In September 2021, the number of job vacancies in the UK surpassed one million, creating a new record for the market, and around 69% of UK workers have said that they are “feeling confident about moving to a new role in the next few months” according to a recent survey by Randstad UK.  This combination of events has lead to two major challenges for UK businesses:

  1. How do you retain and engage the talent you currently have in your organisation?
  2. How do you attract and recruit candidates when everyone else is trying to do the same?

What is happening?

While the Great Resignation implies people are leaving the workforce, a large group of workers are simply reconfiguring what their careers look like.  Some are leveraging the current hiring crisis to get into better positions; others have decided to work for themselves; many more are shifting into new industries and careers that offer higher wages or align more with their values. Rather than merely being a ‘Great Resignation’ in which people simply quit and walk away, the current disruption is seeing a huge proportion of employees move around the job market – more like a ‘Great Reshuffle’ as some have dubbed it.

Why is it happening?

Professional workers have agency like they have never had before, allowing them to fine-tune their life to allow for a better work-life balance.  Plenty of time at home has given people time to reflect on where their careers are heading and to make deliberate choices for their future.

Additionally, opportunities opened up by remote work mean millions of workers can now access thousands of new roles which were previously ‘off-limits’ due to geography.  As a means of attracting talent, many employers are either adapting their working models to hybrid or fully remote, or offering higher wages in response, attracting applicants from a much wider pool of talent.

Yes, the pandemic was a catalyst for this move to hybrid working, but we must be careful not to blame the pandemic for ‘how things are now’.  It isn’t the only reason people are leaving jobs.  Great places to work who focus on their people are still great places that focus on their people.  Businesses with existing bad management practices will have had their weak points exposed.  The pandemic isn’t the cause, it has just raised a mirror to the organisations to help them see where the weaknesses are.

Some weaknesses were only seen because of the quick step into hybrid working.  When line managers were forced into being people managers during the pandemic they were inadequately prepared to act without the in-office back up of HR.  They were more likely to deal with things ad hoc, or without asking for help, and the results have, unsurprisingly, not always been positive!

What can we do?

It is a scary time for businesses, and the temptation can be to act in a way that conflicts with your future goals or current values; for instance, not managing people for underperformance for fear of them leaving, or not investing time or resources in training for retention and growth as all of HR’s focus is on recruitment.

We cannot keep plugging gaps in the hull, we have to keep an eye on where we are headed.  Businesses must split their focus between developing and nurturing existing talent to ensure they are choosing to stay, and attracting new talent.  Luckily, these things are interdependent.  The reasons why people stay with a business can be a powerful message to use when trying to attract potential candidates.

Seizing the Opportunity

Instead of blaming the pandemic, why not embrace the opportunity to bring to the fore the things that conscientious HR personnel have been talking about for years? Like flexible working, employee empowerment, people well-being, tailored support?

It may take years for the current reshuffling to finally settle down, but organisations that delay making changes to their hiring and people policies could be left in the dust.  The Great Reshuffle is affecting all industries, and staff at all levels of business, and it is clear that the incentives of days pre-pandemic (high salaries, company cars, opportunities to travel…) just won’t cut it anymore. 

Companies need to offer support for their people’s mental health first, and wealth second.  Alison Omens, chief strategy officer of JUST Capital, which carried out the recent Stanford Study said:  “We asked people would they take a pay cut to work for a company that aligns with their values,” she adds, “and across the board, people say yes.”

If you’d like to find out more about creating a culture that cares, get in touch with the Connect Three team.  Our HR experts are here to help you.