Tag: Research

Skills crisis not yet over, experts warn

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data has revealed that UK vacancy rates declined between May and July 2022. But even with the decline, background screening and identity services firm, Sterling, has cautioned firms not to neglect hiring efforts with skills still in short supply. Data shows that neglect may be detrimental to organisations’ long-term hiring strategies.

According to Sterling, even though vacancies are down, the hiring market in the UK is still candidate-led, and the country remains critically short of top talent. In light of this, businesses need to rethink their hiring process to better match the job seeker’s needs.

Based on a global survey of more than 1,200 HR professionals and more than 3,700 recent job seekers, Sterling’s research revealed that 78% of job seekers are dropping out or considering dropping out of the recruitment process due to long, complex screening requirements. A third of the respondents who dropped out said the hiring process was too complicated, while 22% had concerns about the background screening process.

Steve Smith, President of International at Sterling, commented: “With so much uncertainty and with skills still in short supply across most of Europe, this is the time to ensure that you have the right processes in place to secure the talent that you need to continue successfully operating your business. Particularly in a competitive recruitment environment, ensuring applicants have the best possible experience with a brand remains of paramount importance and will be for the foreseeable future.

“When it comes to candidates dropping out of the hiring process, there’s been a wealth of speculation that individuals are getting counter-offers and they are pursuing opportunities elsewhere. While this may be the case for some, the insight we’ve gained from applicants themselves suggests there’s more to this issue that needs to be addressed swiftly. In the current economy, it’s simply not a viable option to overlook how important it is to provide an efficient and engaging experience for candidates throughout the entire hiring process.”

ONS labour response: Decline in jobs doesn’t mean the skills crisis is over

Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) commented: “The post-pandemic hiring spike we experienced was bound to come to a halt at some time, but with recession fears looming and on-going Government uncertainty amidst a leadership contest, this drop is a concern for the country’s economy.

“Our own data supports the idea that permanent recruitment is slowing as the impact of the skills shortages over the last few years plays out. However, what our statistics are also indicating is that more businesses are turning to contract professionals as they struggle to fill resourcing needs. The data – provided by the global leader in software for the staffing industry, Bullhorn – revealed that the number of contract roles in the UK grew by 13% in July 2022 when compared to pre-pandemic figures (July 2019). In comparison, the number of permanent jobs dropped by 23% in the same period.”

“This reliance on the non-employed segment of the workforce simply isn’t sustainable at a time when the UK’s attractiveness as a destination to work for international contractors is dwindling post-Brexit. And with the impact of Off Payroll still being felt in the temporary recruitment market, the longer-term availability of these resources and ability to tap into skills in a cost-effective manner is at risk. We urgently need some stability from the Government and a clearer direction on the regulation of the employment market to ensure that the UK can manage through the difficult times ahead.”

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73% of workers will accept a four-day work week if pay does not decrease

A survey of over 2,000 UK workers and 250 UK employers found that flexible work is more popular among job seekers than a four-day work week.

Despite 37% of employers implementing a four-day working week, recent research from Reed.co.uk has found that candidates are more likely to apply for a job offering “flexible working” opportunities (45%) than a “four-day working week” (40%). “Work from home” followed at 32%, and “opportunity to progress” was noted at 31%.

According to the research, despite 89% of workers favouring a four-day working week, flexible work remains the more popular alternative for employers seeking to generate job applications. Flexible working is defined as a way of working that suits the individual’s needs, with flexible start and finishing times and/or the freedom to work from home.

The research also found that only 16% of workers would accept a pay reduction in exchange for a shorter week. Seventy-three percent of respondents were open to the shorter week if pay did not decrease.

Over a third (37%) of employers have implemented a four-day working week, and 27% are considering it.

Generally, the reasons for employers’ support of the four-day working week are focused on employee wellbeing. The benefits cited include:

  • “better work-life balance” (51%)
  • “increased employee happiness” (43%)
  • “higher employee engagement” (41%)
  • “increased productivity” (36%)
  • “reduction of burnout” (36%)

James Reed, Chairman of Reed.co.uk, comments: “Despite strong arguments in favour of a four-day working week, evidenced also by recent UK trials, our research suggests that it may not be the best or most popular way for businesses to attract and retain top talent.

