Britain tops European charts with work–life balance priorities

21 February 2012
  • 73% of UK HR directors concerned about losing key staff

  • Remuneration and work–life balance cited as primary reasons UK employees look for new opportunities

London, UK, 21 February 2012 – Britain is leading the way in Europe with regards to how employees view work–life priorities, according to new global research from Robert Half International. 

The research, which surveys executives from across businesses in South America, Continental Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia/New Zealand, shows that nearly three in 10 (29%) HR executives in the UK - the highest across Continental Europe - cited work–life balance as the primary motivation for employees leaving their company for other opportunities.   

Employees in Switzerland are less concerned about this balance, with a low 4% stating that ‘work–life’ was a priority, followed closely by the Czech Republic (8%).

Remuneration is still the top reason for employees to leave their jobs, according to 32% of UK executives, although work–life balance is the top response amongst London-based respondents, with nearly four in 10 (38%) indicating so. 

Worldwide, remuneration remains a primary motivation for employees sourcing other jobs, with Singapore (58%), China (52%), Brazil (50%), Italy (45%) and Australia (40%) all favouring salary benefits. Conversely, career advancement is moving up the ranks with countries such as Germany (39%), Luxembourg (34%) and Netherlands (33%) all preferring this factor.

On the other hand, career advancement is not seen as a deciding factor in countries/states such as Dubai (11%), China (12%), Singapore (12%) and Italy ( 13%), instead salary is seen as the main factor when choosing a new role.    

 
Phil Sheridan, Managing Director, Robert Half UK said: “The work–life balance topic has always been highly debated – with many employees looking for ways to balance both professional and personal commitments.  Companies looking to attract and retain the best staff need to stop focusing solely on remuneration but on other aspects of the work-life environment which are important to employees, such as career development and flexible working.”

Interestingly, Britain comes a close second in the international rankings next to Chile, with one in three (32%) HR executives admitting that work–life balance was a priority for employees when evaluating other jobs.

Countries listed in order of primary motivation to move jobs for work–life balance:

Top 5

 Bottom 5

Chile 32%

Switzerland 4%

UK 29%

Brazil 6%

Dubai 28%

Netherlands 6%

Australia 23%

 Luxembourg 8%

France 21%

Czech Republic 8%

 

Sheridan continues, “Employee retention has become one of today’s most critical staffing challenges in a fast changing environment and nearly three in four (73%) UK HR directors are concerned about losing top employees in the coming year. Stable employment and lucrative compensation no longer have the influence they once did to keep workers with a company for the long-term.   

“Employees are looking for more. They want varied and meaningful work, challenging assignments, opportunities for career development and help with balancing work and their personal lives. If most of these boxes are not ticked, then organisations run the risk of losing that ‘star employee’. While the tendancy to retain employees through counteroffers is on the rise, this is often only a temporary fix.”

Robert Half offers the following 6 tips to retain business-critical professionals:

  •  “Re-recruit” top performers: Before your competitors have a chance to lure those workers away, you must “re-recruit” them yourself.  This means “selling” them all over again on the advantages of working for your company, highlighting what’s unique and special about it.  

  • Provide well-defined career paths: In the context of performance reviews, talk to your employees about their aspirations and goals.  Using their input as a point for discussion, brainstorm ways you might structure job descriptions and positions to accommodate and advance those goals.

  • Foster skill building through cross-training: If your company is a small one with limited upward mobility, you may want to offer cross-training as a way to help staff develop new skills and stay motivated and interested in their work. Your employees will value opportunities to gain exposure to roles and projects not necessarily in their job descriptions or current competency areas.

  • Institute comprehensive mentoring programmes: In addition to traditional one-on-one mentoring relationships, consider setting up groups of mentors from various areas of the company who will focus on high-potential employees.  Each group will meet regularly to brainstorm ways to help a specific top performer build on key strengths and achieve professional goals.

  • Explore flexible work arrangements: A strategy best reserved for top performers, flexible work options can help you hold on to valued employees who might otherwise be tempted to leave.  While some employers are wary of non-traditional arrangements, it is possible to set up mutually-beneficial situations.

  • Improve and adjust remuneration: Money isn’t everything, but it still holds considerable importance for most employees. Periodically review your salary and benefits structure to ensure that you are offering competitive wages and the types of benefits that are most valued by today’s workers.