Langman is FCA qualified and has held finance director roles for more than 20 years – long enough to notice when a trend is appearing.
Metnor Group operates in the construction, mechanical and electrical sectors, and business is “extremely hot”, according to Langman. However, the company is finding it harder to retain staff.
The company’s nationwide business model means it operates from a centralised hub on the fringes of Newcastle and expects staff to travel to sites across the country, spending long periods of time away from home. Staff living in Newcastle could be working for five days in the south of the country, for example – and this is becoming a problem for some of its workers.
“An employee recently left because he wanted to spend more time at home,” recalls Langman. “We tried to persuade him to stay and asked whether it was his salary, but he said no”.
It’s one of a number of examples cited by ICAEW members of workers leaving businesses due to a lack of family time or putting more onus on their wellbeing, to the point where money isn’t enough to keep them as part of the team.
Langman believes the days are gone of just thinking, “Oh well, we’ll get someone new in if we add something to the asking price”. Instead, companies need to understand and capitalise on the real strengths in their business model and attract people to it.
“I’m not saying that the pandemic has sharpened everyone’s focus on the value of work,” he adds. “But as a business, you’ve got to show that the role you are offering has some substance to it.”
“The way we’re addressing this is to sell heavily what we do, the fact that it’s a good place to work with clear career progression. We do have quite a number of disciplines and there will always be opportunities for people to move forward,” he says. “But it is a challenge, so we definitely try to ensure that when people do leave, we find out exactly why they’re leaving to confirm there’s nothing systemic”.
There is no silver bullet
Langman believes cross-business communication is key to tackling post-pandemic issues – sitting people down and engaging in meaningful chats, whether they are formal appraisals or not.
“If businesses are busy running around at 100 miles an hour to stand still, then they don’t realise that a valuable employee is about to put in their notice and is ready to walk out of the door,” he says.
As a Group Finance Director, he knows that people’s aspirations change. Someone who is a young student keen to get out and make a name for themselves could be prepared to work from the South Coast throughout the week, but they will want to change that at some point. Businesses need to recognise that unless there is some sort of career path it may be unpalatable.
“The engagement has got to be tailored because we employ 150 people and that’s quite a lot of different aspirations to acknowledge,” he concludes. “We need to reflect on that. And we’d like something that fits most of them, but we understand that one size will not fit all.”
This article is from an ICAEW Insights series on Navigating the new employment landscape for finance professionals. Click here to access the full four-part series.
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