“The National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work has suggested that cramming five days’ work into four might contribute to stress. Instead, offering greater flexibility could be more impactful and more popular.

“Amid a highly competitive labour market, it’s encouraging to see so many employers open to exploring new and creative methods to attract candidates. The era of the traditional 9-to-5, five day working week is over and it’s now more important than ever for employers and employees alike to embrace flexible and inclusive working patterns that will allow everyone to contribute to the workforce.”

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Lack of well-being benefits for SME works 

A recent survey revealed that 65% of SME employees are hesitant to take sick leave when working from home.

The survey, conducted by HR Software provider Breathe, looked at the current state of well-being among SME employees. The survey was conducted across 1,264 UK SME employees, and the respondents were asked a series of questions regarding sick leave, mental health, and remote working. The goal of the survey was to establish whether the pandemic had a lasting effect on the working world and the impact of hybrid working.

According to the data, there is an ongoing pattern of presenteeism, with 65% of respondents saying they are less likely to take sick leave when working remotely and 42% of respondents feeling the need to prove their productivity while working remotely.

Of the workers who didn’t take sick leave, despite feeling unwell:

  • 32% could not financially afford to take time off work
  • 25% were too busy to do to take time off
  • 21% didn’t want to let their colleagues down
  • 20% felt pressured to work through it

The data suggests a lack of benefits aimed at employee well-being. Seventy-two percent of SMEs do not offer well-being days despite 35% of workers feeling that well-being days would be helpful.

The survey also found that only half of SMEs offer flexible working, even though 67% of the respondents believe that WFH supports work-life balance and overall well-being

Another finding was that 54% of SME employees work overtime when WFH. Forty-four percent of employees struggle with feeling ‘seen’ by their employers. A further 47% said they were less inclined to take a lunch break when working from home.

The survey also found that:

  • 41% of workers felt that their symptoms weren’t severe enough to take sick leave
  • 36% of SME workers reported mental health issues in the past three months
  • 12% of workers have taken sick leave for mental health reasons
  • 67% of SME workers say working from home improves their work-life balance, but 54% report they are still more likely to work longer hours than usual
  • 48% of SME employees are offered flexible working whereas 27% are not offered it but would find it the most useful benefit

Balancing a company culture in a hybrid working world is a challenge, and SME leaders need to address toxic traits in their existing culture, like overworking and presenteeism, to maintain a healthy and productive workforce.

Rachel King, UK General Manager, Breathe, commented: “The benefits for mental and physical well-being that come from a flexible approach to work patterns have been widely discussed but are still so important. Flexible working can positively impact physical, mental and financial well-being. That said, working from home has proven effective for many people, but crucially not for all. It’s often the case that people find themselves working longer hours and taking less sick leave, under pressure to be seen as super productive when working remotely. Employers should look for ways to tackle the ‘always-on’ ethos and habits that have crept into remote working culture. Focusing on creating a culture that supports flexible working as standard can benefit teams and improve productivity if handled intentionally.”

Lizzie Benton, Company Culture Coach & Founder at Liberty Mind, added: “As a business, your attitudes, behaviour, and beliefs will all ultimately present to people what you truly think about employee well-being. If people are feeling unseen and pressured to work through illness, that’s really not a good sign. Now is not the time to ignore your culture and the true ripple effect it has on your people. After two years of momentous life changes, employees across the UK are considering whether where they work is adding to their life or taking something away. That’s why it’s important to put your people first when making decisions that impact them both personally and professionally. Creating a positive healthy company culture is ongoing work and it’s a choice that will benefit your business in the long run.”

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Jobs board focuses on roles at companies that ‘do good’

Last week member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) agreed on new plans to create more jobs in sustainable industries.

The new jobs website, Jobs For Good,  is aimed at people who want to find jobs in sustainability industries where they can make a social impact. There are already 1,200 roles live on the website.

