the lockdown had ended.

This same demographic was also most likely (55%) to have put together their first ‘bucket list’ during lockdown, with plans to ‘start living life to the full’ (44%) post-lockdown.

Across all age groups, more than a third (36%) of Brits started planning their bucket list during lockdown, with more than half (57%) claiming their motivation for doing so was due to an attitude that ‘life is too short’.

Topping the activities on bucket lists drawn up over the past year was travelling and seeing more of the world, with 59% of respondents listing this.

Making more time for family and friends came in second (44%) while 41% wanted to learn a new skill such as a new language or a musical instrument.

Other bucket list items that scored highly included buying a new home (36%), doing an adrenaline-seeking activity (35%) and having more ‘me time’ (32%).

A third or those surveyed were hoping to achieve their goal within the next five to 10 years, while 26% hoped to do so in the next one to five years.

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The pandemic has led to more people juggling more than one job or mixing employment with self-employment, according to new research.

A survey undertaken by freelance jobs marketplace PeoplePerHour found that 19% of freelancers were self-employed in addition to holding an employed position.

Nearly two-fifths of those had started their side gig in the past 12 months, and a third said they planned to continue to mix both types of work.

PeoplePerHour said it had seen its biggest rise in registrations for more than a decade during the pandemic, with a 61% jump in freelancer registrations on the platform last year.

Of those new sign-ups, more than a third said they had signed up because they lost their job or were furloughed, 40% wanted to increase their income and 20% wanted to switch to freelancing full-time.

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, said: “There has been a remarkable increase in the number of people working a freelance side hustle. This seems to be a function of the additional time many employees have got out of the pandemic – whether because they have been furloughed, unable to work their normal jobs or simply because they are no longer losing time to the daily commute.

“For some, of course, this trend reflects the need for additional income because of the financial hit of the pandemic.

Multi-jobbers lose out
Separate research from Scottish Widows revealed there had also been a rise in the number of people with more than one employed job.

Its survey of more than 5,000 people suggested that 15% of UK workers have more than one job, and that the majority of these have multiple employed positions rather than being self-employed on the side.

It also found that more than half of these multi-jobbers had only taken on their additional job since the beginning of the pandemic.

The insurance and pensions company warned that many of these people were missing out on pension contributions because of automatic enrolment thresholds.

Workers are only automatically enrolled into a company pension when a job pays more than £10,000 a year. The research suggested that almost half (49%) of those with multiple jobs under this threshold were not enrolled in a company pension and were therefore missing out on the 3% minimum contribution an employer must make if a worker earns at least £6,240 per year.

Scottish Widows is calling on the government to scrap the minimum threshold so that in future all workers are auto-enrolled.

Pete Glancy, Retirement Expert at Scottish Widows, said: “While auto-enrolment has been a game-changer for boosting the workplace pension pots of millions across the UK, those whose income comes from more than one job are losing out significantly relative to those with the same income from a single job.

“This was an issue that we first highlighted in 2018 based on research conducted at that time, and our latest research suggests that the problem is not going away.

“A shift towards more multi-jobbers will reverse some of the gains made by auto-enrolment, so the argument to remove the earnings threshold is getting stronger and should be a top priority for the next evolution of the scheme.”

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