A report from workforce management expert Quinyx in collaboration with Development Economics and Censuswide, has found nearly half (49 per cent) of UK employers struggle to recruit blue-collar workers, with the same percentage reporting challenges around retention. The report includes economic analysis of ONS data and findings from an employer sentiment survey of 1,008 senior decision makers in UK firms.
Issues with recruitment and retention were discovered to be most acute in industries such as hospitality, catering and leisure and retail. In addition, larger businesses (those with a workforce of 250 to 500) are more likely to face challenges compared to smaller-sized businesses. Regionally, businesses in London and the East of England are most likely to struggle to recruit workers into manual or elementary service roles. The research also uncovered some key reasons why these recruitment and retention challenges exist.
When asked to identify the key frustrations of their workforce, 33 per cent of UK employers cited low pay as a major grievance, with 32 per cent saying it’s the main reason employees quit. Similarly, a quarter (25 per cent) quoted unsocial hours as significant problem, with 23 per cent saying it’s the main reason they lose employees. A lack of career progression among manual and elementary service workers also causes employers to lose staff, with 22 per cent saying it’s a notable grievance, and 24 per cent citing it as main reason for their employees quitting.
One fifth (19 per cent) of employers also claimed lack of flexibility in the workplace as a major complaint among their workforce – with 17 per cent saying it’s the main reason why workers quit their jobs. Indeed, despite reported increases in flexible working among manual or elementary service workers in recent years, there is more that needs to be done.
Retention and recruitment are also having a huge impact on productivity. The study calculated that skills shortages – which come about as a by-product of poor retention and inability to recruit blue-collar workers – result in an average drop in business growth of 9 per cent. This figure is marginally higher in healthcare, hospitality and logistics businesses (each 10 per cent). Employers estimate that these skills shortages result in a 10 per cent dip in productivity.
“The UK’s manual and elementary service workers are a vital part of the economy,” said Mansoor Malik, managing director UK & International. “And, with Brexit threatening the inbound flow of skilled workers, it is crucial that employers ensure they’re doing all they can to attract, engage and retain their staff.
‘’With half of employers already struggling to recruit and retain, it’s clear that employers need to address these challenges sooner, rather than later,” Malik added. “Whether this means offering greater flexibility or developing more attractive and formalised career paths, ensuring the workforce is skilled and robust is essential to future productivity and economic success.”
The findings come at a time when UK employers are expressing growing concern around access to manual and elementary service workers post-Brexit. According to Quinyx’s research, business leaders working in organisations with a blue-collar workforce predict that they will lose 18 per cent of that workforce as a result of Brexit, with over a fifth (22 per cent) saying they expect to lose 31 per cent or more. Particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in the workforce are logistics and healthcare businesses.
Looking further ahead, many businesses are wary about talent pipelines post-Brexit. Nearly half (49 per cent) of employers said that they expect Brexit to have a negative impact on their future recruitment of manual and elementary service workers – with 15 per cent expecting it to be severe.