According to PWC’s latest reports, one in five people are looking to change jobs, with 68% of these wanting a more fulfilling job. Further, with over 70% of millennials wanting employers with a strong environmental agenda and 10% of workers saying that they would take a pay cut to work at an environmentally responsible company, it’s clear that there is a growing demand for jobs in companies that are ‘for good’.

In the UK, the ‘impact industry’ is worth £50 billion, employs 35,000 people, and has grown 127% since 2018.

The new jobs board only features jobs in companies that “do good” in that they positively impact people or the planet and are run responsibly. These can be in areas such as renewable energy, food production, health and wellbeing solutions, etc.

On the site, job seekers can search by job type and impact area without needing to sign in. They can then read about the companies’ ‘do good’ credentials before applying for the job online.

Job sectors include IT, marketing, product, sales, and admin roles, and companies are vetted for their ‘For Good’ credentials before they can add jobs to the website.

Olivia Spaethe, CEO of Jobs For Good, commented:  ‘Originally we built Jobs For Good in response the ‘Great Resignation’ and people looking for more fulfilling roles in sustainable companies. We’re really encouraged to see the UK Government and OECD agreeing to invest and focus more on this area too. We’re here to plug an important gap between sustainable start-ups looking for new workers, and those workers looking for the right do-good company to work for.’

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Twice as many job seekers in the city compared to same time last year

According to job seeker data from job aggregator, ClickJobs.io, 35.4% of all job seekers in the last month were applying for roles in the capital, putting London in the lead for job applications in the UK.

Year on year, these figures show a huge spike. During the same period last year, 19.7% of applications were for jobs in London. The next city on the list, Birmingham, only accounted for 3.7% of applications. Manchester and Leeds followed at only 2%.

The spike comes as no surprise as offices reopen post-pandemic and people begin to return to the city. While this is good news for London-based businesses, it could negatively impact hiring employers in other cities and regions.

Joe Boll, CEO at ClickJobs.io, commented: “At CilckJobs.io we believe it is essential to understand how job seekers are applying for the latest jobs across our portfolio of websites to ensure we can offer the very best solution to mirror these trends. This new data shows a huge increase in demand for jobs in London which is good news for the capital but could impact other regions looking to attract talent.

We manage millions of jobs every week which means we can quickly see how the market is changing and what key trends are happening across employment in the UK.”

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What can companies do to retain talent instead?

As the frantic search for talent continues in the UK, new research has shown that 95% of UK employers are focusing their recruitment efforts on bringing back former employees to fill vacant roles.

Organisations can reduce recruitment and training costs and increase productivity by bringing back “boomerang employees” to fill job vacancies. But this raises a question of what organisations could have done to retain these employees in the first place.

In a recent survey of over 2,000 leaders around the world by HCM vendor Ceridian, the indication is that succession planning provides just such an opportunity for employers, but they might be missing the gap:

  • 88% of respondents report that their company uses succession planning
  • 74% of respondents say that they often or always hire external candidates for leadership roles instead of promoting from within.

Even though 53% of employers provide learning and development opportunities to retain talent in the UK and Ireland, only 38% give flexibility in job roles and responsibilities. A further  42% are pursuing DEI strategies to ensure that they gather different perspectives.

The key to retaining talent and attracting the “boomerang employees” will be to identify key workplace issues and use the tools and technology available to align talent decisions with employee ambitions and company goals.

Steve Knox, VP of Global Talent Acquisition at Ceridian, comments: “Staff retention has become a pain point for businesses with employers looking at increasingly innovative ways beyond pay and benefits to retain employees. With 95% of employers seeking ‘boomerang’ employees to fill their recruitment gaps, one proactive solution is to encourage retention strategies which would see fewer employees leaving organisations to begin with.”

“When key people do leave it’s vital to provide remaining employees with clear career development and ensuring plans are in place for succession when key people do leave are both vital. Ceridian’s 2022 Executive Survey highlights some common succession planning pitfalls, for example where firms might fail to put in place impactful succession planning strategies that put their people and their career development first. With over one third of employees saying career advancement opportunities would convince them to leave their current role, there is much at stake for businesses which don’t give key people a clear career development plan.

