How to surf the tsunami of turnover

By Matt Weston on 6th October 2021

The employment market is booming. According to the latest government figures, there are more than a million vacant positions in the UK right now. We’re seeing demand above and beyond pre-pandemic levels, and despite the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ creating a tsunami of turnover there is still not supply to meet that demand. This puts many companies in a precarious position when it comes to achieving their objectives for the next year.

While many organisations are focusing on increasing their headcount, our 2022 Salary Guide reveals that more than one in four (28%) employees is likely to look for a new role in the next 12 months. This means that business leaders who want to keep their best talent need to focus on retention as well as attraction – or else they might find their productivity and growth potential seriously limited.

Don’t get me wrong, employee turnover can be a great thing for businesses. You want a certain level of churn – bringing in bright new talent offers a chance to freshen up a stagnant team and stir up new ideas – but striking the right balance is crucial for success.

In a market like this, if you cannot find that equilibrium, you run the risk of haemorrhaging employees and struggling for replacements, leaving your business fighting an uphill battle – and the vast majority (89%) are extremely worried about their retention capabilities heading into 2022.

Why the sudden surge in job moves?

To understand how to retain and attract talent, its important to think about what is driving the tsunami of turnover. The past 18 months have been difficult for everyone and the enforced change of lifestyle has given many people a chance to assess their priorities. For some, this time has reaffirmed their confidence in their current path, while others will have decided on a change of direction.

Faced with economic uncertainty and ongoing furlough, many opted to hold tight until the world around them started to return to normal. Now it is, we are seeing a swell of activity as people make up for lost time – and search for jobs that allow them to fulfil their ideal lifestyle, whether that is an improved work/life balance, better workplace culture, remote or flexible working arrangements, or simply the freedom to spend more time with family and friends.

What does this mean for businesses?

For businesses looking to retain their staff this creates a dilemma. Employees’ situations and priorities vary – for example, while 37 per cent view themselves as ‘homesteaders’ who want to work primarily from home, 32 per cent are ‘office dwellers’ who prefer to be around colleagues. With one in five (20%) promising to look for a new role if they cannot have their desired working arrangements, employers should think very carefully about how they manage a return to the office.

If only it were that simple. While employees are prepared to walk if they can’t have what they want, corporate culture is suffering in a hybrid working environment because it’s harder to run integration activities, there are less opportunities for teamwork – and they are seeing a growing distance between colleagues as a result.

Corporate culture and a sense of togetherness is crucial for instilling a sense of loyalty amongst employees. Get it right and you’ll hold onto employees for years, get it wrong and you will lose your best talent – so it is not surprising that staff dissatisfaction with corporate culture is business leaders’ top concern for retention in 2022.

Employers should be careful to listen to employees if they want to retain their best talent. We are seeing market demand above and beyond pre-pandemic levels as businesses try to fill gaps and grow – but that means unhappy employees have a lot of options. And it is also something business leaders should think about when it comes to attracting new talent.

The war for talent is only going to get fiercer over the next 12 months, and it is important that businesses think about how they can compete. Salary alone is no longer enough to tempt a candidate to jump on board. Instead, businesses must think about how the benefits and flexibility they can offer, as well as focusing on their brand values, which are becoming more of a driving factor – especially among younger candidates.

Five lessons from the field

  1. Act fast. It is not uncommon for our candidates to have two or three offers on the table, so if a potential employer drags their heels, they will take another role. Dilly dally and be prepared to lose out
  2. Be flexible on working conditions. Candidates know what they want from their work environment, and if they are determined to work from home, they will not even consider the role
  3. Compromise is key. You can’t always get everything you want, especially when demand is this high. If a candidate meets the majority of the job description, consider giving them a chance or you could end up settling for someone far below your expectations
  4. Plan ahead. It can take a while to find the talent you need at the moment, and then you have to contend with a notice period – plan ahead to make sure you don’t end up with a gap
  5. Ask for help. If you are not sure about a job description or you are too time poor to commit to a speedy process, consider working with a recruiter to ease the burden

Our 2022 Salary Guide is there to give you a helping hand whether you are hiring or being hired. We have analysed salaries across more than 200 jobs within our specialist sectors, and combined these with market insights from CEOs and senior managers across the UK.

Robert Half Managing Director Matt Weston

Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK

Matt has worked for Robert Half for more than 20 years; he began his career as a recruitment consultant for Robert Half Finance and Accounting in 1999. Matt quickly excelled as a top consultant and earned a number of prestigious awards including being recognised four times as Robert Half’s worldwide number one consultant. With extensive experience in financial recruitment in the UK, Matt is a familiar industry figure and a valuable spokesperson on current trends affecting the market. 

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