WFH and Retention

WFH helps recruitment but it won’t stop resignations says research

Research from HR software provider CIPHR has found that organisations looking to stem the tide of the ‘great resignation’ shouldn’t rely on flexible working options alone to retain their top talent. A survey of over 330 British employers last month concluded that working from home (WFH), flexible working hours and even four-day work weeks, won’t necessarily be enough to keep employees onboard.

The research found nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of employers have experienced an increase in employees voluntarily resigning and 71 per cent have found it more challenging to recruit new employees over the past 12 months. Organisations with between 251 and 5,000 employees appear to be struggling the most in terms of recruitment and retention, with 83 per cent reporting an increase in employee resignations and 77 per cent finding it more challenging to recruit. In comparison, only half of smaller employers (those with between 26 and 50 employees) say the same, with 55 per cent experiencing an increase in voluntary resignations and 51 per cent stating that recruitment is more of a challenge.

Employers who have chosen or are able to offer their staff the option to work from home – either fully remote or on a hybrid basis – have more positive news to share when it comes to recruitment. Only 51 per cent of employers whose staff mostly work from home (60 per cent to 100 per cent of the working week) say they have found it more challenging than usual to recruit over the past year. In comparison, that figure rises to 71 per cent for employers whose staff work onsite at a workplace 60 per cent to 100 per cent of the time (that’s at least three days or more for full-time workers).

Employers with staff working 100 per cent remotely are also three times more likely to report having found it easier than usual to hire new employees over the past year, when compared to employers with staff working 100 per cent onsite at their workplace (27 per cent compared to 8 per cent).

When it comes to retention, however, it’s not so clear cut. Over four-fifths (82 per cent) of employers with employees who always work from home say they’ve seen an increase in resignations, compared to 70 per cent of those with some form of hybrid workforce (their staff work remotely 20 per cent to 80 per cent of the time) and just 54 per cent of employers with employees who never work from home. The latter – employers whose employees never work from home – are those most likely to report a reduction in the proportion of employees voluntarily resigning over the past year (15 per cent of employers, compared to a 9 per cent average across all employers).

Notably, employers who offer various flexible working arrangements – such as flexible working hours, flexible working location, or a four-day work week – are still significantly impacted by increased employee resignations and recruitment challenges. For example, 71 per cent of employers who offer flexible working hours say it’s more challenging to recruit, and 70 per cent say resignations have risen. For employers who offer a four-day working week, it’s 73 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

Telecommunications, scientific and technical services, publishing, government and public administration, broadcasting, and human resources are among the industries reporting significant increases in the number of employees voluntarily resigning over the past year.

CIPHR’s findings back the idea that many employees and job candidates are re-evaluating their careers – and taking more control over how and where they wish to work. The massive upheaval of the pandemic has prompted many individuals to question what they want from their jobs – and, as a result, more employees are prepared to go out and get it.

As part of the survey, 250 employers were asked whether they agreed that ‘employees and job seekers are in the driving seat when it comes to negotiating salaries, benefits and flexible working’. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of those polled said they did.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the employers that are most likely to think that the employer-employee power dynamics have shifted in their employees’ (existing and future) favour are those that have reported recruitment challenges and say that resignations have risen (78 per cent of employers, compared to 50 per cent of employers who say it’s been the same or easier than usual to recruit / retain staff).

Over three-quarters of employers working in hospitality and foodservices, legal services, and the arts, entertainment or recreation (86 per cent, 83 per cent and 77 per cent respectively) believe that employees and job seekers are ‘in the driving seat’. Conversely, only around half of employers working in the automotive industry, retail trade, healthcare and social assistance, and shipping and distribution (20 per cent, 31 per cent, 50 per cent and 50 per cent respectively) think the same.

Commenting on the results, Claire Williams, chief people officer at CIPHR, says: “Over the past two years there have been fundamental changes to the ways that we work that will remain permanently. During the peak of the pandemic, many people made the cautionary decision to stay in their current roles and with their current employers, where in ‘normal’ circumstances they may have considered alternative employment.

“Now, as we come out of the pandemic, huge numbers of employees have been on the move,” she says. While Williams believes this may level off as a result of uncertainties around the global economy, employees are, in many ways, the ones navigating the direction of travel. “There are still far more vacancies than available candidates in some industries, which means employers need to be flexible in their approach and consider a wider range of ways to make their organisation attractive to their current workforce, as well as future talent and prospective candidates,” she says.

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