“In turn, a data-driven, holistic talent strategy that develops an organisation’s current workforce and positions key people as future leaders, as well as hiring new talent simultaneously to fill the talent pipeline, helps the business’ overall resilience and longevity, as well as bringing a variety of wider benefits to the organisation.”

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Job market appears to be slowing down as we head deeper into 2022

Recent data from Broadbean Technology indicates that job numbers are beginning to slow following the spike in vacancies during the first quarter of this year.

Vacancy figures were down 55% between March and April 2022, and the data also suggested that job application numbers continue to decline. The statistics suggest that the lack of resources agrees the UK is impacting job market growth.

Further information from Broadbean also shows a 37% decline in the number of vacancies year-on-year between April 2021 and April 2022. This could be due to the hiring spike reported last year when UK businesses prepared for Freedom Day in 2021. Similarly, applications decreased by 75% month-on-month and 75% year-on-year.

Looking at the data by sector, the following industries saw significant drops in applications

  • Application numbers in the IT sector fell 72% between March and April of this year
  • The logistics sector saw a drop of 77%
  • Building & construction were down 75%

With talent shortages reported across all three of these sectors, these numbers come as no surprise.

Alex Fourlis, Managing Director at Broadbean Technology, commented: “The UK’s skills crisis is continuing to be a focal issue, and for good reason as our data shows that these shortages are impacting almost every business, across every sector. While the sudden rise in recruitment activity received a warm welcome at the beginning of 2021, we are beginning to see signs of vacancy numbers slowing down over a year later. Given the dearth of available resources, there’s a high chance that this drop in new vacancies is simply a sign that businesses cannot fill roles they’ve had open for some time and are unlikely to add any more roles if they cannot meet the current operational needs.”

“For employers and recruiters, now is a critical time. Businesses need to rebuild and nurture dwindling talent pools, utilise innovative technology and maximise partnerships with external talent suppliers in order to find the resources that are needed. Difficult times are ahead for the UK economy, and we need a recruitment market that can best support economic growth.”

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Dealing with distance in a post-pandemic workplace

Focusing on employee mental health in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a recent survey commissioned by Cigna among US adults has shown that employers need to pay attention to feelings of loneliness among their employees.

The survey of almost 2,500 respondents conducted by Morning Consult showed that employees experiencing loneliness were less likely than their colleagues to say that they could work efficiently and perform to the best of their abilities. They were also more likely to say that they were “mentally somewhere else” while at work during the last three months.

In 2020, an analysis by Cigna showed that loneliness costs employers more than $154 billion per year in lost productivity caused by absenteeism.

Productivity isn’t the only negative result. The survey also found that employees experiencing loneliness were three times more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs than their peers. A further 30% of lonely employees admitted feeling unwell or sick while at work in the past three months.

While the circumstances surrounding the pandemic may have led to more flexible remote working arrangements for many, isolation and loneliness were also side effects of the new working situation. Together with exhaustion due to blurred boundaries between work and home life, these feelings have added to the stress of many employees.

Cigna highlighted three areas that employers could focus on to address issues with workplace loneliness:

  • Regular activities that bring employees together, both in-person and virtually, such as town hall events, volunteer events, and employee resource group meetings.
  • Providing employee benefits that support mental and emotional well-being while remaining mindful of the barriers that may prevent employees from accessing the help they need.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives could also go a long way to creating a safe and welcoming environment for employees.
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Internet stats show increasing awareness and demand for change

Recent research about internet search habits has revealed that there has been a consistent increase in diversity and inclusion issues over the last three years. For example, the search for ‘gender pronouns in the workplace’ has risen by 500% between April 2020 and April 2022.

Whether these searches are being conducted by employers trying to be aware of issues or whether it is employees who are trying to find out their rights is unclear.

The data also showed an increase of 58% in searches for ‘unconscious bias at work’ during the same three-year period. There was also a spike in March 2022, which coincided with International Women’s Day. The 2022 theme was based on ‘breaking the bias.’ March was also a big month for diversity and inclusion related with organisations completing their mandatory Gender Pay Gap reports before the Government reporting deadlines.

The data also showed that search results had increased for certain types of discrimination:

  • ‘bullying, harassment, and discrimination at work’ searches grew by 62.5%
  • ‘disability discrimination at work’ searches grew by 51.25%
  • ‘racial discrimination at work’ searches rose by 40.3%
  • ‘age discrimination at work’ searches grew by 30.6%

The same pattern has also been seen in Employee Tribunal Data. According to data from employment law and HR advisory firm, WorkNest, nearly half of the Employment Tribunal Claims received between January 2019 and December 2021 included some form of discrimination, with disability being the protected characteristic most relied upon by Claimants. 

 During the same period, they also saw increases in the following types of claims:

  • Disability-related discrimination claims (17.9%)
  • Sex-related discrimination claims (52%)
  • Race-related discrimination claims (27.3%)

There was also a large spike of racial discrimination claims during 2020, a 42.9% increase, compared to 2019.

Darren Hockley, Managing Director at DeltaNet International, commented: “The data reveals that discriminatory issues continue to rise in the workplace; business leaders and HR teams are responsible for tackling these issues to provide a safe and welcoming working environment for all employees to thrive in,”

“We believe that diversity and inclusion must be at the core of an organisation; we want to help employees and employers evolve from a compliance-based model to embracing true cultural change.”

Evidently, issues of diversity and inclusion are not a “passing storm to be weathered.”

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UK businesses are doing a much better job of supporting their workers’ mental health than they were two years ago, according to the findings of a large-scale global study.

A survey of more than 32,000 workers in 17 countries for the ADP Research Institute revealed that 50% of UK workers said their employer had provided support for their mental health during the pandemic.

Though the UK lagged the global average of 65%, the People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View report revealed that there had been significant improvement in the country due to the crisis.

A similar report published by the global HR technology firm in 2019 said that 24% of UK employees felt their company was not at all interested in their mental health, while another 37% believed any interest shown to be merely ‘superficial’.

Jeff Phipps, Managing Director of ADP in UK and Ireland, said: “Mental health in the workplace is by no means a new concern, but the huge changes of Covid-19 have cast a spotlight on the support employees need from their organisations.

“It is encouraging to see so many businesses recognise this need – some responding proactively to mitigate the emotional and psychological toll of a global pandemic. As the status quo of office working and life as we knew it was disrupted, compassionate employers put constructive measures in place to help their workforce handle this turbulence.”

Tailored approach needed

However, he warned that it was important that employers also recognised the need to adapt quickly and flexibly, adding there was no “one-size-fits-all policy”.

“At the moment, organisations and individuals alike are experiencing change on an almost continual basis, so it is also important to acknowledge that what works today in terms of mental health approaches may not work exactly the same tomorrow. Employers must be thoughtful in creating company-wide policies and as flexible as possible in supporting people on an individual basis.”

This advice is perhaps particularly relevant as the UK moves towards the lifting of work from home advice on June 21, albeit recent reports suggest this date may be pushed back.

A number of studies have shown that many UK employees are concerned about returning to physical workplaces when they are unsure about the vaccination status of their colleagues.

And a recently published US study revealed workers were generally anxious about a return to the office, with the most recent Mental Health Index by Total Brain and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions finding that mental health was worsening across the board as a return to the workplace loomed.

In particular, it found that stress, anxiety and depression was rising fastest among those aged 40-59 and among women.

‘Bounce back’ for mothers

Indeed, there has been much discussion about the fact the latter have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, largely due to childcare responsibilities.

On that front, however, there was some positive news with the release of a report considering the impact of school closures on parents’ mental health by researchers from the Universities of Essex, Surrey and Birmingham last week.

While the authors concluded that having children at home had had a “significant detrimental effect” on mothers’ mental health – far more so than fathers’ – they also noted that, on average, the mental health impact had not been permanent.

Dr Claire Crawford, Reader in Economics from the University of Birmingham, said: “Our research suggests that, for the most part, mothers’ mental health seems to have bounced back once schools re-opened, suggesting that the negative effects of school closures were temporary for many mothers.”

Photo courtesy of Canva.com

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